Life Is Good: A Father Reflects

By Greg O'BrienCodfish PressWe look with horror to a national and international stage, as apocalyptic events like the Asian tsunami, Katrina, Guatemalan mudslides, the Pakistan quake and now Hurricane Wilma overcome us from a sheltered distance. We are stunned, and yet secure for the moment in our isolation from it. We can be casual in our awarenessI had casual dinner last Sunday in Hyannis with several writers and editors, friends of mine, to discuss the tidings, life in general and the state of newspapers. The mood was serious, but buoyant about prospects for the future, although I joked at one point that if another scribe showed up, the assembly would begin to look like the Last Supper. While acknowledging the collective anguish in the world, most of us were sanguine about what lay ahead. It seemed fitting that another friend?Roy Heffernan, an executive with the upbeat retailer, Life is Good?waited for me in another room. Life has been good.But I was reminded later that night just how fleeting life can be. I received a call at 2 am from an emergency room several hundred miles away in North Carolina, from a doctor who wanted to speak with me. My 22-year-old son, Brendan, a senior at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, had been rushed to the hospital by ambulance with a life-threatening case of staph infection. He had contracted the disease several weeks ago while surfing in a coastal area where effluent had leaked into the sea. You can?t put an old head on young shoulders, they say.Brendan, a graduate of Nauset High School and a member of its state championship golf team in 1999, had been taking antibiotics, but the staph?a resistant strain?accelerated late last week when he cut his right knee during an intramural football game, a lesion that quickly ballooned to the size of a grapefruit, then spread up his thigh. After consulting with disease control specialists, a hospital surgeon called in the dead of night to say he had to operate on Brendan to remove part of his leg, the infected tissue. There were no guarantees, he said. I would know my son?s fate at 4 am.Brendan, I was told, could die.I was allowed to speak briefly with Brendan, and wondered if it was to be the last time. I then spent the night in prayer and reflecting on all the lost opportunities between father and son, the times I had taken for granted. Brendan safely made it through the operation; doctors successfully removed the infected tissue. He?s on heavy duty antibiotics and morphine now, as doctors wait to see if the staph returns (if it mutates there is no cure). My blessing that night was realizing the gift I had before I lost it.A 16-year-old son of a friend of mine was not so fortunate. Recently his father died from an agonizing virus that claimed his life in less than a week. At the funeral two weeks ago, the son turned to his classmates in church and told them ?Go home and love your parents tonight. You never know what?s going to happen.?Life is good indeed?when we cherish it.

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