Lucky Man – Promise kept means 20 years of a better life
HodgePodge by Charlie Hodge
*The following column was originally scribed back some 20 years ago – I thought it appropriate.*
I’m the luckiest person I can think of.
I’ve pontificated that line before; however, some amazing personal events the past few weeks have reconfirmed my belief. Quite simply, my life is blessed.
The full realization of that hit me yesterday when I finally found the answer to a particular question a reporter had asked me at an award’s competition earlier in the week. She asked several questions, but the final one halted me. The question was not terribly difficult, I was simply caught off guard and a plethora of possible answers popped into my head so quick I was overwhelmed. So I just shut up instead.
Sometimes the best answer is no answer at all.
Yet the reporter’s questions persisted.
“Why do you do what you do?”
“Why do you volunteer your time to other people, wildlife, environment, youth, struggling musicians and artists, aside from ‘because I owe’. And what does ‘I owe’ mean?
Was there a defining moment in your life or something?”
The opening questions were easy. I ‘do’ what I do and get involved in music, people, animals…because I love to. I have more fun in life than most people because I choose to.
I learned early about getting involved, helping others, and caring about the world, from some great people – my Mom and Dad. No one was wiser in a gentle, humble way than my Mom – and few people gave to their community or advocated for others like my Dad. I grew up in an environment fortunate to also have other folks step into my world when I needed it. I’ve mentioned them before but their names deserve mention again and forever: the loving kind Phyllis Kitson, cantankerous and brilliant bush rat Robert Stevens, Boys Club mentor Herb Sullivan, and big ‘brother’ buddy Harvey Stolz. They took me in or guided me along life’s bumpy road so many times and taught me firsthand what a little caring and sharing can truly do.
The defining question caused me some deep memory trekking.
Certainly, I’d been traumatized by a near death drowning at age 7. Finally, the brain tripped upon the obvious truth – my life-defining moment. The night of the big promise.
I suppose one could call it reaching the cowardly point, the plea bargain, the begging for one last chance. It matters not really what others may define it as. It was the night that changed my life. Actually it was the next morning when I woke up, but I digress.
Some 20 years ago this spring, I found myself sitting in a lonely hospital room in Vancouver with a very bleak scenario facing me. The tumour in my voice box area had been causing me a lot of difficulty and the doctors a lot of concern. There were lots of smiley faces but no one was fooling anyone.
There was no way of knowing if it was malignant or not and the decision had been made to blast it out of me with laser, shot by a computer. At that time laser use, especially in the voice box and throat area was still in its ‘learning’ stages.
Surgery was set for early in the morning and even if I survived that there were no guarantees of what they’d find. I was pretending to be brave but I was suddenly very, very afraid and very, very alone. I recognized that I was perhaps seeing my last night alive.
It was 3 a.m. and I did what many folks do at such time.
I literally fell on my knees and I prayed like I’ve never prayed in my life. (I guess it’s easy to claim your faith when you have everything to lose and everything to gain).
Raised Anglican, I was no stranger to conversations with Christ and with God, yet like many my belief had waned back and forth over the years. But it was back in full force that night and has never left since.
Regardless, I asked for another chance to serve the world and the Lord better. I promised three things: I would never take another day of life for granted, I would never again allow anger to rule my life, and I would truly dedicate my life to making this world a better place.
I never had to write those three promises down – they were burned into my brain and heart that evening.
When I woke up the next day after the operation the first face I saw was my surgeon. The smile on his face told me everything I needed to know. By the grace of God and the brilliant hands of a fine surgeon the world would be stuck with Charlie Hodge a little longer.
My surgeon had successfully blasted the tumour out (which proved benign) and informed me that while I had to wait seven years to be called clear – I was a healthy little guy.
Two decades later, I have a great radio voice, lost my singing pipes and to the chagrin of many learned how to talk again after losing most of my voice box. Thankfully it’s had no impact on my ability to drink a cold beer on a hot day.
And, best of all, for two decades I can honestly say that I can count on one hand the number of days that I might have forgotten my promise.
I am the luckiest man I know because I have a world of wonderful friends and acquaintances, fabulous family, a wonderful partner in life, a house full of animals, and a community full of fine folks. I live in the best country in the world and one of the best cities around. Best of all it is not by fluke.
My luck is largely because of a conscious effort to keep a commitment, precipitated by a promise and a plea bargain some 20 years ago. The rest was simply a choice of keeping the promise and using the knowledge and skills that others had taught.
Life really is all about choices.
I have not forgotten mine and will do my best not to forget for as long as I am fortunate enough to be here.
That makes me the luckiest man I know.
Next week Lucky Man Two the next update.