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What I learned from dying; Cancer doesn’t stop real life from happening

I got a fairly harsh reminder this week that just because I have something bad going on, the world, and other bad things, keep on going too.

Last Thursday I got a call from the Lewisport police saying that someone had broken out several windows, cut and stolen copper wiring and pipe and stolen equipment out of an old building my sister and I had bought last year to save it from being demolished.

My initial thought was to be angry because I’m not exactly a fan of thieves, but then I kind of took offense to the whole situation. Didn’t these people care that I already have stage four cancer? The last thing I need is to try to figure out how to pay for thousands in damages and replacing a stolen wood chipper.

It felt a little like when I saw people enjoying themselves seven years ago when I returned to Illinois for the funeral of my best friend Becky. I was offended that something so terrible had happened and it seemed to me that the whole world should acknowledge it.

But the world is a big, busy place and it moves – and moves on – quickly. Those people didn’t know that I and those who loved Becky were devastated. Even if they had, my devastation shouldn’t stop their lives.

So I quickly got over my offense and just stuck with being a little mad. My sister and I had gone together to buy that building, the former office of Dal-Tile, because we love modern architecture and the building was just too cool to let it be torn down, which was its most likely outcome after the plant closed.

It’s a cool, modern office building that I had first seen in August of 2019, when I posted a picture of it on Facebook and said that it was too cool to be sitting abandoned and that someone needed to save it. It’s colorful, modern, with large glass on the front. I had wanted to be an architect and furniture designer back when I thought that was something achievable for me, so this would be a fun outlet for those lingering loves.

We bought it when I felt healthy and I could do most all of the work on it, and she and her husband were into real estate enough that she could do most of the initial funding. I cleared away all the huge overgrown trees and the landscaping that had turned monstrous, got the plumbing sorted out and the building passed a state electrical inspection. A lot more work was needed, but then a few months in I got COVID-19, which dragged out for a month and then led to the symptoms that pointed to my metastasized, stage four esophageal cancer. I couldn’t work on anything any more so the building began to look abandoned again, even if my hopes for the place remained active.

All this remains a lesson in not just humanity but in not getting too caught up in our current circumstances. Last week was pretty good. This week has been arguably pretty crappy. But neither one is permanent and neither one defines me or dictates what tomorrow will bring.

Bad things don’t stop more bad things from coming, but they don’t stop more good things from coming either. There’s plenty of bad in the world so I guess we should all do our best to try to create enough good that the bad doesn’t take up too much space.

By Dave Taylor

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