Life sometimes comes at us fast and furiously. I will long remember this weekend for some of the highest highs I’ve experienced in a while, tempered by low lows that made my heart ache.
Late Saturday night, I returned home from a cocktail fundraiser to assist families dealing with childhood cancer — staged in part by friends who I know through my Michigan State alumni activities — when I received official notification of one of the fondest honors that has ever been bestowed upon me. I have been chosen to serve a two-year term on the national Michigan State University Alumni Association’s 35-member international advisory board.
Though I’d actually been tipped off a few days earlier about this election, the email notice pleased me immensely. That is because I learned that the roster of new and returning members includes several people who already are personal friends, some classmates who I have known for almost four decades, others younger people (born well after I graduated from State in 1977) who I have gotten to known through club activities in Chicago and my old hometown of Washington, D.C. And there are others who have become “virtual” friends through my vigorous engagement in social media.
Just by coincidence, I had earlier on Saturday received the honor of being elected to a two-year term on the board of the MSU Alumni Association of Metro Chicago, aka Chicago Spartans, to which I was appointed to fill a vacancy not long after we arrived in this amazing city. The fact that I will be able to serve my alma mater both locally and nationally — and that this was confirmed on the same day — is something of which I am tremendously proud.
I may have taxed the patience of some of my friends with how I’ve gone on about my devotion to Michigan State, but I think I now have sufficient evidence that it is as deep as I have previously suggested, and that it’s not just about the success of our football and basketball teams. MSU welcomed me when I was still 17 years old, it provided my first home away from my home in a New York City suburb, allowed me to talk about sports and other matters on radio for four years, and helped me develop the confidence that led to a fair amount of achievement as a political journalist during my D.C. days. All that, and the bonus of friendships that have lasted almost a lifetime.
I have always tried to help out what we’ve come to know as Spartan Nation in whatever ways I could, but this is the most tangible opportunity I’ve had to give something back. My term begins July 1, and I can’t wait to get started.
On top of this, I finished my fourth round of guitar classes Sunday at the Old Town School of Folk Music. Each eight-week term ends with a revue in which each class gets on stage in the main theater and performs a piece of music. And so I, along with teacher Carlos Chacon and my two classmates, performed “Summer Breeze,” a sweet tune from the 1970s group Seals and Crofts. While I don’t think a recording contract is in the immediate future, we played and sang and people in the audience — including my wife Barb — applauded. Not bad for an old guy.
I appreciate how blessed I am to have so many positive things going on in my life, because like anyone else, there’s bad stuff too, and sometimes it’s right around the corner.
On Friday, I was at a luncheon downtown when I checked my iPhone and saw some cryptic messages on Facebook urging prayers for Rachel Kahan, with whom I’d served briefly on the board of the MSU alumni club of Washington, D.C. I knew that Rachel had been bravely fighting cancer for the past year, but the last I’d heard was that it was in remission, so I was stunned to learn that her situation had taken a turn for the worse… so dire, in fact, that by the time I arrived home, I learned that she had passed away.
Rachel was 26 years old. Life can be beautiful, but it can be cruel and unfair, too. It still is hard for me to comprehend this.
Then, today, I learned that a friend, the wife of a close friend of many, many years, is dealing with the recurrence of a cancer that she has fought off before. In this case, there is much reason for hope: a small tumor, caught early, she is getting the best in medical care, and she will, without exaggeration, have the well wishes of thousands of people. Still, it is another hardship for someone who deserves so much better.
As a cancer survivor myself, I learned a long time ago to appreciate the good things and endure the bad things that occur regularly and often quite randomly. It is helpful knowledge to have on a weekend that delivered such extremes of happiness and sadness.