Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | February 10, 2012

Pondering mortality

I just received an email from a long-ago friend who has had several surgeries in recent years to defeat a cancer that has spread to his neck. He’s going back under the knife next week. It sounds rough — for him, for his family, for his friends. I will think nothing but good thoughts for Joe — and to all my friends and family out there struggling to stay upright on this journey we all share.

There were many days before we set off for Bulgaria when Melody and I would contemplate the fuzziness of “the future.” We had a great house, 20 years of really good friends, a 401K, job security (well as much as anyone can expect in this crazy world), loving family … and we thought: Should we really do this? Every time we’d talk about it, though, we always came back to one simple question: If not now, when?

For the first 25 years of our married lives, we lived as if infinite tomorrows stretched out before us. There would be an unbreakable chain of good days and smooth sailing. We know that’s not reality. We’re not really that naive. But we don’t dwell on our personal “end times,” do we? The bad news lurks, but maybe for us it’ll take a holiday. Then we get the occasional reminder that this is all temporary. We tell ourselves to “seize the day” and all that. Then we’re back to our regularly scheduled programming.

I know this isn’t for everyone. Hell, if everyone did it who would buy us a beer when we get back? We know we’re not unique or wildly out on the fringe. I mean, we are working, after all. We’ve got food, cheap beer and the companionship of all sorts of interesting people.

But when this damned snow and ice finally go away, I’m heading back into the hills around this town on my bike to see if I can shock my system a little bit more (my heart from exertion, my soul from the beauty of the place). I want to keep reminding myself what a thrill ride this all is. And how fleeting.



  1. Gee, Mark, could you be just a tad more eloquent? I’m verklempt….

  2. i, for one, will be purchasing no such beer.

  3. Thanks for the thoughtful post. Sitting here, with my cat in my lap, coming to the end of a 70-hour work week, it’s all very timely. Happy to throw in a few beers. Here’s to an early spring.

  4. This is a thrill ride,,,and fleeting! Like riding a rollercoaster blind folded!

    First beers on me,,in Brantwood!

  5. I have always been amazed at this ability of American professors to cross the ocean and come to BG just like that… it takes courage, a lot of courage…. I admit I would never be brave enough to take such a risk….

    • Awww, Milva, you’re too kind. And I believe you sell yourself way short. I have a lot of confidence that you’ll go much further than you think.

  6. gad, i am so sorry about your friend. too many people with that awful disease. but it’s good to remember you are alive and healthy and can still have adventures. life is too damn short.

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