Time of Your Life


Everybody told me immediately following Julie's passing that there would be good days and bad days.

They lied...

They didn't mean to...I'm sure they believed their words of consolation. Their sincere comforting was probably based upon their own life (and death) experiences.

They meant well...


However...

At this point in time, speaking from my personal experience...

For some of those left behind, there are bad days...and there are worse days.

Wah, wah, wah!


This past week has been one of the trying times...


My "week" began on Monday, April 19th.

The previous Monday, I received news that made me the happiest I've been since Julie passed - that James Gibson had whupped Cairo School District Number One's butt.

It was such a wonderful vindication of what Julie and I had fought so long and hard for...all of our working lives. A person who had been wronged, through no fault of their own, had seen justice prevail. Julie had started it, almost 5 years ago, and I had been blessed to see it through.

When I started "crashing", I shrugged it off. I was even bemused when for some reason (while wandering Sears awaiting my hearing aid appointment), I did a mental count of how long it had been since Julie had passed...two years, six months...to the day.

Who knew?


When I got home, I tried to perk myself up by immersing myself in my latest pasttime...watching old TV series on DVD. My latest obsession..."ER". (From what I have seen on the shelves, it looks like I've got at least 12 seasons of diversion awaiting me.)


Aside...

I'll have to admit a passing thought when I noticed the DVD sets that I had recently purchased. "St. Elsewhere", "Scrubs", and the aforementioned "ER". My thought..."Why in the hell did you buy a bunch of hospital DVDs??? Are you experiencing hospital withdrawal!!!"

However, my fears disappeared as I watched the first season of "St. Elsewhere"...a show from the early 1980s. Talk about "dated". The hair was so distracting that it was difficult to take the ensuing dramas seriously. Did people REALLY look like that...back in the day? There wasn't one episode that even came close to plucking my heartstrings. I immediately put aside any fears of emotional turmoil...and any plans to buy succeeding seasons of "St. Elsewhere".

Then there was "Scrubs".

I knew from the packaging that "Scrubs" was a comedy emergency room series and it, indeed, proved to be "safe material". The first season was fresh enough to encourage me to buy the second. Mistake! The "fresh" material was no longer fresh...no longer funny. Watching the same routines, presented in "second season/second choice" situations, ground upon my nerves. I shall not invest in Seasons 3-9 (or 10 if renewed.)

Finally, I turned to "ER".

Don't think I ever saw an episode of "ER" when it was actually running on TV. If so, I certainly didn't catch the "ER bug".

Actually, Julie and Ronnie's lives were such that committing to a weekly TV series was problematic. Who knew what might be on our agenda - union meetings, health crises, Julie's travels for the IEA and NEA...or just plain exhaustion?

I was pleasantly surprised by "ER", finding both the characters and the pacing engaging.

However, I was quickly confronted with my original concern...

"ER" was definitely no comedy. Oh, as with any real-life drama, there were funny moments, but, as expected, the "ER" is not a place one visits on a lark. The writing on the show is excellent, the development of the characters - both the "regulars" and "rotating patients" - sucking you in, making you care what happens to them.

And, that's when I knew.

I had to make my own "medical decision"...

  1. Do I "write off" ER as a dumb investment...cease and desist in watching...move on to "Green Acres" or the "Beverly Hillbillies"? (No, I have not actually purchased those series...YET!)

  2. Do I slog on...wade through the blood and the gore, being assaulted by the raw emotions of those who live, work...and die in an emergency room?

  3. Or, do I take one of Julie's "happy pills" - which allows me to watch tear-jerking tragedies, while merrily chomping down popcorn, drinking soda, and feeling...absolutely nothing?

Well, Doctor Ronnie, opted for Door #2 - "shock therapy" for his "wah, wah, wah" emotional state.

Or, in the words of George W. Bush...

"Bring it on!"


So, I have spent the last week "getting in touch with my feminine side". I have eaten a lot of popcorn as I have watched Seasons 1-4 of "ER", drank a lot of soda and green tea, and, yes, cried in my beer.


Today...

Another coincidence, another sign, another "God Wink".

During the fourth season, Scott, the 12-year-old son of the ER Administrator, Donald Anspaugh, has a relapse of cancer. Since Scott has already endured one round of chemotherapy, he rebels against his father's wishes to undergo a second round. As fate (and the writers) would have it, Jeanie Boulet, a physician's assistant - who had contracted HIV from her unfaithful husband, been fired by Dr. Anspaugh, and been rehired only when she asserted her employment rights by obtaining a lawyer - forms a bond with the afflicted son and convinces him have the additional chemotherapy.

All seems well.

Scott completes his chemo, he and Jeanie become friends, and they plan a fun-filled, family vacation during the upcoming summer. Which, of course, does not produce the best drama or ratings.

So...

An episode or two down the line, Scott is back in the ER...and the news is not good. The cancer is back and the only remaining hope (when attending physicians are unable to find a match for a bone marrow transplant) is for an experimental process, another particularly painful round of chemotherapy. Scott surprises his father by choosing to go forward with the procedure despite the slim chances offered for success..."He's a real trooper."

Doug Ross (the George Clooney character who is a pediatrician) calls Jeanie aside and "clues her in"...Scott is agreeing to this excruciating procedure because "he has a crush on you...he's trying to PLEASE YOU...he really doesn't want to do this. Scott needs to focus on the quality of the short time that he has left."

Jeanie is skeptical, but then a timely dramatic episode occurs. Scott "codes". Another doctor is able to resuscitate Scott, but as the doctor is leaving the room and passing Jeanie (whom he doesn't know...guess he never watched the show either), he grumbles "The parents need to let the poor kid go...quit prolonging his suffering."

In the next scene, Jeanie is at Scott's bedside. Jeanie tells Scott that she and his father and his sister will love him...no matter what he decides to do about treatment...that he needs to decide what HE wants to do...NOT what he thinks others want him to do. Scott responds, tearfully..."I don't want any more chemo."

Well, hell...pass the damned Kleenex!

The next episode opens with Jeanie in a contemplative mood. She is singing a fragment of song (that I don't recognize.) You soon learn that Scott has died...arrangements are going forward for the funeral. Various other traumas and dramas intervene..before the grand finale. Finally, we are in Scott's church, where his former coach is delivering a tear-filled eulogy. surrounded by Scott's former teammates. As the coach concludes his remarks, Jeanie rises and announces that she was going to sing a hymn as her part of the service, but that she had decided, instead, to sing a song that was "Scott's" favorite...


Since Jeanie only sang a fragment of the song (a cappella at that), I still did not recognize it. And, to be honest, by that point, I was not in the mood to "google" the one line that had caught my attention..."I hope you had the time of your life." The line did remind me (in past tense) of the song that Rachel and I chose for Julie's headstone..."I hope you dance!"

In that frame of mind, I decided that it was time to visit the cemetery...


I had actually skipped a couple of days...after placing the first blooming iris from Julie's garden last Friday...PURPLE, of course! It has been too cold and rainy to make the trip up the hill. If I'm simply going to sit in the car, well, might as well sit at home. The "prayer distance" is the same.

Anyway...


Got into the car and headed out of town. Flipped on the radio.

Call it a coincidence, call it a sign, call it another "God Wink".

First song up, I kid you not...

The one and the same song sung by Jeanie Boulet at Scott's funeral, the song I couldn't identify...


"Time Of Your Life"
By Green Day

Another turning point
A fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist
Directs you where to go

So make the best of this test
And don't ask why
It's not a question
But a lesson learned in time

It's something unpredictable
But in the end it's right
I hope you had the time of your life

So take the photographs
And still frames in your mind
Hang it on a shelf
In good health and good time

Tattoos of memories
And dead skin on trial
For what it's worth
It was worth all the while

It's something unpredictable
But in the end it's right
I hope you had the time of your life

It's something unpredictable
But in the end it's right
I hope you had the time of your life

It's something unpredictable
But in the end it's right
I hope you had the time of your life


What are the odds of that? Not a current song...heard on a randomly selected old TV series?

When I got home, I did "google" the song...and found another interesting tidbit of "coincidental" info.

The song "Time of Your Life" was first released as part of Green Day's third album on October 14, 1997...the day before Julie Newell reached "Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road" and time grabbed her by the wrist and directed her to a test.

Yes...

On October 15, 1997, Julie would suffer her first major lupus flare and be laid literally at death's door.

However, Julie took the other fork...

Yes, Julie rested...but she did not quit.

Julie got up, got out of bed...traveling all over the country as a member of an NEA Paraeducator's Task Force, went on to become the first African American elected to the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund's Board of Trustees, was thrice elected to the Illinois Education Association's Board of Directors, got fired from her "day job" on trumped up charges, fought her wrongful dismissal for over two years, and won reinstatement...thereby being in the right place, at the right time, to tell James Gibson "Don't you quit!"


Yes, Julie A. Newell "Danced"...

...and had "The Time of Her Life!"