Bruce was your typical family guy with a good computer engineering job. Bruce lived in the suburbs in a nice big house with his wife and two kids, and drove a big SUV to work every day. Bruce enjoyed beer and football.
Bruce did not eat well. Bruce had not eaten well perhaps all of his life, and his lifestyle precluded healthy meals or much in the way of exercise. His job had him stuck in a chair most of his day, and he often ate at his desk or during the commute. His wife cooked evening meals replete with salt and butter, and a sugary dessert to top everything off at the end of the night. Bruce’s kids had just reached the age where he could put them to work mowing the lawn – the only real physical activity Bruce had in his life.
To put it mildly, Bruce was a large man.
Last year, on his 40th birthday, Bruce began to express concern about his health. His doctor told him that he was “high-risk” and that he needed to eat better and exercise more. At 40, Bruce had developed such strong lifestyle habits that this was like asking him to start a new career; he didn’t know where to begin. More importantly, he didn’t have the drive or the conviction to change.
Bruce put in a superficial effort. He joined a gym. Once a week or two, he would go in and get on a treadmill for twenty minutes, then seek out some high-calorie food to consume. He would add a little green to his plate to convince himself that he was eating healthier. Deep inside, he knew he had to change his habits but he didn’t pursue the matter seriously, instead choosing to procrastinate.
Last month, Bruce felt pains in his chest. He went to the ER and the hospital performed scans. They didn’t find the small tear that had opened up in Bruce’s heart. This would have required a sonogram, which is not part of the tests they give in this situation. So they sent him on his way.
Like when an engine blows a gasket, blood began to seep into Bruce’s chest cavity. When the pressure equalized, his heart could no longer beat and he died.
Sometimes a person’s role in life is to serve as a warning to others.
A few of Bruce’s close friends attended the funeral, but most of the attendees were co-workers. They stood around eating the free food and talking about the job. A few of the women shed a tear or two. Most of the men joked and laughed. Bruce’s life was his work, so this was who he knew. The macabre display of Bruce’s corpse allowed the attendees to pontificate their own mortality, but when the time came to talk about him few had anything meaningful to say.
One was a friend whose best story was about when they drank beer while fixing a garage door.
One was a friend who waxed nostalgic about when they were children.
The last to speak was Bruce’s boss. This man had started his job working alongside Bruce, but had been promoted over him through the years. Now his manager, he described Bruce as “a good worker” and “a peacemaker.”
He said, “Bruce made me look good.”
Imagine that on your epitaph.
Bruce lived by the playbook. He went to school and got a degree and got married and had kids and bought the car and the house. He drank beer and watched football and consumed and obeyed. He worked long hours all week and spent the few hours he had sedating himself. He saw the warning signs and he ignored them. Then he died.
Bruce lived for others, followed their dreams. What did he want?
His wife believes he just wanted what she wanted – the kids, the house, the stuff - but we here in TRP know better than that. What little I saw of him evidenced the Quiet Desperation that Thoreau spoke of. I doubt anyone ever will know what was in his heart-of-hearts. It doesn’t matter, though, because it will never come to pass.
People will tell you, “It’s not too late to change.” It isn’t - until it is.
So I implore you: however you choose to say it - YOLO or carpe diem or whatever else – do it. Seize the day.
For God’s sake, don’t be like Bruce.
Good luck, brothers.