In January 1993, Bill Clinton ascended the stage and danced with his wife as Fleetwood Mac played their hit ‘Don’t Stop’ at one of his inaugural balls. A fan of country music, this was the first time I heard the song. Thank God, it wasn’t the last.
I’ve mentioned my uncle in several previous columns. It’s difficult not to reference someone with whom I shared such a profound bond. We would talk and appreciate good music while traveling the backroads of Western Illinois.
Donn Carson loved his wife, the freedom of flight, chocolate, ice cream, and his nieces and nephews. He was unapologetic about his imperfections, and unafraid of being real. He shared life-lessons and wistful stories from his youth, once showing me where he and my aunt had parked as teenagers. I recall, she was less than thrilled that he shared that memory.
In the fall of 1996, the colon cancer he successfully fought nearly twenty years earlier, reoccurred.
Understanding his grave prognosis and knowing the physical ravages that radiation and chemotherapy would take on his body, he concentrated on quality rather than quantity of life. Doctors told him that he should get his affairs in order and enjoy the coming holidays. They would likely be his last.
He enjoyed that Thanksgiving and Christmas, then another. He pushed on wanting to celebrate both his thirtieth anniversary, and fiftieth birthday, with those he loved. He attended his goddaughter’s wedding and attempted to teach his godson to drive. He told me with a smile that he’d be my best teacher, reasoning that terminally-ill people have little more to fear.
According to the American Cancer society 2015 statistic, approximately 1,620 Americans die every day from Cancer. That’s 591,000 American families left incomplete due to the disease every year.
On July 17, 1998, my family became part of that grim statistic. I took Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Don’t Stop’ playing on the radio. That morning as a sign that he would be okay, although he would soon leave us. My uncle died that afternoon.
He hated politics, believing that all politicians were liars. He served during the Vietnam War but understood how President Johnson manipulated the Tonkin Gulf incident to escalate the conflict. No, he wasn’t political, but he helped to develop my debating skill. He was a man of science and literature who enjoyed trivia. He told me once that his biggest fear was that he would be forgotten. Donn Carson has been gone for 21 years now, forgetting him is impossible.
He was special to those who knew him, but he story isn’t unique. There have been millions of people just as special to their loved ones who’ve been taken by cancer.
The President’s son recently mocked former Vice President Joe Biden for saying that he would cure cancer during Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign kickoff in Orlando. Others consider the goal of a cure too aspirational, but Don’t Stop the pursuit of a cure, because family members deserve more tomorrows with those we love.