The Good

I never met him, but our professional lives intersected constantly. I was called in to rewrite his family comedy screenplays. He was called in to rewrite mine. He was in the meeting just before me, pitching the same project. I got jobs that he wasn’t available for, and vice versa. We worked with the same producers. We had writing credits on the same movie. Mutual friends told me he was a family man, with three kids. Same as me. More than one person said, “He’s your doppelganger!”

Last week, while I was drinking coffee and surfing news sites, I read that he had passed away after battling cancer for three years. His name was Don Rhymer. He was 51.

An untimely, grave illness raises all kinds of huge existential questions, questions he discussed frankly, poignantly, and with great humor, in his blog, “Let’s Radiate Don”. In reading it for the first time last week, I found myself regretting having never reached out to him. We could have talked shop. Laughed about our experiences with the same obtuse executives. He was rewriting my dialogue, and I was rewriting his, so why didn’t I sit down with him and exchange actual words about the trials of remaining relevant in the movie business?

Why? Because I was too busy defining the empty nest in terms of loss. The bedrooms are empty. My parents are declining. My forehand has deserted me. My career is flat-lining. So, why would I want to break bread with “the competition”? What if this guy who was so much like me was winning?

The most recent entry in Don’s blog, written by his wife, Kate, is about the last days of his life. She recounted a message he had written to his family during his last days in the ICU unit. He wrote it because he was too ill to speak. It said, “Focus on the good.”

Had I been living that simple line here in the empty nest, I might have had the pleasure of meeting Don Rhymer.

8 thoughts on “The Good

  1. Sam, I soooooo feel your loss of the missed opportunity. I reconnected with a former professor of mine about three years ago on fb, one of those friends you don’t see often but whose presence transcends time and distance. I thought, great !! I found Andy. We exchanged quick updates, and then life got in the way.

    I sent a message again a year later because I REALLY wanted to share an epiphany with him: I wanted to get into one of our mind blowing, heart-opening conversations. His profile was still active, wahoo! Then the first glimpse of a post from his son saying “RIP Dad”. I panicked….what?!! He was only 4-5 years older than me. I dove into the internet to google him, and there it was in bold print: eulogies for Andy. I read them all, the accolades, the intimate words of friends and colleagues, the list of his books and articles, and I wept inconsolably. I wept for his family and for his best friends and colleagues. I wept for everyone who would never know his brilliance or his beautiful soul. And most of all, I wept because I missed the opportunity.

    And so, I turned a corner. I vowed that I would gather every opportunity. I vowed that I would never again be afraid to express my gratitude, to show my love for others, to open my soul to new mentors, or to bypass any chance to uplift others. I vowed to connect, even with the perfect stranger on the elevator because maybe he or she, like me, would simply enjoy that brief exchange if given the opportunity.

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