The one thing that happens when you — like me — hang out with people 30 years older than you, they make references you can’t place.
They talk about the Piggly Wiggly in Kaimuki and Spanish rice in school lunches.
And they refer to poems and songs I’ve never read or heard.
Like “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas, a Welsh poet who died in 1953 — a full two decades before I was even born.
It was used in an announcement that one of our dear friends — Jim “Jimbo” Hudson — had lost his long battle with cancer. (I blogged about him back in 2009. He’s the third from the left in the first row.)
I say “long” because when he was first diagnosed three years ago in California, we weren’t sure what was going to happen. The cancer had spread throughout his body. He couldn’t swallow. He stopped eating. He had lost a lot of weight.
But over the past three years, he fought. He went through treatment like a champ. (He even managed to keep his well-coiffed hair!) He made a couple of trips back to Hawaii, where he loved to surf, and paddled out in Waikiki like nothing had changed. He was that same upbeat, smiling guy in the lineup — with the perfect head of hair — and it seemed like he had kicked the cancer to the curb.
But we all knew it would be an epic battle — and we all hoped for the best. Remission is always possible, right? That’s what we silently told ourselves.
But the cancer finally overtook him, and after months in hospice, he slipped away, paddled out to that proverbial surf break in the sky.
It reminds me of that scene in “Point Break” where Bodhi, played by Patrick Swayze, points at the massive swell and says, “Look at it! It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, man! Let me go out there and let me get one wave, just one wave before you take me in. I mean, come on man, where I am I gonna go? Cliffs on both sides! I’m not gonna paddle my way to New Zealand!”
He goes. He doesn’t come back. But he had the ride of his life.
So the poem the Old Guys posted couldn’t have been more appropriate.
“Do not go gentle into that good night.
Old age should burn and rave at close of day.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
The poet, who watched his father grow weak and frail with age, is telling us to fight death. No matter how we’ve lived our lives, fight it. Do it for the people who are left behind. Do it to give courage and faith to others in the same battle. Do it because you still can.
Jimbo, you will be missed in the lineup. But you will never be forgotten.
Rest in peace.