Yesterday, I thought of this phrase also during Bonnie Opper's funeral. The turnout was enormous and it was obvious that she had touched so many people. The entire experience has left me thoughtful about what we leave behind. Since we had our transplants the same day, it naturally reminded me that my longevity is not great.
I've received a lot of gifts in my life. I've mentioned 3 already and a 4th (Karen) many times. I need to add my sisters (Genie and Meryl)and my cousins, who have given me so much, including new bone marrow. Taking photos is another...I don't have to work at it very hard, and the results seem to give a lot of pleasure to people. The books I wrote in 1995 and 2000 were similar; I don't know exactly where they came from. I'd put medical research in the same category; it wasn't something I expected and it's been very rewarding.
Having leukemia and surviving is also a gift, believe it or not. When my friend Jim Goldstein asked me if this changed my perspective, I said no. That was soon after I returned to work and my mind was filled with the urgency to pick up all the pieces. But gradually I realized that I do see the world differently. For one thing, I'm happier. This is it for me; I don't have forever so I'd better pay attention to how beautiful the world is. In one of his books, Carlos Castenada's character Don Juan told him to 'take death as your advisor'.
Bonnie's death was sad for about 1 day. Then I realized that it's the price you pay for the gifts you get.