In a moment of inspiration, I have decided to revive this blog. To begin, I want to share a story that I read in Sports Illustrated a couple of weeks after the Cubs won the World Series. It is an example of a phenomenon we often see among many who are dying. People will often will him/herself to live for a milestone event, often a birthday, family celebration or holiday. A question was recently posed about whether people have stories of someone who might have pushed themselves to live for a major sporting event in which their team had a chance to win. These stories in general show how a person’s will to live can overcome at times the ravages of illness. This is also personally important as my maternal grandfather, who had been ill for many years, pushed himself to live long enough to be present (with some convincing and cajoling) at his oldest grandson’s, my, Bar Mitzvah before succumbing to a variety of illness a month after.
Here is the story (the story was told in two parts in the article):
On the night of Game 7, 88-year-old John Matijevich, who was once a member of the Illinois House of Representatives for 26 years, stayed up to watch on a small television from his upstairs bedroom at his home in North Chicago. Matijevich, the son of a Croatian immigrant who put down roots in North Chicago, was born on Christmas Day 1927. He was a lifelong Cubs fan who rarely missed a game on TV and took frequent trips to Wrigley to watch from his preferred spots in the bleachers or the upper deck. Twice he got to use the box seats assigned to the House majority leader.
Matijevich left office in 1992, and his health started to decline last February, when he was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism. But on this night he was more robust than he had been in months. He stayed up not only for the last out but also for two hours of the postgame coverage. Rizzo, his favorite player—“he plays the game the right way and has a great attitude”—caught the final out.
“It’s hard to believe that it’s happened in my lifetime,” he told his 46-year-old son, Robert, who had been watching on a bigger television downstairs but came up to share the championship moment. “I didn’t think I’d ever get to see it.”
He fell asleep with a smile on his face…
A few hours after John Matijevich went to sleep with a smile on his face, at about 5:30 in the morning, Robert heard a thump on the floor above him. He rushed upstairs. He saw his father collapsed on the floor. He called 911.
An ambulance rushed John to the hospital. He was taken into an emergency room. Robert wanted to see his dad. He couldn’t find an attendant to help so he went looking for his father until he found a board that listed the initials JM, the number 88 and the letters e-x-p. Expired. A strange word. Robert, who had been his father’s full-time caregiver the past two years, remembered hearing it for the first time as a euphemism for dead when he was a young boy. Somebody had called to say that one of his grandparents had expired. Now his father had expired.
“It’s never easy, and you’re never really prepared for it,” Robert says. “But from the bottom of my heart, I’m so happy he got to live for these extra nine months. I think this is the real reason why he did. I know it sounds corny and like a cliché, but there’s a reason it happened like this. It’s like he said, ‘I saw the Cubs win the World Series in my lifetime. And now it’s time.’”