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  • Writer's pictureDrew Dotson

2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu

Little memories of Ramón pop into my mind on an almost daily basis. Occasionally, though, one will surface from the darkest depths of my mind—things I haven’t thought about since they were present moments. One of these memories emerged last week, and, although it made me emotional, I was grateful for its reappearance.

If I had to guess, the year was 2013. I can’t pinpoint exactly what was going on in my life, but that year I struggled with declining physical health, which took a toll on my mental health. I took a leave of absence from work in an attempt to get my body and mind in a better place. I felt as though I was barely hanging on and needed a way out of the monotony. Thankfully I was in a job that made this possible.

One day I was in the main bedroom of the loft I lived in with Ramón. I imagine I was in bed, as was common during that time. The low-profile platform bed sat against an accent wall that was painted red. This still surprises me because Ramón never struck me as an accent wall kind of person, nor would I have considered red to be his color of choice. But I can only assume his selection was inspired by his love for the University of Wisconsin, where he’d gotten his law degree.

That day I decided to listen to Tim McGraw’s 2004 hit, “Live Like You Were Dying.” I’m pretty sure I pulled it up on Ramón’s iPad, which, come to think of it, also had a red cover.

Sometimes, when I was particularly sad, I wanted a reason to feel the way I did. I might seek out heartbreaking blogs or listen to gloomy songs. I felt more normal if I pretended my low mood was related to something else—something external to me. When I was alone with my sadness, I felt particularly depressed. But I always felt better when I could point to something else as the reason for my sunken spirit.

Enter Tim McGraw.

By that point in time, I was largely past my country music phase, but I’d long ago filed the song away as one that “got me” and my life with cystic fibrosis. With a title like “Live Like You Were Dying,” you can probably guess what it’s about—what you would do if you didn’t have much time left. Since I cohabitated with this belief every day, the song was special to me.

As I listened on the iPad, I was overcome with tears—so much so that I climbed out of bed to find Ramón. I slogged toward the bedroom door and peeked out to realize Ramón was in the kitchen. He looked at me, saw my tears, and immediately met me in the doorway where I stood. Before saying a word, he wrapped me in his arms. His embrace made me cry even harder, the uncertainty of the future weighing heavier than usual. I was so happy and sad to feel such love—happy because it was healing, sad because I never wanted it to end.

Much like the thought of the red wall still catches me by surprise, so does the fact that Ramón died before me. I think of all the times he consoled me as I grieved my shortened life, yet he was the first to go.

Sometimes it’s still hard to believe things happened the way they did, but that’s the beauty of life. At times its unpredictability is paralyzing, but other times it leaves us awestruck.

I’m currently reading Julia Cameron’s Letters to a Young Artist, and this line caught my eye: “If we treat life as though it were fascinating, it tends to be.”

Let’s look for the wonder that surrounds us. And live.


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