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  • Yesterday I agreed to go ‘shootin’ guns at a firing range with a colleague of mine. I had owned guns 30 years before when I played farmer for awhile in Vermont (photo) and they were fun to shoot bricks and hubcaps with. When in Rome... Haven't touched them since.

    Two people could not be more different. When I was new to my job five years ago he invited me to lunch in the spirit of welcome and collegiality. Jokingly, I asked him what on Earth we’d talk about. He’s a conservative Christian and I’m a liberal atheist. He smiled and replied, “Anything but politics or religion!”

    I wound up in tears during lunch, and not from laughter, and I could not have been more surprised. I knew that his wife had died recently, and the topic came up. Carefully, I asked him what had happened. Cancer. He said it was a shock, and something he was still tormented by. On the night of her death he awoke in the middle of the night to find her wandering around the living room in the dark. She had had cancer 18 years before, but had beaten it and there had been no indication of its return.

    Sleepy and slightly irritated, he got out of bed, went to her and asked her what she was doing, his voice sounding harsher than he was actually feeling. She said she was looking for a glass of water. “Go back to bed and I’ll bring it to you” he told her. When he woke up the next morning, she was dead next to him. Her cancer had returned, and no one knew.

    With a face twisted with emotion, he looked up from his meal into my eyes and said, “If I had known that that was the last time I would see the her alive do you think those would have been my last words to her? I would have pulled her into my arms, held her tight and told her that the past 35 years had been the most wonderful years a man could have ever hoped to live.”

    I was speechless. My eyes had teared up. In that moment I forgot his politics and his religion and was filled with compassion for this man. Deep down, at the base of it all, we’re the same, humans consumed by love, joy, fear and pain, good people who are doing the best we can.

    So, I’m going shooting.
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