As we walked into Bluebonnet Hills Funeral Home in Colleyville, Texas, my wife asked me to hold some tissues she had picked up. Looking back at her, I asked, “You think you’ll need these?”
“Perhaps,” she replied, as she was connected to him not only from personal visits, but through close friends of ours. She had met Ross during the last months of his life. He was then dying from advanced prostate cancer and all knew that he was facing his last days on earth.
My connection to Ross was quite different. I only knew Ross through the stories of others – we had never met. What we did have in common was prostate cancer. His was caught late and there was no hope of recovery. Mine, caught early, was now not a part of my life. I was free to live my life. Ross’s life, on the other hand, had been cut short from the same disease.
So, as I walked to the register book at the funeral home to sign our attendance, I noticed blue pins for prostate cancer awareness (just like the pink pins that women wear for breast cancer awareness). As I picked one up I felt a rush of emotion realizing, that as I pinned this on my lapel, I was a survivor (by the grace of God) and Ross was with God.
People gathered to remember the joy and the experiences that came from knowing Ross. They gathered in support of his wife, children and extended family. They gathered because he made a difference. One after the other his friends spoke of his “Big Life” and the experiences they had in working and playing with Ross during the time he had on earth. Through their expressions of sorrow and humor, I began to see the enormity of the life Ross lived and the depth at which he touched others.
I was moved. While I have been to many funerals, this one especially touched me. Perhaps it hit too close to home. Perhaps, I thought, “It could have been me.” But the part that rang home with crystal clarity for me was his son’s comments about how his son (Ross’s grandson) would come to know of the man his grandfather was. I feel sure that the room, full of baby boomers, won’t let this little man down – he will know of the life of Ross Younkin.
Not long there after, I heard the drone of bagpipes as one of his best friends (and they all considered themselves his best friend) played tribute to Ross. Choking back tears, Chip honored his friend and touched hearts – mine included.
As we drove away from the graveside, I asked my wife, “Just how did Ross find out he had cancer?” She replied (as best she could recall) that he had a problem that took him to the doctor and something showed up but his doctor didn’t seem to be concerned. He (Ross) was angry about that – the doctor should have been vigilant knowing the impact that advanced prostate cancer can have on one’s life. Likewise, Ross was angry at himself. He felt like something wasn’t right, but didn’t push the doctor to make more tests. “Just like most men,” I thought to myself.
Wake Up Call! As a prostate cancer survivor, more and more, I hear stories of how men find out they are cursed with prostate cancer. Two nights ago I received a call from a man who was exploring treatments (for prostate cancer) and wanted to talk about the treatment I elected. One of my first questions was, “how did you find out?” He replied that he had hurt his foot and so while there his doctor required a full exam including a DRE (digital rectal exam). It was then that something unusual was discovered. He, like me, had no symptoms and would have no practical reason to go to the doctor. However, in both our cases, for other reasons, we had physicians who saw the wisdom and logic of requiring exams that saved our lives.
Prostate cancer, unlike most cancers, can generally be detected through a simple blood test. While that isn’t fool proof, a PSA test required by my doctor, saved my life. If Ross could speak to us today, I am confident that he would shout from his Harley – get tested NOW! While the rule of thumb is that you should have the test certainly by age 50 – I contend that you should start in your early 40’s. Mine was diagnosed at age 47. Prostate cancer is curable if caught early enough. If you have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, consider reading one of my early blogs related to treatment options – a link is attached: prostate cancer blog
Ross Younkin: How can you measure the life of a man? It was said yesterday that Ross collected music – lots of music. I wonder if he had the song “Season’s of Love” from the musical RENT? In the lyrics it says:
How do you measure a year? In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee. In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.
How can you measure the life of a man? In truths that he learned, or in times that he cried. In bridges he burned, or the way that he died.
It’s time now to sing out, tho the story never ends let’s celebrate remember the life of our friend. Remember
the love! Remember the love! Remember the love! Measure in love. Seasons of love!
Seasons of love.