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Notes from the Apocalypse

Blessed or Lucky?

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By Charles Morgan III


I don’t know about being blessed. I know about being lucky. I’ve had lots of luck.


When I’ve had bad luck, I didn’t feel cursed. I just figured that bad luck was the flip side of good luck. Work a little harder and you tend to get luckier.


But to start with—and to borrow from Warren Buffett—I was lucky to be born a white male in 1954, to college educated middle class parents, in America. I could have entered this world in Darfur, Bangladesh, Somalia, or any one of 100 far away, poverty stricken countries.


But luck is not enough. We all know luck can run out. Sometimes it’s as simple as a bad draw of cards. Other times you can have a good hand but play it poorly. One of the great indicators of success in tennis matches is called “unforced errors.”


Generally. the player with the fewest “unforced errors” wins.


We all commit and survive self-inflicted errors. Many of us suffer health consequences because of excessive drinking, smoking, drug usage, or poor diets. In the world of politics, sports, and entertainment we see unforced errors all the time.


Since the current President of the United States took office, our country hasn’t faced a major crisis. But President Trump, using Twitter as a vehicle, creates three of four mini-crises a day with unforced attacks on movie and television stars, politicians, athletes, countries, and all kinds of strange things that cross his mind.


We wander through life and do what we can to navigate the challenges that come from poor decisions. We try to capitalize on good fortune. We strive to pass on to a younger generation the ideals and customs that make for a good life. If we’re smart, we find people we can look up to—people who have lived exemplary lives and have lessons to offer so that we can be decent people.


My mother Camille, like her mother Camille, is an excellent bridge player. In contract bridge, everyone plays the same hands. Hundreds of teams compete with everyone playing the same cards. It takes luck out of the game and the best players, barring the misplaying of cards, should win.


Cancer is a little like that. It is an equal opportunity visitor. There’s no need for affirmative action in cancer. It is available to all. Wealth, race, creed, intelligence…cancer makes no distinctions.


My mother received a cancer diagnosis early this year.


She’s received great medical care—the same as everyone else at the local cancer care clinic. It probably helps that Dr. Hanson, the surgeon, is a friend of hers. Jaime Braden (Rodney’s wife) is the head nurse of our clinic, and she is remarkable.


Pea and Ann, who sit next to my mom in the chemo room, are from Navarre and they have become good friends.


But being caught up in the medical system, particularly for someone who has rarely been sick, is a chore. Getting shuffled from doctor to doctor to specialist to test center to doctor to one imaging lab after another is as taxing as the treatment.


Through it all, there is signage and messaging and promotional material encouraging the importance of a positive outlook and a cheerful approach to life.


Good luck with that. The odds of someone who is grumpy and pessimistic getting a cancer diagnosis and then becoming positively cheerful are slim.


My mother has had a remarkably positive outlook on life for 86 years. She’s been patient, understanding, pleasant and smart for as long as I’ve known her. None of that has changed.


She’s almost finished with her course of treatment, and while she might not have been on top of her game for the last few months, she’s close.


Camille is playing bridge this afternoon. It’s not contract bridge, so she and her partner will get some hands better than others. That’s the luck of the draw.


But that won’t really matter.

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