Well  my lungs still have not  cleared up ” It’s just a little pneumonia”,  as us Docs like to self diagnose  while hacking  up “indelicates”  and   placing no lower than third in any self respecting hollering contest

On many levels , I  thought  I had proved my stupidity once again,  and went out in the colder air to a neighbors memorial  and funeral. I never met the man. My loss.  Once again, HE was right  and I was wrong. Like the overflow crowd there, there were thousands of reasons to just get  up , shut up and get lifted up. Yup, I cried quietly in the back because of the  man I  learned he was. Heh, we all carry baggage .In this trip let’s just say it was more than an overnight bag, more  in Queen Mary transatlantic genre.  I only barely knew his saintly wife briefly .You could tell when she had been around as these paranormal, billowy white feathers seemed to trace her track of her 50 and just as often 100 mile runs. She is somewhere in her  seventies. ( God save  me from having publically revealed even a woman’s age  range) Pam, my wife , the other saint, spent two hours alternatively crying and listening at her house as she talked about a lot and mentioned forlornly how  the depression from her beloved’s  death only let her get in a 50 mile jaunt.

The memorial stories were amazing, What a Father, leader  and friend and so so much more

Cancer  killed him. I am an Oncologist. I am not clear and do not need to be , except that bone spread was probably widely involved..Of course this  sort of man eclipses  mere clinical diagnosis  as he lives  on interminably in the thousands of heart minds and souls he lovingly caressed

The stories were not really  eulogies, they were facts and plot points in the arc of a story  of a self made man who took care of family and friends  and was broadly loved. I might (-check that- )hope that I would have been able to learn a lot about a lot of the most important things in life if I was lucky  enough to have been his doc for a while. You can do that if you thank them for selecting you , introduce your team looking him square in the eye, throw out that right first question and sit down , shut up and begin, sometimes if you’re lucky, to learn…like you could from Vern.

This was a man you heard and felt , not just saw his imposing yet somehow gentle frame. Yesiree. a depression Oakie farmer right out of a novel. Middle or so of a big family. Tall and handsome.  No, this is NOT that kind of man crush thing- ( there were a LOT of photos). Again I erred, thinking “God knows what more  that Oakie kid  would have done if he had more than one maybe reasonable meal a day, yesterdays papers to sell as a kid down by the boat yards, a crane aerial- automobiles and some six-inch pipe caper …and my favorite, a dead cow” (all great stories there)

Ill as hell, to die in 72 hours or so , he was still working for the  benefit of others diagnosed  with lethal mesothelioma (incurable cancer of the lung linings about always due to inhalation  of types of asbestos)  by giving a deposition on their behalf with his unfathomable memory and eidetic recollection abilities  to see the past  as it  was, close to 80 years later, not just as he might reminisce  it  probably was. In that final deposition, he spoke in exquisite unassailable detail of another man’s lethal exposure , as he lay in bed  in bed  and  doing so at his insistence. (It was deposition#1000.  )  Apparently he became the gold standard honest go to man in court with the killer memory that finally and rightfully  landed one of the biggest volume of suits about asbestos, unsafe working conditions and mesothelioma .His words as  a “Union Man” set the standard for the billion dollar fund now in existence by law. He did not get that disease yet he inhaled as much as any. God had more important work. He was where HE wanted him.  Maybe that is why despite his “ bone cancer” that crippled him for 2 years , he would still go help the attorneys constantly and would not take pain meds except over the counter meds–like candy- worthless alone for this and have a limit per day anyway. Oh My God, I know the  agony he had to be in but for him LIFE was his wife and helping those men, his brothers;  some living, some dying, some dead- and he was going to make it  to the next one. He  died 72 hours or so later . OK, so now I am crying again.

God puts such men in the path of so many unwitting and all that special man has to do is be themselves, again and again as the tapestry changes but all the colors are all still there and unfazed and the effect  on most, soon or in time is  deep, exponential , immemorial and as I heard, very often passed on by initially mimicking  and soon heart and head wise knowing – from  “Vern-Ing” the right thing to do.

In over three decades of practice, every time I took care ( wait, reverse that)  of men from that era, something deep and special stirred. I’ll spare the many  metaphors as to what it was like– just it was many  of the things I needed. Still do. Don’t go thinking that are only a few who do too. There were many of those” Special men”  in that day,. Maybe that’s all hyperbole or maybe,  we look at those men as we might now at  the Founding  Fathers  and say  of both “These were men” I will let history write that report card; but those Oakies who made it, and others; well they’re just something special; . Dead cow and all

I tried many times, but I just could not put one of the stories of such a man  in my book on Cancer   www.whentumoristherumorandcanceristheanswer.com/   I really tried. So I assumed they were sent and meant just for us. I was wrong. The story is now  on the website of my book  ( above) and Facebook Widget) –left bottom of book web page on the  also on the blog . I think that will ensure  thousands  will …”Know What Ya Mean, Vern”.

This was my  first outing since pneumonia and then back up into the colder air. Stupid? Nope! It would have been truly  stupid NOT to go and it was worth every spleen splitting cow calling  coughing fit holler. Cars filled the parking lot and 1/2 mile up either end of street . Folks were standing anywhere they could. Stories were wonderful and tearful if you had any heart. My loss in not knowing him.

OK OK …the “ Dead Cow”   story . But that is the only story I’ll just pass on to you fellow wranglers and rail men and those of our greatest generation. The rest of the stories were part of the price of my admission to something very holy. Vern’s family was durt poor, that’s worse than its neighbor of dirt poor in 1930’s in Oakie-Land…..

Well, just one part of this story is almost  straight from Samuel  Clemens pen. The cow was already dead and the  tale is  how , unseen by any , they would drag the same dead cow across the railroad tracks just a skip ( although not for a dead cow) away . Let’s just say  they lived off the settlements as long as that  sadly alleged  railroad hit cow could hold up its end…and more, so to speak

I will miss you Vernon.

I pray it’s for not too long . Yesiree, you can do that if you know where they are and it is  just where you hope to be

Kevin P Ryan MMM MD FACP

Internist, Hematologist, Oncologist, Palliative Medicine

Colonel USAF (ret) USAF

Professor of Medicine UC Davis (ret)

Cancer Survivor








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