It was a long difficult night, as they all were, when I lay up in a hospital bed struggling for much needed sleep after suffering the first of two strokes.
This night was more unsettling, more painful and thought provoking. I don’t know if it was day two or day three of my first stay at Henry Ford Hospital in West Bloomfield. One of the bad things about a stroke is it intercepts the mind and takes it to strange places you don’t want to go.
Doctors told me that the brain is rewiring itself as it mends. They said I could not fall for the fake or it could lead me to depression.
This night it challenged my legacy in life, my legacy as a professional and my legacy as a human being. And it never allowed me to win no matter how hard I tried. I was a failure as a journalist, a failure as a husband, a failure as a father and a failure as a friend.
A line in Bob Wojnowski’s tribute column to his friend and talk show Jamie Samuelsen hit close to home.
“He (Samuelsen) said he was afraid he’d die without making an impact in his 25 years here, and I about jumped through the phone to thump his head,” Wojo wrote.
Maybe the demons take over when tomorrow is not promised.
Was I good journalist? No.
Did I entertain people on radio? No.
I never thought about these things when I was well and rolling. My business is all about hitting the next deadline, the next press conference or making sure you are prepared the next time the light turned on to begin a new show. It is about making the next phone call to help keep you in the loop.
It is an endless cycle that never stopped or allowed you to come up for air. I loved it, but it took a toll on me.
But the one life question that bothered me most? Was I a good human being? Did I try to help people? Was I kind to strangers? Did I treat friends with respect outside of making fun of everybody I love?
No matter how many times I spun the wheel it came up snake eyes. The answer was no. I could not go out like this.
I cried that night.
If you hooked up my friends and colleagues to a lie detector and filled them with the truth serum Jack Daniels or Maker’s Mark would they say I treat them with kindness? Was I nice to strangers? Did my friends truly like me?
I was never in pain during the two strokes that ended my career. However, that was a very painful night.
Do you want to hear something strange? The next day I felt a lot better about my place in life. I ran into a complete stranger a few weeks after getting out of the hospital and he said a bunch of his friends held a prayer vigil for me while I was in the hospital.
I felt those prayers and they helped drive away the demons that consumed me.
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