I Don't Know Jack

"Dr. Death" doesn't think much of life.

I know everyone's focused on how Jack Kevorkian helped so many die, but I was much more interested in why he was so down on living.

He said it was tedious and empty — often painful and lonely. And then, the not-so-good-outlook doctor said, it was over. Hard to be happy, Kevorkian told me, when so much in life is not; especially for those dealing with illness and pain.

I strongly disagreed. I said life is not miserable; that I wasn't remotely miserable.

He just smiled; Jack all but saying I didn't know jack. That I couldn't know, I wouldn't know. Easy for me to smile, he said, when I have so much for which to smile.

Some of you agreed:

Kevin Myler, New York City: "Listen to Dr. Death, Mr. Good Life. Get out of your perfect world and feel some pain. It'd do you good not to feel so good."

Sarah Emerling, Boston: "I like you, Neil, but Dr. Kevorkian is right. You have lived a sheltered life. Walk in my shoes before you start lecturing anyone on skipping in theirs."

Larry Mahan, Lebanon, Missouri: "Neil, you are a young man, I'm sure have a nice family… everything is good. I am now 60… I have two herniated discs, pinched sciatic nerve… renal cell carcinoma… borderline emphysemic now too… you will just have to be there someday… no way can you understand…"

You're wrong, Larry. And Sarah, and Kevin. And you too, Dr. Kevorkian.

You're all wrong saying your woes define your life and your attitude about life. And you're wrong assuming mine is a sheltered life, unaware of your pain and unsympathetic to those in pain.

I am not here to win your sympathy; just this once — and I promise, just this once — your attention. I know pain better than you think and illness better than you know. It's public record, but for the record, let me be clear and go on the record. Again, just this once.

I have multiple sclerosis; a pretty tough neurological disease for which there's no cure. And I got it only a few years after beating back a pretty serious cancer for which it once looked there might not be a cure.

Again, I'm not trying to win points, just make this point: Illness doesn't define who I am or how I feel. It's shaken my life, but it hasn't sapped one iota of my enthusiasm for life.

Sure, there are many days I wish my voice could be stronger, my legs sturdier, and my eyesight clearer, but I can't count on these things. Only that living is worth dealing with all of these things.

Jack is right: I don't know jack about misery, but that's only because I choose not to be miserable.

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