Faithful Departed — Patrick Swayze

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There are some famous people that seem so kind and so genuine that I am glad they are somewhere in the world. I don’t need to meet them or visit their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I just want to know they exist in the madhouse of entertainment and keep their heads while doing it. For me, Patrick Swayze was one of those famous people.

Like all Americans raised in the 1980s, watching Dirty Dancing, The Outsiders or Red Dawn every weekend on basic cable provided cinematic life lessons. The Brat Pack taught me many things: detention is determined by the group of people you are detained with; and dancing makes all ages, races and classes happy.

Later in my life, however, Patrick Swayze the man taught me something different: a death sentence isn’t necessarily the end. Swayze starred in a television series (The Beast on A&E) with many strikes against him. He was a has-been, and he had a barely treatable form of pancreatic cancer. Yet, he was making his entertainment dreams come true. He didn’t have the physical strength to promote the show but he was back on my Panasonic screen once a week.

Perhaps, he should have stayed home and stopped working because of the diagnosis. No one would have blamed him. For all intents and purposes he was a dying man.

I don’t know what it takes to live with a terminal illness and not want to throw in the towel. But I do know what it’s like to see one of my heroes — while dying — become a stronger version of who I had imagined him to be.