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Friday evening I watched a full episode of Jeorpardy!.
I’ve always enjoyed the show (even unsuccessfully attempted an online tryout) but the show airs weekdays at 7 pm, a time I’m usually carting the kids of to some practice or game.
My reason for tuning in was part curiosity, part admiration, part sympathy. Like calling on an old, sick friend.
Last Wednesday Alex Trebek announced he was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He vowed to stay positive, remain hopeful and keep working. Then he joked, saying he has to beat cancer because under the terms of his contract he has to host Jeorpardy! for three more years.
Then he vowed with Trebekian transparency and grace he was going to keep the faith.
Alex Trebek has been a constant in our lives since 1984.
Even if you have never watched an episode of Jeopardy!, Trebek has shown up 5 days a week and done his job for 35 years.
There is something about his voice, his presence behind the podium that is comforting and simple.
I have never meet Alex Trebek but I was saddened to hear his diagnosis. A sadness I felt when Robin Williams and Tom Petty and just last week, Luke Perry passed. People we meet on television or on the radio and they dog-eared our lives with their voices, with their eyes.
And though we, the general public, don’t have access to the person behind the celebrity facade, what we do see is an image of a person or a character that personifies our best self. The person we aspire to be. Funny, passionate, a heartthrob. And their passing makes us, the mere mortals, swallow and accept our own mortality.
On Friday’ Alex effortlessly hosted Jeorpardy!. Seemingly undeterred by the cancer eating his insides.
Conventional thinking would say Alex has got it wrong. He’s sick. Stay home. Rest. But I think he knows if he takes time off–cancer wins. And he cannot afford to let cancer win. He has a responsibility to be there, in our living rooms, every week night to entertain, to quiz us.
All life is doing is asking us questions and according to Ryan Holiday, author of The Obstacle is the Way, “our actions are the answer.”
I’m sure Alex doesn’t want cancer. But his refusal to let cancer deter him is admirable, remarkable, and humbling.
When things go wrong in life we quickly fall into the “woe is me” trap. We think our problems take precedent. That our problems are bigger and more important then everyone and everything.
But if we subscribe to such belief we’re wrong.
The truth is– the sun will rise. 7pm will come again.
Life moves on with or without us. And all we can do, in the time we have and with the problems we face, is to have the courage and humility to act like–who is: Alex Trebek.
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