I don’t like endings. I hate goodbyes. I dislike the last day of vacation, the morning after Christmas, the final slice of pizza. I am sad when I finish a carton of rocky road, the last biscuit makes me weep, I grieve when baseball season ends. Endings are the pits.
The end is also the best part of a good book, or a timeless song, or a movie. Take “Casablanca.” The final scene of this classic film shows the hero, nightclub owner Rick Blaine, delivering his gut-punching poetic lines to the lovely Ilsa.
The last dramatic minutes between him and Ilsa make the whole movie worth it. The entire film has been tediously mounting, building, climbing, and leading to Rick’s tearful farewell in which he tells Ilsa:
“…Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that. Now, now… Here’s looking at you kid.”
Here’s looking at you kid.
Boy. What a finish.
So endings are vital. Just think about it. The ending of a ballgame is when Sid Bream’s teammates smother him on the infield after he slides into home plate. Where overjoyed ball players dogpile atop each other until they break each other’s ribs.
The ending is the crescendo of a Brahms symphony, swelling to unsurmountable heights. The ultimate few bits of a masterwork which represent the fruition of a composer’s entire career boiled down to 120 seconds. The crashes of cymbals, the sustained whole notes from a string section. La fin. Das ende. Finis. конец. 終わり. The end.
Which is why I want to share something with you that might gross you out, but it’s kind of important. So hang in there.
I speak of a recent study that was done wherein volunteers were taken off the street to receive free-of-charge colonoscopies.
Bear with me here.
This highly scientific study actually had nothing to do with the intestinal workings of the human digestive system. This research was all about endings.
The endoscopic procedures were conducted by a few gastroenterologist professionals—let’s call them Leon and Bobby Ray—who performed exams on two separate groups of patients. The objective was simple.
For Group A: Leon and Bobby Ray performed a virtually painless colonoscopy. But here’s the catch, the procedure ENDED with a few seconds of excruciating pain.
For Group B: Leon and Bobby Ray administered a ridiculously agonizing and painful exam that lasted way too long. But, the procedure ENDED with a few moments of painless ease.
Afterward, the researchers asked both patient groups about their experiences. It was startling what they discovered. Group A—the people who experienced no pain except at the end—said it was the worst incident of their lives.
Group B—who experienced several minutes of extreme discomfort followed by a pain-free conclusion—said the procedure was a day at the beach.
What does this prove? It proves something very important. It demonstrates, without circumstantial doubt, that you should never call Leon and Bobby Ray for medical procedures.
It also proves that endings matter.
To the human animal, most things that end okay, ARE okay. And things that end badly, totally stink. Or let’s put it like this: If during the final scene in “Casablanca,” Rick’s final lines to Ilsa went something like: “Th-th-th-that’s all, folks!” the whole movie would suck eggs.
And so it is that upon the dawn of this New Year that I can see the end of a trying 2020 before me. And I, for one, am going to do my best to allow this year to end well.
Yes, these have been a cruddy 365 days. Maybe the worst ever. I basically lost my job this year—so did many other Americans. I have friends whose businesses shut down. I know people who fell into financial ruin. Many of my loved ones got ill. Some passed on. Social media dogfights ended friendships. Brothers were divided over petty opinions on current events. People fell into isolation and depressive loneliness.
But do you know what else happened this year?
A three-legged puppy named Wilson found a home with an elderly three-legged dog named Geezer, and they became best friends.
And in West Tennessee, a young man named Allen, with stage-four cancer, had successful treatments, and is now cancer free.
Grace, a 29-year-old in New York City, who had lost her teeth because of an abusive stepfather, was taken to a dentist, free-of-charge, by an anonymous donor who happened to notice her toothless smile in a fast-food restaurant. Today, Grace has a brand new set of teeth, and she remarks, “I’ve never felt good about my face, but now I feel like I’m pretty.”
This year, I received letters about marriages being rescued, dogs getting adopted, foster children finding forever homes, elderly parents reconnecting with prodigal sons, families becoming closer, and old friends refinding each other.
I’ve read about young men who quit video games for baseball. I’ve read about deadbeat fathers who appeared on doorsteps, unannounced, ready to be in their daughters’ lives.
And something happened to me this year, too. I rediscovered what I truly care about. I also relearned what I dislike about myself. Such as my own selfishness. My vain pride. And how I’m always so obsessed with my own problems when I should be thinking about the problems of others.
Anyway, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that my problems don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday, Ilsa, you’ll understand that.
Here’s looking at you kid.