"Probably everybody be nice to you if they knew you were dying," he said.
"Everybody knows everybody is dying," I said. "That is why people are nice. You all die soon enough, so why not be nice to each other?"
From Bang the Drum Slowly by Mark HarrisBang the Drum Slowly is the second of Mark Harris' four Henry Wiggins baseball novels and widely considered the best (although I personally favor The Southpaw.) Wiggins is the ace pitcher of the New York Mammoths; Pearson is the third-string catcher. Wiggins' roommate, a dumb but gentle jock from the deep South who is the butt of ridicule in the Mammoths clubhouse. When Pearson comes down with terminal cancer, Wiggins tries (and fails) to keep it secret and tries (and succeeds) to protect Pearson from his own naivety.
And the above quote pretty much sums up the overriding theme. We're all dying all the time, and we ought to behave that way.
This winter has seen a couple of notable baseball reporters, Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun Sentinel (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) die of cancer. And yesterday one of my Free Press colleagues, Dan Nienaber, who covered cops and courts for us, died of cancer too.
I didn't know Strauss or Rodriguez, and I didn't read their stuff all that often. But Dan -- well, I read his stuff pretty much every day for 15 years. That's part of my job. We weren't pals, but we were colleagues for a significant portion of our working lives, and that counts for something too,