By Jo Cooper
Every man dies– not every man really lives.
— William Ross Wallace
Several thoughts struck me after completing Lee Lipsenthal’s Enjoy Every Sandwich: Living Each Day As If It Were Your Last. One- this is one of those very precious books like Randy Pauch’s The Last Lecture that are sublime in their honesty, vitality, and sheer joie de vivre. And two- I wish I had met Lee. We emailed several times as publication approached. I hoped he would be able to do an author talk for the Center, sharing some of his wisdom and unique personality– but he passed away before that could happen.
Lee was the Medical Director with Dean Ornish of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California and developed the “Finding Balance in a Medical Life” program. He was diagnosed in July 2009 with esophageal cancer at the age of 52, and found his own way to live and die with cancer. His approach included conventional treatments spiced with meditation, yoga, shamanic work, breathing, rock concerts and enjoying every sandwich. You gotta love it. To quote Lee, “Here I was dying, yet I felt fully free, fully alive. Being fully alive, I discovered, has nothing to do with the presence or absence of disease…”
“In many other cultures, death is looked upon as a natural event and peaceful deaths are looked upon as celebrations of the person’s life, not steeped in tragedy… What if our healthcare system could be based on this awareness instead of the disease-avoidant system that we have today?”
Great question, and one of many thoughtful subjects for contemplation he proposes in this book, a final gift to health professionals and all of us who are interested in living life to its fullest.