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Three things to carry on forever

Here’s my Christmas and New Year’s message—selections from an inspirational speech given in 1993 by successful North Carolina State college basketball coach Jim Valvano when he received the Arthur Ash Courage Award, as it was viewed nationally on ESPN.

Valvano knew he was dying of cancer, and had few days remaining in his life. I remember hearing this speech so many years ago, and found it recently on Google. It’s nine minutes long, but I have excerpted what I consider its most important messages, appropriate even today.

A dying Valvano gives us a message of hope and courage, applicable even today hope and courage for those who may find this season less than merry.

Perhaps this will give them some inspiration.

And now, Jim Valvano

“Now, I’m fighting cancer, everybody knows that. People ask me all the time about how you go through your life and how’s your day, and nothing is changed for me.

“I’m a very emotional, passionate man. I can’t help it. That’s being the son of Rocco and Angelina Valvano. It comes with the territory. We hug, we kiss, we love. When people say to me how do you get through life or each day, it’s the same thing. To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.

“I always have to think about what’s important in life. To me there are these three things. Where you started; where you are; and where you’re gonna be. Those are the three things that I try and do every day.

“It’s so important to know where you are. And I know where I am right now. How do you go from where you are to where you wanna be? And I think you have to have an enthusiasm for life. You have to have a dream, a goal. And you have to be willing to work for it.

“I urge all of you, all of you, to enjoy your life, the precious moments you have. To spend each day with some laughter and some thought, to get your emotions going.

“Now, I look at where I am now and I know what I want to do. What I would like to be able to do is spend whatever time I have left and to give and maybe some hope to others. The amount of money coming in for cancer research is not enough, but it is significant.

“But if I told you it’s 10 times the amount that goes for cancer research, I’ll also tell you that 500,000 people will die this year of cancer. And I will also tell you that one in every four will be afflicted with this disease, and yet somehow we seem to have put it in a little bit of the background. I want to bring it back on the front table. It may not save my life. It may save my children’s life. It may save someone you love. And it’s very important.

“Don’t give up, don’t ever give up. And that’s what I’m going to try to do every minute that I have left. I will thank God for the day and the moment I have. And if you see me, smile and maybe give me a hug. That’s important to me too. But try if you can to support whether it’s AIDS or cancer foundations, so that someone else might survive, might prosper and might actually be cured of this dreaded disease. I am going to work as hard as I can for cancer research and hopefully we’ll have some cures and some breakthroughs.

“I know, I gotta go, I gotta go, and I got one last thing and I said it before, and I’m gonna say it again: Cancer can take away all my physical ability. It cannot touch my mind: It cannot touch my heart; and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever.

(Jim Valvano died of cancer April 28, 1993. His North Carolina State basketball team won the national championship in 1983, and he had a college coaching career of 346-212, also winning eight NCAA tournaments.)

Merry Christmas everyone. And into the New Year, hope and courage to our new president in 2009 as he grapples with some of our most difficult days ahead.