Friday, March 31, 2017


Doctors call it gross hematuria. I call it red pee.

By whatever name, it’s scary stuff. Scary enough to send me to the ER at McLaren Northern Michigan Hospital on Monday.

A few hours in their tender care and a CT scan yielded a diagnosis: transitional cell carcinoma of the left kidney. Doctor Z gave Polly and me a couple of pills, just in case we would have trouble getting to sleep.

When you have six children, all mature and highly educated, and you tell them you have cancer, the immediate mobilization is a marvelous thing to behold.

Get a primary physician in Lansing; get a top urology expert and a first rate oncology doctor. Make appointments ASAP. Have all CT scans and medical records delivered immediately. Step up the remodeling and furnishing of the condo at Burcham Hills in East Lansing. Urgent emails, text messages and phone calls create the kind of teamwork buzz I remember from my days of political campaigning.

Their concern, of course, is heartwarming, but I suspect that my reaction to the news has not been what it would have been thirty years ago. When you are 87 years old, death is like politics; you can talk about it, but you can’t change it.

It is what it is.

Our Christian heritage tells us that we are dust and unto dust we shall return; that we know not the day nor the hour. Good enough. If I were scheduled to face a firing squad tomorrow morning, I probably wouldn’t sleep very well tonight.

But that is not the case. Tomorrow will be like today. Another blessing. Another miracle of sentient existence.

The old body gets a little creakier every day, that’s true. The hugging and kissing, daily habits of a lifetime, get a little more satisfying and appreciated; the smiles and the laughter are a little more precious and necessary.

But life goes on. I will watch the news. I will do Sudoku puzzles. I will write blogs, read books, browse the world wide web, and chew gum.

And I will hug my darling Pauline. Until I can’t any more.

I have spent the last half century trying to make a difference in this old world. It is a preposterously egotistical ambition. Like a grain of Lake Michigan sand trying to create a dune.

Still, I have always believed it is worth the effort. Sharing in the important work of administering justice to my fellow citizens, helping to create access to the legal profession for new generations of Americans and on more than a few occasions, just trying to make things a little better for some folks who needed help; it’s not a mighty sand dune, but it’s not chopped liver.

The popular mantra sweeping our nation these days is “Make America great again.” All well and good, but I hope our people will pay heed to the famous words quoted by Dwight Eisenhower in a 1952 campaign speech:

I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers—and it was not there. . . . in her fertile fields and boundless forests—and it was not there. . . . in her rich mines and her vast world commerce—and it was not there. . . . in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution—and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. 

America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good,she will cease to be great.

In the last analysis, the most patriotic and efficacious thing that most people can do with their lives is to try to behave themselves. Or as my sainted father, Joe Brennan, advised: “You know what’s wrong and you know what’s right. Do what’s right.”

Dr. Z from the Emergency Room called yesterday to say that the CT scan also shows a penny-sized nodule on my left lung.  

The big C is the big C. It is what it is. I’ll try to behave myself a while longer.                                                                              


  1. Our thoughts, love and prayers are with you, Polly and the family. "Keep On Keeping On". Expect to see many more of these, don't let us down:-)

  2. Behaving is overrated Dad!! One thing at a time and we are all here for you. beautiful blog.

    1. Tom: Paul and I have you in our prayers...every time we pass a Church a prayers will be sent your way. And there are lots of Churches between here
      and God. Paty

  3. We all are here on a short visit and for our love ones. God will call us when he needs us so enjoy and know that we will all be there with you in time.

    Cancer treatment is beyond belief today - 11 years ago I went through 24 surgeries with prostrate cancer. I am still with my precious wife. So, enjoy the wife every moment. It might turn out to be a long time.

  4. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and Polly..May the journey that you are about to begin be smooth and successful. We love you both.
    Lynn and Dave

  5. You are in my prayers. Dad is 94, in rehab so he can come back home after having pneaunia (sp) in Feb. Thought we lost him. I can't imagine what your family is going thru, I can just pray for the best for you and your Polly. Take very good care, friend. Veda

  6. Beautiful, Judge
    One day at a time.

    Now do you see why Bill and I named the puppy
    Eisenhower ?
    Much love and many prayers for strength and courage.

  7. Colossians 1:24

    I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the church.

  8. Oh Tom! We certainly miss you here at Lake Jovita..It has been a pleasure being with you for those many years in Florida.. especially the good ole Irish music we shared in the past. Ilse sends her love and we will keep you in our prayers.Best wishes, Ed Burk

  9. Sorry to hear this Judge! Our prayers will be with you...Keep that positive attitude...very profound blog!

  10. My sincere thanks for all the kind words and prayers. I feel quite lifted up!

    Love to all.


  11. Tom and Polly, Jerry and I are loving your home so much and feel so blessed to have found it. Please know you will be in our thoughts and prayers daily. Everyone here at Lake Jovita still calls it "The Brennan house". We love reading your blog and wish you both God's grace at this time. Jerry and Sandy

  12. Tom, you are my idol in so many ways: fantastic man because you are a role model for education, determination, unconditional love for family and friends, an entertaining and enlightening writer, deeply religious, but most importantly you physical and verbal adoration for your beautiful wife Polly. We miss you two here at Lake Jovita! PS I cherish my last round with you on the golf course! You still "had it" in your 80s--hope I am still playing if and when I get to that age. And, you are a very handsome man!!!Sincere love, Joyce