Some of you know my friend Dr. Lee Lipsenthal. I†wrote about him here and†he wrote an article for Owning Pink here. A physician, author, and workshop leader who spent most of his career working with Dr. Dean Ornish and teaching physicians how to find balance in a medical life, Lee has inspired hundreds of thousands of people with his work.
And then we lost him way too young to esophageal cancer in September.
I was blessed to honor his life at the memorial service held for him at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, where Dean Ornish and dozens of others celebrated Leeís remarkable life. (Lee insisted that we drink margaritas, listen to classic rock music, and enjoy every sandwich – BLTís to be specific.) As more than 300 of us gathered to remember Lee, we laughed a lot, cried a lot, and remembered how Lee lived his life saying ďToday is a good day to die.Ē
Today Is A Good Day To Die
We knew what he meant – that every bit of love had been expressed, that every dream had been fulfilled, that Lee hadnít held anything back, and that death was nothing to fear. But when he was diagnosed with metastatic cancer and said to his young wife Kathy, ďToday is a good day to die,Ē she wasnít so thrilled to hear his aphorism.
Kathy wanted Lee to fight for his life – and he did, with chemo, radiation, meditation, shamanic work, and a variety of other healing modalities. But in the end, Lee was right. As much as it broke our hearts to lose him, his last today was indeed a good day to die.
Personally, Iíll avoid repeating Leeís wisdom. Even though everyone I love knows it, and every dream I have is actively being fulfilled or pursued, I donít want the Universe to get the wrong message.† Even though I live every day as if it could be my last, Iím thinking today is†not†a good day to die, so I donít want to give the cosmos permission to whisk me off this afternoon.
As Iím learning in the process of researching my book, what we say and believe can manifest in our health, and while Iím not in any way blaming Lee for his early demise, I think Iíll affirm that today is a good day to LIVE. And knowing Lee, I know thatís what he meant.
Making Peace With Death
What Lee demonstrated beautifully in his last two years of life was his ability to face the ultimate uncertainty with grace, wisdom, and peace. As he wrote in his book:
I knew that the more fear and anxiety I had, the higher my stress hormone levels would be. High stress hormones wear down the immune systemís function over time, giving cancer a better chance to grow. Fear promotes cancer growth; calm decreases it. My mode of being became Ďget quiet, enjoy life, and let my body do what it knows how to do – cure cancer.í
In the end, regardless of how well we fight a life-threatening illness, the outcome is beyond our control. We can make our bodies ripe for miracles, but if the Master Plan has other ideas for us, we must surrender. And Lee did. And he is sorely missed.
A Parting Gift
In classic Lee fashion, he left us a gift even after passing, and at his memorial, we were all given a copy of his posthumous memoir, appropriately titled†Enjoy Every Sandwich: Living Each Day As If It Were Your Last.† After his memorial, I gobbled up the book like a BLT in 2 days, and I honestly didnít want it to end. Not only was it full of inspiration, life wisdom, and moving stories; I also felt like as long as I was still hearing his voice, Lee was still with us.
And he is. This week, his book launches out into the world, beyond the realm of those who knew and loved him. In the vein of Mitch Albomís†Tuesdays With Morrie and Randy Pauschís†The Last Lecture, Lee Lipsenthalís†Enjoy Every Sandwich will touch your heart, move your spirit, and teach you how to live every day as if it was your last.
In the book, Lee compares birthing a new life, as many of us have done, to birthing a second child, after you have ďforgottenĒ the pain of birthing the first:
Birthing a new life, scratching your way out of a confining box, is very much the same; the freedom and expansiveness at the other end make you forget how traumatic and difficult the work of escaping was. Today I canít imagine living my old life, but I can say that leaving it behind was not easy. I have not forgotten totally the pain of delivery.† But pain always seems to push us until vision starts to pull us.
The Narrow Place
When I read this, I couldnít help thinking about the life I left behind back in 2007 and the pain Iíve endured to be able to honestly say that, if I found out I had three months to live, I wouldnít change a thing about my life. Many times, Iíve found myself in that narrow place. And yet, on the other side of the narrow place, when pain pushes you through, vision does begin to pull you and the rest of the birth happens more smoothly. When you come out the other side and realize you can spin and dance and stretch and grow, it makes the rebirth worthwhile – Every. Single. Time.
He Didn’t Make It To Dr. Oz
Lee was invited to talk about his book on Dr. Oz, which would have surely made his book a bestseller. But Lee didnít make it to his book launch, though he did leave us this video:
Please Buy Lee’s Book
Youíll learn how to live, how to die with grace, how to follow your dreams while still appreciating the life you have, and how to enjoy every frigginí sandwich in Lee Lipsenthalís†Enjoy Every Sandwich. Buy it here. And if thatís not enough to encourage you to buy the book, please buy it for Leeís widow and two children. This is the gift he left behind. Letís make it the bestseller it deserves to be.
Enjoying every sandwich,
Lissa Rankin, MD: Founder of†OwningPink.com,†Pink Medicine Revolutionary,†motivational speaker, and author of†Whatís Up Down There? Questions Youíd Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend and Encaustic Art: The Complete Guide To Creating Fine Art With Wax.
Learn more about†Lissa Rankin here.