I’d like to tell you a story about a cemetery, the world’s best cup of sweet tea, and my friend Ron.
In my hometown there’s a restaurant called The Little Dooey that makes a pretty mean pulled pork sandwich. For my money, though, they make the finest sweet tea anywhere in America. Right across from Little Dooey is our town’s largest cemetery. On Saturday afternoons, after polishing off our catfish and hush puppies, Ron and I would get go-cups of tea and walk through the cemetery, making up elaborate tales about the names we read on the headstones. Otter Farmer. Trampoline Maestro. Hoarder of Dimes.
Sometimes we made fun of the names we read. We weren’t perfect, but you don’t have to be perfect to be good. Once, after I made a truly terrible joke, I was immediately stung by five yellow jackets.
“There ya go,” Ron said, after he stopped laughing. “The Lord smote ya.”
Ron is in a cemetery now, dead from an illness he couldn’t afford to treat. I can’t say that health insurance would’ve kept him alive. Cancer comes for us without impunity, and it does not care how hard we fight. Ron deserved the chance, though, the chance to go down swinging. He deserved the access to specialists and quality of care the Affordable Care Act provides so many Americans.
I take comfort that my friend is at peace now, whole and healthy and unbroken. But his memory haunts me, because I wonder what will happen to other people I love should they be unable to afford medical care. Before January, I slept easily at night knowing I could see doctor if I needed, that my parents would have care as they grow older, that my nieces won’t lose access to doctors if, God forbid, their father loses his job.
Everyone needs health care, sir. We’re basically all sacs of organs held together by stubborn determination and pre-existing conditions. When we fall ill, be it brain cancer or a broken bone, we deserve the chance to get better.