The Winner Of The Oscar For Best Actor In A Supporting Roll

I was in the left lane, ready to turn, to enter a place I no longer needed to visit. I wasn’t thinking, just driving. It was July 4th, a free day, and I found myself outside Menorah Park with no reason to go further.

Odd how death affects you. One minute you are on the way to the mall, a sale at Nordstrom with an hour or two to waste. The next you are in a parking lot, looking up at a building that no longer serves as a friend’s last stop before the next major journey.

Death. Cancer. Another Cancer. Another Death. Another Cancer. Another Cancer. Another Death. And then today, another Cancer. There are days, even weeks, where the only news that crosses my desk is of births and recoveries. These last few weeks have been particularly dark. There are times that I can help, but not lately. Impotent, my job has devolved to holding the hands of the dying and comforting the survivors.

Today’s Cancer is a vibrant man in his mid-sixties. He was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer. It is too early. He’s not ready. And I’m not ready.

But nobody asked me.

I read an article in Forbes by a nuclear physicist about the future of insurance agents. He didn’t see much of a future for my chosen profession. The consumer, he predicted, will soon elect to purchase insurance the same way one buys a small appliance, by price, online. He didn’t even bother to pretend that the elimination of over 100,000 jobs and the skills we brought to the marketplace would be missed.

And the truth is that he may well be right. The new exchanges, coupled with the faceless voices emanating from call centers around the world, will be how most people purchase their coverage. And it will be fine, right up to the moment when it isn’t. And then, it won’t matter.

My last alarm clock came from a store. My computers come from stores, brick and mortar entities that are staffed with knowledgeable associates. These businesses are prepared to stand behind the products they sell and the people they employ. Will these stores be here tomorrow? Where will I go to get my questions answered? Who will care if the product I purchase fits my needs?

Is the buying of a product an end to itself, or is the proper utilization of the product and the satisfaction one derives from getting value the real goal?

Sally, my girlfriend, bought a set of sheets at Macy’s last week. A set of sheets, something we’ve all done countless times. The color was perfect. They felt nice to the touch. They were on sale! This was not a purchase that required any specialized knowledge or planning. The sheets were awful. After one washing the queen-sized fitted sheet would have worked on a king-sized bed. Macy’s graciously credited her account.

What will we do when the deep thinkers explain away the need for Macy’s? Is insurance easier to buy than a set of sheets?

But my real focus, these last couple of weeks, hasn’t been on the end of my career. That would almost seem like a pleasant diversion. My focus has been on nursing homes and hospice, surgeries and chemo, and the small part I play in my clients’ stories. Sometimes I’m a bit player. Sometimes I have a bigger part to play. Regardless of size, I am always present in a supporting roll.

I only needed a few minutes to assure my client that his coverage supported his desire to meet with other doctors and to explore other treatment options. That’s what he needed. That’s what I do.