Dan Sullivan’s Remembrance by Steve Lappen

I met Dan a number of years ago when he ventured past the threshold leading to the de Marneffe Cafeteria. Over time we became friends, spending time away from DBSA and celebrating the bonds that cemented our friendship. And what were those bonds; A shared interest in sports; politics; writing; literature; and history. I know from above and beyond, because I know that’s where his soul will reside eternally, Dan would especially appreciate my reference to the 1980 movie of the same name (The Comeback Kid). The protagonist played by John Ritter was a former major league pitcher whose star had faded, if not extinguished. Yet his comeback was his eagerness to coach a hapless group of youngsters and endow them with the love of baseball and the confidence to play the game with integrity and success. I can just picture Dan on his elevated perch revealing that inimitable smile that betrayed both mischief and amusement. After all, didn’t Dan infuse us with a will to live and to live joyfully and fulfilled? And here was a man given a death sentence. What a gift he gave us!

I vividly remember when Dan told me of his Stage Four lung cancer diagnosis. I recall he was bitter and livid as he felt his PC should have taken far more seriously the symptoms he complained about for several months. Had she exercised her due diligence, Dan’s cancer may have been caught at a much earlier stage, and therefore amenable to treatments and a more favorable outcome. But Dan was nothing if not remarkably resilient. He was the only person I knew who successfully leapfrogged three stages of Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief. He moved from anger/bitterness/betrayal to acceptance and he did so with an inspirational, if not aspirational, sense of consummate grace, dignity, equanimity, and good humor.

I can just imagine him in the privacy of his home with stentorian tones declaring, “Damn you, I will not bend to your will, nor will I open the door when in your mournful dress you come knocking. Instead, I will use my remaining time to construct a bucket list. My first goal is to survive the first Christmas post-diagnosis.” He clearly beat the odds and survived two Christmases. Do not underestimate the power of Dan’s positive outlook. Where many would lay down and miss their first Christmas, his defiance allowed him well more than a year to check off his incredible bucket list. He traveled to Paris with his sister, he took a long US road trip, he attended the Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and he went to the Super Bowl. I have always resented Dan for not inviting me to attend. He was a man who took his dealt hand and reshuffled the deck. Mortality can cause one to roll over and simply wait on the sidelines, or it can propel one to fulfill all of the promises and desires in the allotted time frame.

He is and will always be an inspiration to me and to so many others whose lives he touched with grace and good humor.

Rest easy and rest proud my friend.

Steve Lappen