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Story Time

How much time do you have left?

I have a new hobby. For almost a year now, I've been in the ranks of poker tournament fiends. Texas Hold 'em is the nation's newest craze, and I'm hooked. Playing in live poker games can be quite costly, but as a tournament player it's relatively affordable. For $30 or so you can enter a local tournament. You get a couple hours of entertainment when you play in a tournament and the chance to come away with a decent sized pot if you're lucky enough to make the final table.

You also get to meet some pretty interesting people by playing in tournaments. One such person I encountered recently at a poker table is what inspires me to write this column today. Sorry, the following isn't going to be about poker.

The gentleman in question was quietly playing his cards that evening. It was obvious he was a skilled student of the game, meticulously studying each flop the dealer laid out on the table and betting accordingly. As the night progressed he slowly built his chip stack with sure, but steady play. He was a man of few words, seemingly content with the flow of the game.

About halfway through the evening another player at the table asked him how his wife was doing. Apparently, she had been ill for quite some time. The man softly responded that his wife had died a month earlier. Turns out this recently widowed husband had also been fighting an illness, heart-related. When asked how he was progressing with that battle, he matter of factly responded that he had undergone surgery in December 2003. When pressed for details on his rehabilitation, he revealed only that life was moving ahead as his doctors had predicted it would.

Another player at the table, a friend of the gentleman in question who apparently knew more about the surgery than the heart patient was letting on, joined the conversation. It soon slipped out that the surgery that had been performed wasn't a life saving measure. It had only been done to give this man an extra year to live. Looking about at the other players around the table, I quickly deduced we all were doing the math in our heads, knowing that this coming Christmas this man's time would be up.

Most of us, myself included, were too uncomfortable to say much of anything. When faced with the issue of mortality, sitting at a table with someone who knows when his time is going to be up, it can be a bit awkward. It also is a jolt when contemplating one's own existence, in terms of how much time we each have left on this earth.

One of the more unabashed players at the table couldn't contain his curiosity, though. He questioned the man, asking him why he wasn't spending his final months living it up, maxing out his credit cards in a final blaze of glory fit for a king. The answer wasn't all that prophetic. "This is who I am," he responded. "It is what it is."

My question to you, the readers of this column, is, "Who are you?" If you knew you only had a couple months to live, how would you go out?

Thankfully, most of us aren't privy to that type of information. But it does make you think. If your time was up tomorrow, would you be comfortable going to the great beyond with the life-long resume you've compiled? I think most of us, after great thought, wouldn't be all that secure after completing a total review of our inner selves.

Playing Texas Hold 'em, you can get away with a bluff or two. But there'll be no bluffing our maker when it comes time to face our final judgment.

. Bob Story,can be contacted at

(509) 837-4500, or e-mail him

at bstory@eaglenewspapers.com

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