“Money can’t buy life.” The alleged last words Reggae legend, Bob Marley, said to his son Ziggy. But as I listened to an interview on the radio the other morning, I wondered if perhaps his Rastafarian religion may have played a role in his death as well. Ziggy Marley was out promoting an upcoming documentary about his famous father. During the interview it was said more than once that Marley didn’t have to die. Now some might beg to differ and tell you everybody’s days are numbered. If you subscribe to that line of thought, fine, but the words nagged at me all day: “Money can’t buy life” and Bob Marley didn’t have to die.
Marley, an avid soccer player, sought medical attention for a toe injury that wasn’t healing and in fact seemed to be getting worse. There was a malignant growth (melanoma) on the toe. A doctor suggested it be amputated. Marley, a staunch Rastafarian, wouldn’t allow himself to be cut on. To stay alive he maintained his vegan lifestyle, exercised, and allegedly smoked plenty of marijuana, in the belief it would cure him of the cancer. When that didn’t work he sought alternative medicine in Germany. He was cared for in his final days by Josef Issels, a holistic physician. This too was a failed attempt to live.
An ailing Marley left Germany and attempted to head back to his beloved Jamaica but got sicker in transit and ultimately died in a Miami hospital. The cancer had metastasized and the world lost perhaps its greatest Reggae performer. Marley passed away May 11, 1981, after having first been diagnosed in ’77. At the time I was preparing to do an internship at a prestigious newspaper in Charlotte, NC. The news deeply saddened me. Out of all the Reggae singers, I loved Marley most. Anyway, I digress.
“Money can’t buy life.” If indeed those were the last words he spoke to Ziggy, it would appear he didn’t hold himself accountable for not having the toe amputated when there was a chance it could’ve saved his life. Maybe he should have said, “money is too little too late to save your life if you’ve allowed religion, lifestyle, and alternative medicine to get in the way.”
Some say his ‘Redemption Song’, could be his attempt to offer insight into his thinking. I love these lines from the song:
“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery
None but ourselves can free our minds
Have no fear for atomic energy
‘Cause none of them can stop the time”
Anyway, we all know great minds, geniuses, gifted folks, are human just like the rest of us. Steve Jobs, Farrah Fawcett, and Steve McQueen, all turned to alternative medicine, with unfortunate consequences. Again, money can’t buy life when it’s too little to late.
Not to berate those who turn to alternative medicine, Patrick Swayze reportedly went the traditional route. When chemo was offered, he went ahead with it. Usually the survival rate is five months. He battled the disease for 20. It should also be noted that Swayze had already reached stage 4 of pancreatic cancer which had already spread to his lungs. During an interview, Swayze said he wasn’t going to chase staying alive by turning to alternative medicine. “If anybody had that cure out there like so many people swear to me they do, you’d be two things: you’d be very rich, and you’d be very famous. Otherwise, shut up,” he said during an interview with Barbara Walters back then.
So, did Marley, Fawcett, McQueen, and Jobs contribute to their own death in not taking the traditional route of surgery and chemo? Did they die because they shunned the norm and chose to do things their way, due to religious belief or what have you? Do you think having money made them pursue options they might not have ordinarily? Swayze chose the traditional route but his cancer, one of the deadliest, had already metastasized to his lungs by the time he was diagnosed. He lived longer than most but also died in the end.
Maybe Marley was right. He, McQueen, Fawcett, Swayze, and Jobs had money and access to the best medical care the world had to offer. They still succumbed to the disease. Perhaps it’s true when your number is called and your time is up, no amount of money can save you. Of course IMHO, when it’s too little too late, “Money can’t buy life.”