Thomas Bingham: a legacy of love, song, and strength
By Durell Kline
My uncle practices the song he loves “Center of My Joy” in Chesterfield, Michigan a year before he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Pam Kline, my mom, mentioned the song in a poem she wrote about my uncle, who inspired her to write her first poem, a poem she used to honor him at his funeral.
Thomas Bingham, the man who fought and beat cancer eight times, motivated me to keep moving through life and fighting off every obstacle, but that's only one of the variety of reasons he's my motivational figure in my life.
I believe I was fortunate enough to know him personally and to be his nephew. It was a gift to know him, he was a role model to everyone around him, always aspiring to bring happiness to everyone around him; whether it be to teach them something new, to take them out somewhere they liked, or to talk to them one on one about somethings as little as their favorite hobby or something as big as personal ordeal they're having. He was the most supportive and loving person I know. There wasn't anything he wouldn't do for the people he held dear ,especially his family
I recall a time when I had just entered high school just about two years ago. He sat me down and gave me advice he told me to think of what I wanted to pursue and to have a general idea of what I wanted to do for the rest of my life before I graduated high school. At the time the thought hadn't even crossed my mind. This was also around the time he first got diagnosed with cancer, while I'm not sure which one he had first, I do know he had cancer in his left and right arm, rib cage, left thigh, throat, near his spine and two other places that slip my mind.
The one that affected my uncle the most was the cancer near his throat. He loved to sing and had a beautiful voice when he sang. After his surgery near his throat, he had lost his voice, stripped of his ability to do one of the things he loved most. I and a good portion of my family came to visit my uncle we were all sitting in his living room, and he was in the corner of the room when he said to us ,“ I won't be able to sing like I used too”, He looked drained and what he said really hit me, I and everyone else knew how much he loved to sing, yet he wasn't able to do it anymore, and he knew it, but he came to terms with his situation and was thankful for what he could do and what he still had.
Then to still be working and providing for his own family while suffering from the after affects of the cancer he had just beat. I was inspired to know that I was related to a man that strong willed physically and mentally, having all these inconveniences going on in his life and to still be standing at the end of the day like a shining light in the middle of the night, like an extraordinary glimmering beacon of hope.
About seven to eight months ago just before the end of my sophomore year of high school, he planned a vacation for his family to go on a cruise for a week to a couple of islands off the coast of Florida . He knew he didn't have long to live after more cancer had started to attack his body, he used to look full of energy always smiling but now he looks frail and so he decided to spend the rest of his days creating memories with his family. He even went on the cruise while in pain to do so. There were times while I was on the cruise with him that I would notice he was in pain but he would deny it to keep everyone's minds off him and to just enjoy themselves I couldn't even imagine the pain, he wanted to seem invincible so he did just that. It was breathtaking to know and be able to see the lengths that he would go to make his family happy even at his lowest point in his life.
There was one last time I got advice from him before his passing on December 15th 2019.Two weeks before he passed, He brought up the subject of whether or not I had found out what I wanted to do after high school, I told him I had given it thought but I still wasn’t sure. He then asked if I had still played football, when I told him yes ,he told me something I will keep with me while I move on in life. He told me two things: “ Whoever stands in front of you in whatever sport you blast them” “Whatever it is you do, you do it as if it’s your last, no matter how hard the task and never settle for last”. To hear that from him in that condition and how much unimaginable pain I knew he was going through made me realize how much he loved me and only wanted success from me.
Looking back on what he left behind, not just me but the rest of my family, my uncle still inspires me to always stay strong no matter the situation. He inspires me to keep those close to me whom I love and who have nurtured me because life is hard, but it only gets harder if you don’t take control of what you can.