Meeting with the Russian Defector

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Representing the Russian Defector 2017 © Stephen Bruno

Many years ago while in my late 20’s, I held a Special Projects Specialist position at a community services non-profit agency in Phoenix, Arizona. The Director was a former Jesuit Priest. One day he came to my office, sat down and said that he had something he wanted to share with me. The Director said, given my background, that there was an interesting man he knew that I would like to meet and that it was non-work related.

I was given the time off from work to meet with the person. Curious, as always, I agreed. The only stipulation by the person, he added, was that the meeting must take place that day at Church’s Chicken in Phoenix, Arizona.

I wondered who this was and why he insisted on meeting at Church’s Chicken fast food restaurant which I had never visited. When we met,  the man introduced himself to me as Aleksei (not his real name), and it was clear by his name and thick accent that he was Russian. After a hardy handshake with both hands, Aleksei immediately said that he was defecting to the United States as he watched to see my reaction.

It was clear that this was going to be an interesting meeting.

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Death: A Curious Habit

Years ago when I was the Publisher/Editor of the Arizona Literary Review, a 64-page monthly literary art and photography magazine, we had an exclusive telephone interview with the actor, James Stewart. I was appreciative of the time we shared with such a generous and interesting person. He died a few years after the interview. I became curious about how he lived his life those last few years. Did he know how much time he had left? I know he was very active in saving elephants, and we ran a full back page advertisement without charge to promote his cause.

Since then, I have developed a curious habit of looking up the biographies of actors while watching old black and white movies. It is interesting to watch their performance while reading about their personal life. I read about their childhood, acting background, relationships, how and when they died. I find it fascinating to know how much longer they lived after they made the movie. What captures my attention is contemplating what they did not yet know. How many more years they had to live. Did their lifestyle, such as drinking or smoking contribute to their death? What would they have done differently? There are times that my heart goes out to the actors who did not know what their future holds for them.

I wonder what it would be like if each of us knew this quality of information during our own life. What would our decisions be and how would they be different? How many of us would want to know this information in advance?

I visited a website called The Death Clock and took their death test. The site provides a friendly reminder that life is slipping away… second by second, reminding  you just how short life is. My results? According to the rather unscientific website I have until Saturday, June 4, 2022. Now that just does not seem nearly enough time! It might be wise to live as though I only had those few years left (or less) and live passionately with a foundation of compassion for all living things.



The New England Journal of Medicine published a fascinating article on July 26, 2007, A Day in the Life of Oscar the Cat, by David M. Dosa, M.D., M.P.H. Dr. Dosa is a geriatrician at Rhode Island Hospital and an assistant professor of medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University — both in Providence.

Oscar the Cat, was adopted by staff members of Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island as a kitten and bailed him out of a nearby animal shelter. He has had an uncanny ability to predict when residents are about to die. Thus far, he has anticipated the deaths of more than 25 residents.

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