Nashville or Bust

The trip that started a longer journey

Can’t Change The World? How About A Moment…

Something happened today.

I know you all have seen signs like this one. And the people who hold them.

Today was one of those days.

As I wound off my exit on the way to work, I saw ahead of me a sign guy. He was standing on the little island that divides traffic going straight onto Liberty into OTR from traffic turning right onto Reading. It’s been several weeks since I’ve seen a sign guy standing there and I wasn’t really in the mood for a sign guy encounter. It’s been a long week.

Rolling a bit closer, I noticed he wasn’t one of the regulars who sometimes are there early in the day. He was definitely new and quite possibly, new at sign guy-ness. I wasn’t sure exactly what his deal was and I was sort of hoping I could just roll through without knowing. My mind had it’s own bucket of worries.

A little closer and a glance up. I could read the message: “Terminal Cancer. Anything is a Help. God Bless.”

The light turned red. I was stuck there with a few other cars yet far enough back that I was safe to observe without him detecting. From my vantage point of around 25 feet, I watched how this man (guessing in his late 40s to early 50s) smiled and waved at those who either looked him straight in the eye or most likely, accidently made eye contact with him. Now I know that sounds odd. Was he supposed to be smiling? Why the heck was he smiling… and waving? Was this a joke? Or, was he simply trying to brighten someone else’s day while he swallowed his pride and did something most of us would have a very hard time doing? (Think about it.)

In a few seconds I went from “please let me hide” to “hmmm..” My new reaction: help him. My next reaction: wait, can’t. Husband is on strike and funds are limited this week. Follow-up reaction: look at him — he’s smiling and waving  — man that has to take guts.

Then it happened. Our eyes met.

I knew the light was going to turn soon. I also knew I had three bucks in my wallet.

So I grabbed it, rolled down the window but couldn’t quite move my car close to him. I was about ready to tell him I’d circle back when he realized what I was about to do and walked to me.

Any other time there would be traffic behind me. But for some reason as I checked my rear-view window, I noticed the lanes were clear.

This was our conversation —

Me: “I don’t want you to get hurt if a car comes this way…”

Him: (starting to go into his thank you to stranger response as he accepted the singles) “God bless you ma’m…”

Me (cutting him off): “What type of cancer do you have?”

Him (startled that someone was going to actually speak with him): “Liver… it’s now in my liver. Started as testicular…”

Me (nodding): “Mmm. That’s rough. My husband just fought Lymphoma.”

Him (sensing a moment of understanding): “Oh no…”

I noticed the light went to yellow and I was grateful for the extra time.

Me: “So, what’s your name?”

Him (started, but sincere) “Kurt.”

Kurt was missing a few teeth. His hair was salt and pepper, pulled back with an elastic band. His face looked a bit tired yet his eyes had a certain crinkle to them. Perhaps it was the sun… or maybe a tear… but I suspect not too many people ever asked this man his name, let alone give him a minute of time.

I held out my hand through the window and said, “Hi Kurt. It’s nice to meet you. I’m Jacqui.”

Now he was really taken aback but also seemingly grateful for the simple human connection. He whispered, “Thank you, Jacqui. May I really shake your hand?”

“Of course, Kurt.” I couldn’t help but laugh a bit. I mean, this was crazy on so many levels but so right on many more.

As our hands met he whispered, “You have no idea what this means to me, Jacqui. You really don’t.”

I said, “I may not, but I have an idea.”

Cars were starting to come down the way and Kurt had to get back to his island. As he took his post he looked at me again, smiling and I said, “It’s a beautiful morning, Kurt. I really hope you have a GOOD day. Enjoy THIS DAY,”

He smiled — not a smile of joy but a smile of gratitude. For that moment, someone cared about him. He mattered. And he did have this day ahead of him to live, regardless of his circumstance.

Right before I had to go he shouted out “Hey Jacqui… what’s your husband’s name?”

“Dave. It’s Dave.”

He nodded with a somber look that I’ve come to recognize of other fighters and said. “I’m going to pray for Dave today. I hope he stays well.”

The light turned green. We were still smiling. I replied, “Thank you, Kurt. And you’re right… (gesturing to his sign) anything and everything does help. God bless you for what you just gave me.”

I know some people may think that I’m a sucker — that the whole cancer thing played me for my last three bucks. And if that were the situation, so be it. Kurt and a higher power will eventually come to terms — I can’t dwell on that. I want to have faith in people. I really do. And during a week when I’ve been left to question a lot of things, I honestly believe there was a reason for that moment. It didn’t change the world. How could it? But it certainly changed something.

I’ll be keeping Kurt in my thoughts.




September 28, 2011 Posted by | Everyday | 3 Comments

Year One: Complete

Today is September 23. One year ago today (on a sunny Thursday) I was sitting at work when I got a call from Dave. Most of you know the drill from there. (And if you are new here, this post may help.)

It’s human to use anniversaries to sling-shot back in time, reflect on what happened, celebrate, mourn — some of the above, all of the above. I did my fair share of that yesterday on what was a different Thursday — the last of this cycle called year one:

After Dave received some good news in May, I made a deliberate choice to step away from the blog for awhile. We had things to do as a family … Brandon’s graduation, our first participation in the Relay for Life, a quick trip back to Woods Creek Lake, random weekend activities and days at the pool, packing Brandon up for college and helping him step into that new phase. There were a zillion blog posts packed in there but I decided not to write. I needed to step away for a bit and interject quiet. This place where I have been free to share, celebrate, question and rant will forever have a link to (dramatically whispers) Cancer… you know, cancer? If I didn’t write, there wouldn’t be any tag-on cancer reporting therefore, no more cancer. Me and my silly logic. Move on.

In the last phase of year one I’ve had to watch Dave wrestle with what early remission is… and what it is not. Primarily, there is not a magic moment when everything is coated in moon dust and all pain and fears are erased forever. There is no big ‘undo’ button, no riding off into the sunset moment — as perhaps my last post left things. Remission is gradual — and hard. But it is living and Dave continues to amaze and inspire me everyday. Conditions are still adverse in their own right and the support system of a hyper-connected medical team has naturally drifted into a different mode. All those appointments, meetings and schedules kept us rational — we were fed constant bits of information that helped us each react accordingly. We had steps each to take and things to check off the list. This quiet time with its focus on total healing allows for a lot of emotional thinking. It’s easy to get lost and tangled in the clouds. And there is always the nagging question, do you ever really heal?

In a few weeks, we’ll be back in Nashville. It is going to be quite a trip. We said we would go back to celebrate and that is exactly what we are going to do. I anticipate that while the pace may still be slow the time away — and the music — are going to be great medicine. We’re looking forward to it and we are going to do our best to post as we can from the Americana Music Festival and Conference.

So with this post, we really do close a chapter and start something new. We have a lot to look forward to and a lot we want to enjoy and do. The static of work situations and world conditions can just fade away for a moment. We made it to this day. To be honest, 365 days ago, I couldn’t see it.

September 23, 2011 Posted by | Dave, Everyday | 2 Comments