Tuesday, December 2, 2008

OF CABBAGES AND KINGS

"The time has come," the walrus said, "to talk of many things: Of shoes and ships - and sealing wax - of cabbages and kings

   from Lewis Carroll,  Alice in Wonderland

I do not ordinarily write about  the ordinary, day to day life stuff.  Lots of different reasons, everyone has them and certainly everyone lives life.  Good things come and good things go - so do bad things.  In fact, we all frequently write about, think about, and talk about why bad things happen to good people.  It is my fondest hope that this does not come out that way.  What I want to write about is the quiet strength that so many people have that we so frequently overlook.  It is that strength that comes from God and yet looks so incredibly ordinary that we oftentimes miss not only the results but the source.  The next few minutes will be about just such a person.

I have a very close friend (not many of these mind you) who we have known since our days in Washington, DC -- nearly 30 years.  Our family and his family grew up together.  He had a boy and a girl and we had a girl and a boy. We each have three pictures of our families together from Calico Ghost Town and similar places at different stages of our family's lives. You all know what these look like, the early settler days, the Civil War days and the gunslinger days. We were decked out in a wide array of duds! We raced our children in their small strollers up and down the paths of the swamps of Virginia and the paths of the Shenandoah Parks and we ate chili and hot chocolate on a warm October weekend the weekend after a terrible snowfall that had us all convinced the new ice age was upon us. Jerry and I would "pig out" on all you could eat steamed spice shrimp at the Chesapeake Seafood House while the families sat in the cars (after they had eaten) listening to Waylon, Willie and the Boys. They now have three grandchildren and we have two grandchildren. Jerry spent almost 15 years in the army and the balance of his career in the intelligence community.  He runs, bikes, plays softball, builds cars and is generally in outstanding health.  Certainly never has smoked a day in his life.  At age 53 he was running a sub 8 minute 2 miles. He Rides motocross and really could keep up with just about anyone half his age (at least that is what he tells me).

About two years ago he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Turns out that hietal hernia he struggled with all his life came back to bite him one last time. Jerry under went radiation and chemo-therapy and then had his esophagus removed and the docs recreated a new one from a portion of his stomach. (The docs nicked his lung on the way out which caused him some discomfort but for the most part Jerry just moved on). He struggled with that for several months. Then just when you think it can't get any darker the lights went out! Up jumped the devil hisself -- lung cancer. Just when you think you have it all figured out God jumps up and says, "where were you when I created the heavens and the earth and the stars and the oceans?".

Yet, what continues to amaze me is resilience. Jerry said he would only go "next door" kicking and screaming and that he has built or rebuilt pretty close to 20 cars and he has another 6 or 8 he has yet to finish. His pride and joy, his '41 coupe is still in it's infancy. He works on this one slowly, patiently, creatively. It is not nearly half done and he still works on others to pass the time. He will not go until he is finished and he is not nearly finished. We visited last week-end. He took me through his shop once again and showed me everything he has yet to accomplish and that which he will accomplish. Jerry talks with Matt, my son, about building a car for Matt's wife and the plans begin anew.

Resiliency, a gift from God. Resiliency, a gift from Jerry. Prayer, a gift to Jerry. Answer to a prayer, a gift from God.

5 comments:

Scott Hankins said...

I've collected two for hospice last week, plus one at age 97 who lives across the street.

Press on. It's all good.

Scott Hankins said...

I buried a 53 year old this evening. Another kind of cancer, nasty (the kind I'll probably get if I get it). And yeah, I still smoke.

Resiliency. What a beautiful, "round" word. In its "noun" form (resilience), it would make a good word in poesy.

JCF said...

Fred: I was just going to ask "Lynn, is this the same Jerry that Fred posted about at Three-Legged Stool?" . . . and then I saw that the post WAS by you, too.

Continuing prayers for Jerry---as I hope you're praying, also, for my friend w/ lung cancer, Cath.

Fred Schwartz said...

JCF
You 'betcha! As I pray for everyone involved in finding a cure for this robber of friends and families.

Lynn said...

I'll add my prayer of thanks for all the medical professionals who work so hard to find the cures...the best ones are so giving, and they serve us at great emotional cost

A friend of mine has just started taking a shift playing piano in the atrium of his local cancer clinical center. The first time was mid-day on Thanksgiving, when there were few patients. What amazed him was seeing all the doctors and nurses slipping out to come listen on the various upper tiers, smiling (no music was planned for Thanksgiving). It didn't even occur to him that they were coming out to see who could make a piano come to life in such a special way.