Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The bitter with the sweet

After last weeks car troubles and naughty dog, we were thinking that we were pretty cool to be taking it all so well. But we were rank amateurs in the art of seeing the cup half full.

When I arrived home last week, I learned that dear friend, Mitch, had been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, or ALS. Our problems dissolved into thin air and our great attitude seemed phony.

His wife, Irene, who has experienced her own health challenges, surviving cancer for many years, tells me that Mitch is at peace, knows where he is going, and only fears the disability and the process of getting there. He is making the best of a bad situation by planning to fulfill items on his bucket list. His two daughters are engaged, and one will marry Oct. 1. Mitch should be able to walk her down the aisle. The other daughter, Mallory, is moving her wedding date forward so that Mitch can participate. Son Michael survived three tours in Iraq and is living close. Son Philip just graduated from high school.

The small travails of our day-to-day living pale in comparison to life's cruel ironies of fate that take down some and leave others standing--like my 101-year-old mom, who has often questioned why she is still here and why so many younger than she have died before her.

I met them at church about 13 years ago. We adopted each other, just as they adopted Philip, now 18, right before they moved to Arizona seven years ago.

When Mitch and Irene lived nearby they used to come for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Mitch and mom would talk baseball and football. A few times Jared and I went on vacation with them. I was a single mom and would spend time hanging out with them, especially when Jared was gone to his dad's. A couple of times Irene tried to fix me up. Both times it was a disaster.

Irene already had three children when she and Mitch married. It was sometimes a struggle, but Mitch was a committed stepfather to all three kids. Sometimes when he and Irene couldn't agree, he would calling me seeking a "second opinion." We were family.

On Mother's Day when mom was 94, Mitch, Irene, Philip, Jared and a girlfriend, and mom and I, went to a Mariners' game. Irene alerted Fox News that a 94-year-old woman was at the game and they interviewed mom. Tenants at her retirement home where she had lived for 11 years were watching the game, learning for the first time how old mom was.

When I graduated from college in 2004, Irene came from Arizona to my graduation. When Ben and I married in 2005, Irene came to our wedding. When mom turned 100, Mitch came from Arizona to surprise her with flowers.

These are good people and good friends. When I told mom about Mitch, I was crying. She closed her eyes for a moment. Then she looked me in the eye and said, "Now this is not cold. But you need to pray for Mitch...that's all you can do...and then put it out of your mind." 

I knew that what she was saying was from a pure place--a wise place.

But I won't put Mitch out of my mind.  I will pray and then, in Mitch's honor and as a reminder, Ben and I will set about fulfilling our own bucket list.

Love you Mitch and Irene.

No comments: