Oxygen of Life

May 18, 2011 at 11:04 PM (Energy, Happy, Karma, Mood, Real Life, Silver Lining, style, Zen)

When “R2D2” entered Casa Carcinista earlier this year to become a semi-permanent resident, oxygen entered our thoughts in different ways.

For the kids, it was an omnipresent-shiny-tin-can with a funny, 50-foot hose that was stuck up mom’s nose. Sarah’s Star Wars analogy helped them connect with it, and then mostly ignore it. An obstacle at times, the hose became something to trip over – or NOT – as doing so could evoke the wrath of Mommy. Sarah often joked about it with them, helping poke fun at the situation. The boys thought it comical to say “Mommy’s a hoser” or “Mommy, go stick a rubber hose up your nose.” Their laughter always brightened the room.

For me, it was scary. Like a stranger invading our home. An odd, noiseless, motionless machine with a coil of clear hose I could follow, like bread crumbs, to find my wife. Of course, R2D2 wasn’t the invader – just a shiny metal reminder of the real intruder that relentlessly conspired against our now fallen hero.

Ironically, my life has been riddled with oxygen woes as I’ve had asthma since I was 8. Hospitalized twice as a child, I experienced the terror, frustration and difficult struggle of breathing shallow, constricted breaths. But now, as an accomplished athlete with breathing under control, it was incredibly hard to see my dearest friend struggle.

For our hero, The Carcinista, oxygen simply meant: Energy. Function. LIFE. I believe she thought about this often, realizing the significance of the oxygen we all breathe every day. And thus, before she died, she asked me to tell this story about her “oxygen of life.”

On Thursday, April 28, 2011, Sarah put on her beautiful new party dress, ready for a night we had anticipated for more than a month. Our friends, A + S arrived. We loaded three portable oxygen tanks (not taking any chances) and were off to the Colonial Theatre in Boston to spend the evening in the presence of Harry Connick, Jr.

Over the years, Harry’s music had provided a consistent theme in our lives. It began with the first mixed tape Sarah sent me back in 1993. Then at our wedding, we danced a choreographed foxtrot to “She belongs to me.” Toward the end of the 90’s we enjoyed seeing him in concert. Seeing him again in April was special.

Throughout the concert, while Sarah breathed from her oxygen tank, she experienced another “oxygen” as she called it. She said, “music is the oxygen of life for the musician.” Sarah was a talented singer in high school, traveling with her a cappella group – and I suspect she had experienced this feeling even then.

But, this night in April was over-the-top. Harry was on his game; he even remarked, “Y’all are lucky you’re here tonight. You see, I’m feeling really good tonight. And if there was a night I was going to ‘win’ this week, tonight’s the night.” He was playing five shows that week, ours was the third. Maybe he says this every night? Not sure. But, he (and we) definitely “won” that night.

During the show, there was a series of deeply collaborative musical conversations that carried from one instrument to the next. At one point, Harry abandoned the piano, to take in a trombone solo by Lucien Barbarin. As Lucien jammed, Harry began to tap a beat. Then stomp. Then got down on his knees, slapping and sliding his hands and wrists on the floor. The microphone captured the simple, beautiful rhythmic beats as he and Lucien carried on this intimate, delicious conversation. Music flowing, exuding this “oxygen” Sarah described. A musical story was unfolding, conjuring the struggle of the life of the New Orleans musician. Music in their soul. Music as life. Music as the oxygen of their lives. If the rest of the concert could have been the main course, this would have been the dessert to beat all desserts.

After the show, Sarah and I remained in our seats, allowing the majority of the audience to leave. The 20 or so who had “after show” passes were guided to a room. We found an armchair in the corner for Sarah to sit comfortably. A few minutes later, Harry entered the room. Sarah gasped. “Quick, take some photos!” she said.

A life-long dream. A man she had admired for his musical and acting talents, comedic abilities, humanitarianism and more, was no longer on stage, but right there in front of us only a few feet away. Ultimately, Sarah just wanted to have a conversation. To know what it was like to talk for a few minutes about something that mattered to them both.

Harry made his way around the room, talking to one or two at a time. Posing for photos. Signing programs.

Sarah was patient, but anxious.

After ten or fifteen minutes, Harry came to us, and lived up to all of Sarah’s (and my) hopes. He was a perfect gentleman, remaining focused on Sarah the entire time we talked. Sarah ask a few questions and discussed, quickly, her idea about oxygen and music and their importance in life. Harry seemed to pick up what she was saying, and liked the analogy.

She was smitten. I was happy. At this point in her life, physical gifts meant nothing, but this was a gift that meant so much. An amazing night together. And she was able to experience, and cherish what she dubbed “a real LIFE moment.”

We went to bed that night, holding hands as we always did. Both happy. Full of love. We didn’t realize it at the time, but this was our last date. I look back now and just think, wow!

The Carcinista meets Harry Connick, Jr.

If you have the opportunity to see Harry Connick, Jr. in concert, Sarah would have said, “Do it!” If you don’t, you might still take a moment and listen to a song or two. While you listen, try to take it in. Feel the music in your soul. Breathe the oxygen. Enjoy.

-Mr. Wonderful


  1. Amy said,

    Well done.

  2. Shelli G. said,

    What an amazing opportunity, and wonderful date…a treat of lifetime to meet an admired artist. Thank you for sharing this story. My thoughts and prayers are still with you and your family. You truly are Wonderful!

  3. ChemoBabe said,

    mr. wonderful, you are so wonderful for sharing this story with us. it makes us so happy to see sarah in her full fabulosity up until the end. just as it should be.

    sending love to you and your sons. this blogging community sarah built is here for you as we were for her.

  4. Jody Schoger said,

    Thank you for your generosity, love and kindness in sharing such a beautiful story. I won’t ever forget it, or the beautiful photo you have included. What a tribute of love.

    – Jody

    • Leslie Sorensen-Jolink said,

      I can see why Sarah called you “Mr. Wonderful.” I am so glad that the two of you had that evening, and your life, together.

      I fell in love with my husband while listening to him sing. He still performs, and I fall in love all over again each time I am in the audience. My son and daughter also sing, and my son is a professional dancer. Through their artistry with music, and through my own work on the piano and living with music, I have seen how music can put us in touch with, and allow us to express, our deepest emotions and our best selves and, in so doing, provide an unmatched opportunity for a true communion of souls. Calling music the oxygen of life puts it just perfectly. Once again, thank you for your gift.

  5. R said,

    Beautiful, thank you for sharing this. Sending you peace.

  6. WhiteStone said,

    One fantastic woman!
    Sweet story.
    Bless you

  7. Sara Boghdan said,

    I love that you were permitted this moment together. This is the stuff of dreams.

    I pray for those of you who still mourn. Peace to you.

  8. Carlene Mullins said,

    Beautiful photo, and a wonderful story! I am one of Sarah’s many cyber sisters – another teal warrior, fighting Ovarian Cancer. I followed her blog avidly, admiring her strength, her sense of style and humor, and the grace with which she handled everything – especially those dark days at the end.

    Grief is the price we pay for happiness. I feel in my heart that you and Sarah had so much happiness, even the grief of her passing could not eclipse it.


    (AKA “Hissy Fitz”)

  9. Norma said,

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us. What a gift!

  10. The Bat said,

    Chemo Babe, pointed this out to me.
    And I read it.
    And all I can say is, “Wow!”

    Your wife sounds like a woman gifted with profound understanding and uncommon grace.

    I am very glad you and she got to have this evening.

  11. Liz said,

    Thank you, thank you, Ed, for posting this… So many lessons to learn from the life Sarah (and you!) lived. Truly an inspiring couple. Oh, and Tim sang Harry Connick to Balin as a colicky infant – worked wonders!! I am so glad that HC & Sarah connected!

  12. Jessica Barker said,

    Mr. Wonderful you are truly an amazing man. Thank you for sharing such an intimate moment. Your wife was a true inspiration. Reading her blog helps me through my fight.
    I am thinking and praying for your family.

  13. Carolyn Scott Kortge said,

    What a rich, wonderful story! Oxygen… music… love… Sarah clearly had a grand hold on life, and so do you. Thank you.

  14. Ada said,

    Thanks for sharing, we all appreciate it.
    We send our love.

  15. Ginger Armstrong said,

    Mr. Wonderful……………..Your writing is (as was Sarah’s) another indication of how, and why you all were the “Wonderful” (Wonder) couple!

  16. davidGisme said,

    It is so nice to see and read a little about Mr. Wonderful too! I is also nice to see Sarah with that smile…I barely noticed the star wars thingy. Sarah lives on for me, her strength, courage and inspiration are still very present in my life. I hope you and the boys are managing this difficult time as best as you can. Thank you for sharing.


  17. AnnaCCChronicles said,

    Mr Wonderful this post is a true gift. We miss Sarah’s shining presence in the blogging community, but today we got a truly beautiful encore performance thanks to you. By the way you both looked fabulous on your date, and trust Sarah to know how to “work” a damn oxygen tube.

  18. Wendy said,

    Ed – Beautiful. Hard to read, but beautiful. Harry’s music has always been a favorite of mine as well. Now when I hear it I will forever think of Sarah and smile. Sending hugs to you and the boys.

  19. Janice said,

    Ed, Thank you for sharing this magical moment with Sara. She looks beautiful in the picture and it made me smile!
    My thoughts are with you and the boys.

  20. patricia said,

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful story and gift with us. My thoughts and prayers continue to go out you and your family ~ patricia

  21. Maggie said,

    Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful time in your life. We all need reminders to remember the really important lessons and times in our own lives and you gave it to us with this.

  22. Dawna Phillips said,

    Ed, Thank you for sharing this. The timing is perfect. I’m taking a “mental health day” and this was the first thing I read today. It provides a good focus for my day, my thoughts. My favorite part is, “We went to bed that night, holding hands as we always did. Both happy. Full of love.” I think I’ll crank up some Harry and get to work! Sending love and light to you, Whit and Avery and your many friends and family. Love, dawna

  23. Tori said,

    Ed, you wrote about that night so eloquently. Sarah would have loved it. This moved me more then anything I’ve read in a long time. Thank you so much for sharing it.

  24. Dan said,

    Thanks Ed. I just went and added Harry Connick Jr to my Pandora mix which is on all the time in my office. Thank you for focusing on the positive.

  25. Bob Myrick said,

    Mr. Wonderful fits perfectly because it was the way she felt about you. Be thankful for that last date. It will stay with you forever. I met Sarah on another site and am thankful for it. She gave me permission to print and give out her story “It’s September” and I did. I will give it out again this September in her honor. Thank you for this post Mr. Wonderful.

  26. Rebecca said,


  27. Danielle said,

    What a perfect date. You guys looked great. The oxygen story was wonderful- I think I would be so down on needing oxygen- BUT not Sarah she only seen the good and funny of it. Thank you for sharing- makes me realize how important holding hands and enjoying my husband is.
    God Bless you
    ps- I’m gonna get some Harry on my ipod

  28. Betty Langley said,

    A wonderful story and beautiful picture. We pray for you and your boys and thank you for posting this. Sarah and you both looked so happy. Am glad you will always have this special memory.

  29. pinkunderbelly said,

    I miss hearing Sarah’s voice via her blog, so this is a true gift. Thank you for bestowing it upon all of us fellow cancer warriors who loved her through cyberspace. She would be proud!

  30. Dee said,

    I am one of Sarah’s Teal sisters .That night was a gift for Sarah. Thank you for sharing that gift with all of us.

  31. Betsy johnson said,

    Wow. She was not the only one who had writing talent. Our gifts do come in moments and I am so happy you got this gift and that it will remain with you forever. You are one special family and your love story is one not often experienced. But you know that.

  32. Tami Boehmer said,

    I am so happy you and Sarah shared this magical night together. I have a new appreciation for Harry Connick now. I’m glad I found this post today as I’m going to a concert with my husband tonight. The gift of music is like oxygen to me, too, and I’m also blessed to have a husband who is a “Mr. Wonderful.” God bless you.

  33. Laurie said,

    Thank you for this touching post. The thoughts both of you share with us are a breath of love and hope.

  34. Sarah said,

    A beautiful entry, Mr. Wonderful and an awesome tribute to Sarah, the transforming power of music, the neccesity of oxygen (for many reasons) and the importance of reveling in LIFE.

  35. Alicia said,

    Ed, I absolutely love love love HCJ. Saw him a few years back in N. Carolina. Have loved him for a long time. Some of his early stuff is classic. such an all around entertainer. He actually threw Krispy Kreme donuts into the audience, it was hilarious. Such a stately venue we were in, the “big band” tour, older ladies and gents dressed to the nines and he’s throwing donuts at the crowd! I am so happy to hear that he is a wonderful human being as well as a wonderful entertainer. In the press he appeared to be so but it is nice to have a real testimony to the fact. How amazing for you to be able to share this magic night together, just a blessing to be held and cherised!! Thank you for sharing it with us. I almost felt like I was reading a Sarah post, it was so detailed and full of descriptions. Thank you again for sharing. Blessings and peace to you and the boys.

  36. Betty said,

    Thank you, You made my day…………….

  37. Denise said,

    How sweet, so touching. it’s like you brought us there. You all look so so so happy. I’ll never forget the analogy brought by Sarah, what a gift she remains to us all. I saw HKJ in Arvada Colorado waaay before he was famous, went with my mom. He was great then and is amazing now.

    She got a wish granted and for that I am full of joy. Thank you for sharing this precious moment in time, peace and blessings to you. What a beautiful moment.

  38. Sue Mellusi said,

    whoa…I need a minute to dry my eyes. You two gave eachother such a beautiful gift. Thanks for sharing this story, Ed. See you soon.

  39. Lisa McRae said,

    Thank you Mr Wonderful! It is with tears in my eyes that I think of Sarah and you that night, at the concert, holding hands, smiling, loving. I am so sad for you and happy for you that you had what you had together. That legacy will live on. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story with all of us. Please know that you have been not only Mr. and Mrs. Wonderful…but you have made a Wonderful Family!

  40. sandhy said,

    me too – crying here – but not sad 🙂 thank you for the lovely post. It’s an insight to see Sarah from your view point. The photo is lovely too. I’m glad Harry got the chance to meet Sarah!
    Thank you

  41. Sharon said,

    You really are Mr. Wonderful. Thank you for continuing to share and inspire us all. I’m blessed to know you.

  42. Jackie Fox said,

    I didn’t know Sarah except for seeing her comments on other people’s blogs, and came to her blog about letting go of the reins from a Twitter friend. It took my breath away. What an amazing spirit. She had enough humor and strength for 10 women. I’m so sorry she didn’t get to stay but so happy that God gave you such a joyous moment together, and such a memory to hold. I hope sharing this story helped you as much as it touched those of us who read it.

  43. Adele said,

    Thank you for this post, Mr. W. It gives me such cause to think and to reflect. And I really feel as if I can hear a bit of Sarah’s humor, grace, and wisdom in your own voice– a testament, I’m sure, to the strength and harmony of your life together, the shared breath of what was so obviously a wonderful union.

  44. Katie said,

    What a beautiful and tangible story. Thank you for sharing.


  45. Nancyspoint said,

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I absolutely loved reading it even though it made me cry. What a wonderful memory for you to cherish. You two were a special couple and that fact will never change.

  46. Gayle said,

    Thank you for this. What a wonderful memory. Thinking of you and the kids.

  47. Sonya said,

    Thank you for sharing this story.. I can only begin to imagine how badly you miss her. She meant so much to so many of us.

  48. Elaine said,

    Thank you for sharing this special evening and for allowing teal sisters a window to view the metaphor of music, oxygen, and life. I will not forget the imagery of holding hands, the last date, joy, and true happiness. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

  49. Kathleen said,

    What a wonderful surprise it was to read this post! Sarah looked beautiful in that dress. I miss Sarah and her black humor. I couldn’t get your family out of my head over Mother’s Day weekend. I am still grieving for Sarah so I can only imagine how you and the boys feel.

    Blessings and Strength to your family!

  50. ButDoctorIHatePink said,

    I read this a couple of days ago when it was first posted. I admire your strength, Mr. Wonderful, in being able to write about these things. I’m so glad you and Sarah had that experience together. I see that writing talent is shared within your family, or else she is speaking through you.

  51. Ellen Cleveland said,

    What a great remembrance. You are a terrific writer, like Sarah. I have read this several times — thanks for sharing this with us. She was so inspiring for everyone and kept that zany sense of humor.

  52. Kathleen said,

    Thank you, Mr. Wonderful, for sharing this gorgeous photo and beautiful memory of your Beloved.

  53. Jennifer said,

    I am so touched to see that Sarah looked so happy, and was her full self, with all of her dignity and all of her hair. She looks so bright and alive in these pictures and my admiration for her and for you, Mr. Wonderful, just continues to grow. Taking in the love surrounding all that was transcended by the humanity, honesty, and sensitivity that defined your relationship and continues to define your family.

  54. Boston Mamas said,

    Amazing. Just amazing Ed.

  55. 12 Bits of Web Awesomeness said,

    […] Sarah was right, music is the oxygen of life for the musician. (Also, this post made me […]

  56. Barbara said,

    I was just thinking about you and your family. I am so glad you were able to do this together!

  57. Mary Ellen said,

    Hi Ed,

    You, Whit and Avery made my heart soar as I quickly recognized you as you zoomed by, leading the pack of go carts in the Wayne Memorial Day parade this morning.

    You made your fierce girl proud.

    You and yours are in our family’s thoughts and prayers.

  58. S said,

    I never had the pleasure of meeting you but I’m in awe at how you seemed to have lived your life. This blog is such a gift to your sons and everyone who reads it. Rest in peace, Sarah.

  59. The End « The Carcinista said,

    […] I go on, if you have not read the story about Sarah meeting Harry Connick, Jr. on April 28, 2011, then you have to read that first. Otherwise, read […]

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