Wait, what? The End? What do you mean?
Well, Sarah wanted me to write this. So, I’m writing it.
A year ago, as Sarah was getting ready to say good-bye to our world as we know it, she was coming to terms with what she felt was the most likely afterlife. She had decided that she didn’t really believe in God or heaven. At least not in the way they talk about it in Church. We both used to be more comfortable with something that was closer to “the force” from Star Wars. An energy that bound everything together in a beautiful way.
A friend asked Sarah where she thought she might go after death. On April 27, 2011, Sarah responded with the following:
“I believe that life flows and ebbs and forms beings (trees, fish, dandelions, dung beetles) that get their energy from a giant pool of energy that surrounds everything (don’t ask me to get specific). When a new baby (lion cub, cockroach, seedling) is born, it takes its energy from the same pool, and when it dies, its energy returns to the pool and dissipates into a million(?) (billion?) pieces. I would prefer that our souls get to keep some of their individuality so I can come back and haunt everyone, visit the kids, go places I’d like to see. There are also a great number of people and pets that I need to see when I get there; I’ll be very disappointed if I can’t have lunch with my grandpa sometime! Maybe there’s a special package you can choose when you get there… if it’s merit-based, I certainly won’t win, but I can get a little extra-credit for making people laugh? Even if the jokes were raunchy and politically incorrect?”
Since Sarah died, she has convinced me that while the energy thing might be part of it, she also got the other part of her wish – maybe a bit of heaven on Earth.
Sarah’s nurse called the day after Sarah died, not knowing that she had passed, and asked how she was doing. When I told her she had died, she said, “I had a dream last night and Sarah had taken out her oxygen tube and wasn’t using it. I told her to put it back in so she could breath. But Sarah looked at me and said, Rose, I’m okay.”
We had a birthday party for Sarah in November. 85 people came to the house to remember her and have a nice evening meeting other friends and sharing wonderful stories. The evening was a success and I was happy to get in bed that night. At about 3 AM I woke after an experience that I cannot call a dream. Sarah was there with me before I woke. She was dressed in something resembling a Halloween costume (it was only a few days after Halloween and she loved to dress up). I said to her, “Thank you for coming.” She looked at me and smiled. There was a very warm sensation between us. She never said anything, but she didn’t have to.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, our boys, Sarah’s parents, her sister, our nephew and I went to St. John, USVI and took Sarah with us, too. We had a wonderful week there. On Friday morning, we each took a turn spreading her ashes on the beach and in the water at Francis Bay. A place that was dear to Sarah – where she had wanted to be. It was a somber occasion, but one of great relief to us all as well. Sarah was now “home.”
The boys and I returned to St. John for another week this March to spend some time there, just the three of us. We wanted to be close to Sarah and feel her with us. And we did. The weather was perfect. We spent lots of time on the beach, we sailed a few times, we met new friends. It was fantastic. Then on the way home, Sarah spoke to me in a way I could not have ever even made up.
It turns out that Harry Connick, Jr. and his family were on St. John the same week we were there. I didn’t know, but I’m sure Sarah was all over it. When we were leaving to fly back State side, we found out that Harry Connick and his family were on the same flight we were taking back to Newark.
Before 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 on…
The boys and I boarded the plane knowing we had three separate seats around the plane. I had hopes of getting people to move so at least the boys could sit together, but with a full flight I was not feeling very good about it.
Sarah stepped in, and made it all come together.
Seat #1 was in row 7. A nice woman and her 6 year old daughter had an empty seat for my youngest. He was thrilled and very happy to have a playmate for the flight. Of course, my oldest said, “Dad, I want to sit with a kid, too!”
Seat #2 was in row 11. A nice woman and her son with the empty seat next to the window. #2 was happy. So was I. Stress relieved! Now back to my seat.
Seat #3 was in row 29. I arrive at my seat to find an empty row. Oh well. The boys are happy, no sense in dragging them back here. And, I’m sure someone will end up sitting here anyway. I sat and waited.
After the plane was almost full, a man ended up standing next to me. I looked up and it was Harry Connick, Jr. I played it cool, but was in complete shock. He and his younger daughter ended up sitting next to me for the flight.
Harry was really nice. We talked for maybe 15 minutes, but that was all I needed. I really just wanted to be able to thank him for what he had done (unknowingly) for Sarah. He was honored to hear the story and was very thankful. When we got off the plane, he introduced me to his wife, Jill, and his older daughter as well. To be honest, they all were wonderful and asked about Sarah. It was a very nice experience.
Good Karma? Crazy coincidence? There are chance things that happen in our lives, but I firmly believe that this was Sarah, in a higher power, intervening and saying, “Ed, thank you. I’m doing great. And so are you and the boys.” Funny, now that I think of it, maybe she was also saying “thank you” to Harry at the same time. Two for the price of one. Nice work Sarah.
So, is this “The End”?
No! The Carcinista is to be continued…
A friend posted an article today about how most Americans think God gets involved in what happens in their daily lives. One in three of the surveyed respondents agreed with the statement that “‘There is no point in planning a lot because ultimately my fate is in God’s hands.'” Once I’d recovered from my initial shock at the statistics, I read some of the comments at the bottom. Which proved to me that: a) NYT.com readers are either cynics, or liberals, or both; and b) the pollsters whose data is represented in this article were not asking questions in Manhattan.
I also started down the long path I’ve been on a few other times since 2006, about where my religious flag should be planted. Raised in the Protestant tradition but with an overarching sense of scientific skepticism, I did the whole Sunday School thing, and even confirmation and Youth Group through high school, but more to meet boys (yet another bonus of single-sex education) than for any church-y stuff, which made me more than a bit uncomfortable.
There’s probably nothing that’ll get you thinking about God quicker than a serious illness. Not so much when I was first diagnosed, but definitely when I found out about my first recurrence; I was making deals with God (or whoever) like Monty Hall on speed. Just one more month and I’ll never ask for anything else. Just one more year with my kids and I’ll never complain again. Just let me see them into middle school and I promise I’ll enjoy even the crappy weather. Just let me make fun of them at their rehearsal dinners and I promise I’ll go quietly. But I wasn’t really sure who I was petitioning.
And I can’t really tell you that I believe my bargaining worked. I get surgery from one of the best gyn/oncs in the Northeast, and I get medical and chemical treatment from one of the top cancer centers anywhere. Do I think God guided me to live in Boston? Um, no, that was a cute guy with a great smile. Do I think there’s some mystical, divine force behind my getting sick in the first place? Wow, I hope not. Lord knows (sorry) I don’t think that whole “You only get given what you can handle” thing holds any water, because there are people who get sick who can’t handle it. They’re also deceased. And I don’t think it’s fair to those of us who pull ourselves out of bed by our wigs every day and march onward, for our families, our kids, our sanity, to say it’s all in God’s hands. That’s selling us a little short.
This summer I had a long conversation with the Reverend who is the head of the church I got married in; I wanted to put a more adult spin on my views than my previous what-I-think-about-God chats, which were brief, giggly, and in the ’80s. Maybe I was looking for proof (I know, that’s not what happens – that’s why they call it “faith”), or an explanation of how this stuff can happen, or validation that it’s okay to be confused. The result of our hour-plus-long chat was…hmmm. He didn’t try to get me to make up my mind, which I appreciated. And he didn’t try to convince me that this was all part of some grand plan, which I appreciated even more. I’m certainly not any closer to understanding how some people can so blithely relinquish control of their fates and responsibility for their actions to a divine being that no one can ever prove exists.
So for now, I’ll continue to put my faith in the vanguard of western medicine, top-notch whole food, vigorous exercise, a healthy dose of laughter, and a good under-eye concealer. But if I make it to my kids’ rehearsal dinners, I hope I don’t have to go apologize to someone. Not a big fan of crow-burgers.