In yesterday’s post, I publicly acknowledged my most recent struggle with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Tomorrow I go for another chemo infusion. I am in awe of the other patients in the huge room who are getting their infusions at the same time I am. So many have more serious debilitating cancers than me and, yet, they are so courageous.
In a special way we all have a common goal, to eradicate our cancer. We’re a band of people on a mission, grateful for our caregivers and those who love us.
Laying back in the large lounge chair, with the medicine drip, I sleep for two or three hours. I take a good book, which helps distract me and pass the time. Still, being in the same chair and unable to move around, I find myself remembering.
I remember childhood stories and wonderful memories of my time with my late husband Larry. My mind takes a tour of major events and smaller incidences that have stuck in my head because of what I learned. With hours to go, I remember.
Impacted by the holiday season, my mind recently wandered deep into my memory bank, bringing one particular Saturday evening to the forefront.
My daughter, Laura, and I both attended the same church in Chicago. The church participated in a program, with other churches, that provided meals to homeless people in downtown Chicago on Saturday nights.
On the day I remember so strongly, Laura went early, to work with the team responsible for making a huge kettle of soup. I joined the meal preparation team later that afternoon to make sandwiches and bag each meal.
We set up our station on the sidewalk in the heart of the city. The night was cold and rainy and, as I recall, we offered our special customers plastic rain capes.
I was stationed at the head of the serving line. As each customer approached the line, I welcomed them and went through the sandwich menu and fresh fruit choices. Next, they moved on to the soup kettle where Laura was serving.
After serving several meals, I greeted a man in the same way I had welcomed all of those who had preceded him.
“Good evening sir,” I said, “We have bologna, chicken and peanut butter sandwiches. We also have a variety of fruit for you to choose from. What would you prefer?”
The gentleman simply stood there gawking at me. I thought perhaps he hadn’t heard me.
“Sir,” I said again, “We have bologna, chicken and peanut butter sandwiches. What will you have?”
After a long drawn out silence, the gentleman said, “Ma’am, I haven’t been called sir in so long that I can’t remember when the last time was.” Tears welled up in his eyes.
I was so stunned by his emotional response that I stepped out from behind the serving table and put out my hand to shake his.
“My name is Tyra. What’s yours?” I asked.
“I’m Matt,” he said. Our hands clasped each other’s.
“It’s so nice to meet you Matt. There’s mustard or mayonnaise and hot coffee at the end of the line. Enjoy. And Matt…it’s so good to talk to you.”
Matt and the others who were served that night may have felt that they received gifts from us, but I left knowing that Matt and his friends were the givers. The gift was mine; I will never forget Matt.