Yesterday we visited a dear friend of ours. He’s a really good guy, a successful business man, maybe in his mid ‘40’s. He has a beautiful wife, several good kids, a great house and more cool toys than he knows what to do with. A month ago he asked me if I would prepare their Christmas meal for them so that was the reason for our visit. Since he lives way out in the country, they don’t get that many visitors. They used to come into the restaurant all the time and honestly I was a bit jealous at the level of financial success he had achieved but who wouldn’t want all that stuff? What’s wrong with wanting to achieve financial success? Nothing really, we should all want our families, spouses or significant others to feel secure but we won’t get there on jealousy, emulation maybe but not desire. As we chatted in his kitchen he asked me if my novel was available yet and when I said yes, he picked up his phone and bought it right there.
“That’s so cool John, I’m so excited, I know it’s going to be great, I just know it!” He exclaimed with a seriously high level of sincerity. He promised to start reading it as soon as the house quieted down at the end of the evening. I looked around to make sure we were alone.
“Uh Jim, there’s something you should know about my novel.” Jim’s wife walked into the kitchen just as I was going to tell him the novel is about a Chef struggling emotionally as he approaches the second anniversary of his wife’s death. Jim’s wife of 15 years is in the final stage of fighting cancer. She wears a Medtronic pump that she uses to administer a steady supply of narcotics, her once voluptuous body now so frail and bruised. She moves slowly, deliberately, as if stepping on a frozen sidewalk. She smiles and thanks me for coming all the way “out here.” I carefully hug her and I can feel her ribs along her back, she’s that frail. We chat a few minutes then retire to the couch and as she sits down the look on her face is excruciating, just sitting down is painful. A few minutes later she has to excuse herself. “Uh Jim, listen, about that novel.” The in-laws come in and the conversation gets re-directed. We stay and visit for thirty minutes or so and soon it’s time for us to go. I miss my opportunity to warn him about the novel but as we are getting into our car I realize that I was only trying to set my mind at ease, not his. He and his family have been living this reality for almost a year now as the disease has taken its inevitable toll. As we drive off I reach out for my wife’s hand and squeeze it and think about my central character in Doughnuts for Amy as he opens up to his boss about his deceased wife.
“I would give up everything I have, everything I will ever have, just to hold her long enough to tell her goodbye, to tell her what she meant to me, to hear her whisper in my ear one more time, to be able to look into her eyes and see them sparkle, to feel her touch. When she held me close and smiled at me, she still had the same look in her eyes as she did that sunny day in Columbia when she leapt into my arms. You could have all of it, every dime, every possession I have, if you could make that happen. God, how I miss her.”
Nick St. Germaine, Doughnuts for Amy
I know Jim well enough to know that he would immediately trade everything he has if it meant his wife pulling through this. He told us last week that she has gone on hospice. In all likelihood the next time I see this family will be at their Church or funeral home.
What is really important in our lives? I would like a new car but I would gladly put another 100,000 miles on my present one if my Amy was sitting next to me. I am not planning on keeping my car for another 100,000 miles, I really would like to buy a new car soon but it’s not at the top of my list. On this Christmas day I hope that there is someone in your life that means everything to you and I mean everything. I can look into my wife’s eyes and I know the answer is yes.