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Random Acts Of Kindness

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Dear friends,

I actually wrote what follows for my daily news piece on walkingwithjane.org. But when i finished it seemed highly appropriate for this forum as well.

I sat down at the computer last night with the best of intentions. But what had started out earlier in the day as a two hour drive from Western Mass. through country I had not seen in decades at some point turned into a four hour nightmare involving a blown tire, a rim that had fused to the brake drum, an annoying offshore conversation with my auto club--that appears to have sent all its customer service--including emergency road side assistance --to people on the far side of the world whose acquaintance with the American Highway System consists of what they can see on Google Maps--visits from two very helpful state troopers and an official breakdown specialist, two helpful passersby, and, finally, 45 minutes earlier than promised, the guy with the tow truck.

I think we forget sometimes the number of truly good and nice people in the world today amid all the corporate and political craziness that leads us to other conclusions.

By this point you are wondering what all this has to do with neuroendocrine cancer and carcinoid syndrome. As I sit here on an overly warm and muggy New England morning musing about the events of yesterday I am also reminded of the incredible kindnesses Jane and I encountered during her last months: from the nurse who came in to sit with Jane right after her doctor told her he thought she probably had cancer, to the people at the inn who arranged a special room for us overlooking the lake for our last night of our last vacation, to the doctors and nurses every step of the way who quickly moved from caregivers with imposing titles and resumes to people we could talk to to, eventually, friends we could count on to tell us the truth about what was going on.

I think about the people at work who nightly took the calls I made to the principal--or anyone else--and sent the information out over the network we had established for snow days so that everyone would know how things stood. I think about the friends who gave up their Thanksgiving so Jane's father and sister could be with her in her hospital room for one last family Thanksgiving. I remember the families of the other longterm patients in the ICU and the tight bonds we formed to support each other in our times of deep trouble. I remember the friends who came to visit, making the long drive through the traffic to and in Boston from our little corner of the world.

I remember Helen driving me from Newton to Brigham & Women's and inviting me to sit and talk in her living room, just to get me away from that hospital for a few more minutes. I remeber the nurses who made sure I got something to eat every day, that I got into the shower every day--and that i tried to sleep some every night.

And I remember the friends who came to be with me on that last day when my whole world was shattering into Humpty Dumpty style pieces. I remember Jen Chan coming through the door just before noon that day on her lunch break to sit with us, not as a doctor but as a dear friend--and saying on her way out to see her afternoon patients that her body would be with them, but that her mind would be with us all afternoon. I remember Javid Moslehi making that same pilgrimage later in the day--again, as friend not as doctor. I remember the chaplain I had met in the elevator dropping by to visit, even though it was not his floor. I remember John and Gail sitting there with us through the hours. I remember Scott staying with me far into the night to be with me at the end and to help make the calls that had to be made--and then driving me home and back again the next day so I could get my car out of another friend's driveway.

And I remember the words Scott relayed to me from the young woman in the Shapiro Family Center who had talked with me every night after dinner after he told her the news that Jane had passed away: "Thank you. I am going to go cry now."

There were constant kindnesses from both our oldest and dearest friends--and from people we hardly knew.

And those kindnesses have continued since Jane's death--from the hundreds who attended Jane's wake and funeral, some literally flying across the country to be there, to the hundreds who have made donations of time and money and effort to the work of helping try to find an answer to this cancer, to the people who write me and call me and make sure I get out and go for a hike or out to a concert or a roller derby or a play or in some way take a break.

There are times I feel like Prometheus, chained to his rock with an eagle gnawing on his liver. There are times I feel like Atlas with the weight of the world on his shoulders. There are times I feel like Job sitting in the ashes of his burned out farm.

And then a random act of kindness happens--sometimes not even directed at me--and I forget the pain, I forget the weight, and I understand Job's answer.

To all of you, both known and unknown, my thanks.

Just now three geese flew overhead so close I could hear their feathers keening above the sound of their honking. The number three has always held deep meaning for me--though not in the traditional Christian sense.

But I will take that as a positive omen--that together we will all make this a better world through our individual random acts of kindness.

Go do something nice for someone today. You can never be certain how that will help them lift the burden they may be carrying.



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Harry, that is an awesome list of great and kind people. I do agree that we tend to forget the good folks when we are in such pain.

I have a host of them in my life also. I counted 22 people who helped us move when Bill could not help me. Yes, it took 22 to replace him :). I lost track of the numbers who brought food to our house month after month so I am having an open house on the 2nd anniversary of his death to thank all those folks....and try to not miss anyone, a real challenge. Then there were the great Hospice folks who assisted me, a nurse friend who stayed with me overnight during that final week, the kind ambulance drivers who so gently carried Bill in when I brought him home from the hospital to die 5 days later. There are the folks who still (18 months tomorrow) reach out to me in so many ways...even people I never really knew. My dog groomer and friend said to me the week after Bill died, "I don't bake, I do dogs" and she took Bentley to her shop and gave him the grooming of a lifetime. He was ready for show....if I showed him. Very handsome. There are all the folks on this site who reach out including our great leader, Marty. There are those who donated money in Bill's name to our local food pantry and to the Alzheimer's Association. The people who helped me distribute Voice, my publication, and who are STILL doing that 18 months later....and the friend who helped me learn inDesign software (which I needed to learn when I was forced to upgrade...long story) and my mind was not working as it did...before Bill's illness and death. I could go on and on with a list like this and I thank you for reminding me of all those folks.



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Harry, and Mary,

I too have had, kindness from people, who just happened to come along at the right time. Back in 1975, I was riding my motor cycle from Colorado. Through Arizona, California, up into Washington state. Back down through Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, and back home. I was in the middle of nowhere in Arizona, when I lost al compression on my bike. I took a drink from my canteen, and a pick up truck pulled over. They lived about 60 miles south of the interstate, but there was a dealer that could fix my bike. So off we went, when we got to the town. It is where the London Bridge is now. They fed me and I slept at their house, and when morning came again they fed me again, the took my bike to the dealer. They would not take a dime. It took 2 days to fix the bike. I left around 1:00 PM on the third day. I went about 20 miles, and the motor seized up. Here we go again, I took a drink and another man in a pick up truck, was heading towards town, so he took me back to the dealer. I walked back to the motel. The next day around noon, they had opened the motor up and no damage was done, put it back together, and told me I would have to ride at night, like after 11:00 PM. I rode to the interstate, an headed for California. I was getting low on gas, and a sign said gas this exit. Yeah, sure only 20 miles south. I went anyway. I got to town and no one was open. I saw lights at the state highway department. I went over there and the man filled my bike and gave me a 2 gallon gas can with the gas in it. Again he would not take anything. He said tonight your ride is on California. I road until about 4: am, I pulled into a rest area and unrolled my sleeping bag, and went to sleep. At 6:00 AM, here came on the sprinklers, I was soaked by the time I woke up. The rest of my trip went very well.

Another time, while I was working, as production manager, I ordered all the supplies for production. We would get sales people in all the time. This one man Tom owned and sold hot stamping foil. I would always talk to him but never tried his foils. Finally one day he asked please just give the a try, I said ok. I tried them and called him back, and told him they were ok, but not as good as we use now. He sent other samples, that was better than what we used. So he became our biggest supplier of foil. Around $200,000.00 a year in foil we used. This was about 5 years before I quite my job to care for Pauline full time. The very best decision I made. About 3 months after I left, Tom stopped in to see me. He knew Pauline had MS, and would always ask me how she was doing. Well the first part of June in 09. I got a letter from Tom with a check for $1,000. I called him up and said "Tom there is no way I can pay you back, our income is so limited, he told me it is not a loan but a gift. That he has made far more money with our account, and he knew Pauline would be struggling to pay the bills". Which we were. Over the course of the next year. That man sent by GOD, sent 2 more checks for $ 1,000 each and one for $500. He was a true gift from God, and I told him so.

Well, that is 2 of my experiences with very giving people when they see the need, I guess that is part of paying it forward. I try to do every day.

God Bless


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Sometimes it is those random acts, no matter how small, that make life bearable.

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