June 14, 2010

Faith and a Fork

So much going on around here... I don't know where to start. I have become a bit of a Facebook Soundbiter, sadly.  Don't get me wrong; I love FB. I'm not quite as addicted to it as I was in the beginning, but I do check in to see what everyone's up to today, what new pictures have been posted (particularly now that all the grads are celebrating) and to chit chat about daily nonsense with far-away friends, which kind of makes me feel closer to them.

Still...there's other stuff happening that I really don't feel like posting to the universe. Like the fact that my sister in law, Dorth (John's oldest sister), was diagnosed with leukemia - out of the blue - last week, and is already undergoing aggressive chemo.  There is not a high rate of success with this treatment, but it is her only option. 

Being all the way across the country is particularly hard for John; his other sister and brother are there to take care of Mom and make hospital visits, but he's anxious to get home and be a part of things. Of course, this is all very sudden, so it's kind of a whirlwind trying to get flights arranged and work done, in the midst of school coming to an end and getting our boys ready to fly out for their vacation on Saturday.  

I am not very close to Dorth; in fact I have spent very little time with her over the past fifteen years since I first met her. Still, I think she's pretty awesome. She's incredibly smart, for one.  She went to college across the street from where I went  in Boston (albeit many years earlier) so we had a connection right off the bat. She's an educator too - a principal - so we could engage in conversation with each other easily and comfortably.  She has always struck me as vibrant and complex a little eccentric. It doesn't seem right that someone like this should be so sick, but that's a trite thing to say. It's not right that anyone should be this sick.  I am sad for John, mostly, and for his mother. No one should ever have to see her child suffer.

I've done an awful lot of praying this week. I am not a religious person, but John told me yesterday that one of the things that he sensed was keeping her spirits up is her deep faith.  Their family is Irish Catholic; his parents were devout churchgoers all their lives, and I remember when my father in law died, how deep and true his faith was until the end.  In fact, one of my favorite moments in his last days, was when the Priest came by the house to visit with Pop one afternoon.  I wasn't there, but the story goes that Pop asked him,

"So Father, why am I still here?"

The Priest wasn't sure how to respond.  "What do you mean, Hugh?"  Dying is awkward, even for men of cloth, I guess.

Pop was agitated, obviously irritated. "Well, you told me that when I was ready to go, I should let Him know, and that would be it.  I told him I was ready, but I'm still here!"

I love it because he was ticked off and it cracked us all up,  but also because he believed with his whole being that God was listening to him. There wasn't any doubt in his mind that he had a relationship with God and that he had somewhere important to go when he left this world.

I guess Dorth made John feel like that yesterday. She told him she didn't like the fact that God had chosen her to deal with this, but that she knew he had a plan, and that was all that mattered.  She didn't wonder if He knew what He was doing, or if maybe He'd made a mistake. She wasn't angry with Him or wallowing in self pity. Sure, this hasn't been her best week ever. But when I heard the things she was telling John about it, I couldn't help but feel grateful that her faith is that strong. I have personally seen faith alone help people overcome insurmountable obstacles, so I know how powerful it is, and I thank God himself for giving her that.

I should probably give that some thought. Faith, I mean. I'm not a non-believer, by any stretch. I'm just not a Practicing Anything. What if that's what gets you through things like this, or gets you past them? What if not being afraid of what's next is what makes you peaceful when you're standing at that door? 

John found a little story I received from a friend a couple of weeks ago, and he reprinted it for his whole family because it spoke to him this week.  Maybe you've read it, but I thought I'd share it anyway.

~ ~ ~ ~  ~

There was a young woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. So as she was getting her things 'in order,' she contacted her Pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes.  She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in.

Everything was in order and the Pastor was preparing to leave when the young woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.

'There's one more thing,' she said excitedly.

'What's that?' came the Pastor's reply.

'This is very important,' the young woman continued. 'I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.' 

The Pastor stood looking at the young woman, not knowing quite what to say. 

'That surprises you, doesn't it?' the young woman asked. 

'Well, to be honest, I'm puzzled by the request,' said the Pastor. 

The young woman explained. 'My grandmother once told me this story, and from that time on I have always tried to pass along its message to those I love and those who are in need of encouragement. In all my years of attending socials and dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, 'Keep your fork.' It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming...like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance! 

So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder 'What's with he fork?' Then I want you to tell them: 'Keep your fork ...the best is yet to come.'

At the funeral, people were walking by the young woman's casket and they saw the cloak she was wearing and the fork placed in her right hand.. Over and over, the Pastor heard the question, 'What's with the fork?' And over and over he smiled. 

During his message, the Pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the young woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and about what it symbolized to her. He told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either. 

The next time you reach down for your fork let it remind you, ever so gently, that the best is yet to come.


  1. That was a beautiful post. My prayers are with you. I lost a sister to liver cancer years ago. It is never easy. Faith is important.
    (That from one who is not a practicing anything either.)

  2. I'm so sorry to hear about Doth. I'm praying for her as well as you and John. She sounds like an amazing person.

    The story is great! I love it! In fact, I may steal it for my own funeral some day! Or put it in a book. :)

    Faith is important to me, and I believe you'll find yours at the right time. You don't need church or religion to practice faith. You just need you and God.