Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Little Girl

You were five, I was twenty-nine.

While your mother and I laughed and talked of our business plans and then laughed some more, you quietly moved closer until you were snuggled into my side on the couch. Your mother took notice and told me you’d never done that, that you were always shy around strangers. Your mother loved signs and she took this as a good one.

I grew to love you and your brother. I loved our Chuck E. Cheese outings. I loved our Amy Grant shout-singing sessions as we drove in my red SUV, which you’d named Rosy. I loved that crazy Thanksgiving when neither your mother nor I had much money so we pooled whatever freezer-burned items we had and invited anyone else without plans to join us with whatever freezer-burned items they had. Nearly twenty people crammed into my one-bedroom apartment and you spent the night rubbing my dog’s belly as you snuggled into your mother’s side on the floor.

When your mother asked me to care for you and your brother if something ever happened, I agreed without pause. A year later, cancer happened. You and your brother, seven and nine at the time, watched as she hemorrhaged on the floor of the public library before she lost consciousness. That must have been terrifying for you.

It took a decade for the cancer to claim your mother, so strong was her desire to be there for you kids. You and she had a fight the night before she died and when she asked you to stay with her, you refused. You never forgave yourself for that, no matter how many times I told you she already had.

When you asked me to perform your wedding ceremony two and a half years ago, it was I who wanted to refuse. I didn’t think you and your betrothed were ready for the commitment of marriage, despite the baby growing within your womb. But stronger than my misgivings was my desire to remain a part of your life, to stay connected to you for those times you’d need to figuratively snuggle into my side. 

Having your own daughter changed you. Leaving your marriage changed you. You rose to the challenge of being a single mother and it seemed that all the previous false starts of your life were drifting farther and farther into your history. You held a steady job in a stable company. You got promoted. You bought a better car, one more suitable for transporting a toddler to and from daycare during the workweek. And when I came to visit you a few months ago I told you how proud I was of you, how happy I was for you and for the joy you had found in motherhood.

But I missed the signs.

I didn’t see how much you were showing your brave mommy face to the world while battling your demons in private. And now I want only to rewind the last 48 hours, to board a plane, to come to your apartment and sit on the couch with you. I want to tell you that you are loved—LOVED!—and that whenever life overwhelms, you must trust that things will get better, that they always do. 

Right now, I want nothing more than to pull you close and snuggle you into my side.

Farewell, Little Girl

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My goddaughter, Christine, had no life insurance or savings to secure her beautiful and funny little girl's future. If you would like to help, please join us in supporting Reilly and ensuring that this sweet two-year-old has the funds she needs to launch a college education or career when she turns 18. It takes a village, and every bit helps. Many thanks in advance for supporting the Christine Young Memorial Fund. Feel free to private message me with questions regarding the fund:

Friday, September 6, 2013

Goody Two Shoes

A few weeks ago, I hosted my co-author on a new book project at my home in Boulder, so we could begin outlining the story of how he gave one his kidneys to a woman from Ethiopia, whom he’d never met. Just because.

Harold is tall and affable and has a bushy grey mustache that dominates his face. He’s the kind of guy you meet once and feel as though you’ve been pals forever. He met his wife on a blind date and recently celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. He has a daughter, whose artistic creativity he regularly showcases on his Facebook page. He works with his best friend from high school who was the other half of the class-clown duo, their late ‘70s “Joke of the Day” morning program a huge hit until banned by the principal for overstepping the line.

Harold chaired his neighborhood’s annual blood drive in Virginia for years until he and his family relocated to Los Angeles, where he launched a new neighborhood blood drive program. And in between the blood drives he coordinates, he commutes to his local Red Cross to donate blood every eight weeks. Like clockwork. Just because. 

To put it succinctly, he’s a true mensch.

Since first encountering the force for good known as Harold, I’ve had the privilege of also meeting the recipient of his gifted kidney, a diminutive and soft-spoken woman who immigrated to the U.S. in 1987 and then spent more than a decade on the kidney transplant list. That the paths of these two conspicuously dissimilar people crossed in a manner so profound makes their saga a true love story, not in the romantic sense, but in the unconditional sense the Greeks called “agape”—a selfless love that neither demands nor expects anything in return.

While Harold and I were writing together at a coffee shop during his recent visit, a woman whose misfortune was apparent approached the outdoor area where he and I sat with our laptops. Her weather-worn skin and long stringy hair piled haphazardly atop her head suggested a life hard-lived. Wearing thread-bare jeans and a ratty faded print top, she looked directly at Harold, as if deliberately selecting him from the array of people that filled every table on the patio. 

“Excuse me, sir,” she said, her gaze never wavering. “Could you give me some money so I could get a meal?”

Many of the coffee shop’s patrons—myself included—had turned to face the woman during this encounter, but quickly returned to their laptops and books and lattes once they heard her request. Not Harold. Without fanfare, my giant altruistic buddy stood and walked to her side, discreetly pulled a ten from his wallet and engaged in a brief and muted conversation before returning to our table. Before I could say it, Harold cut me off. “I’m not a goody two shoes. I’m not.”

“Uh-huh,” I said, smiling playfully because I’d just witnessed yet another example of this man’s kind and gentle approach to having an impact in the world. “That woman,” Harold said, “that’s my mom. That’s my wife. That’s my daughter.” And I got it. I totally got it.

I believe this essence of agape dwells within us all. It’s there. It’s real. And in giving expression to it—as a pint of donated blood, or a ten dollar bill for food, or any number of other ways—we multiply its impact exponentially. 

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Download a PDF of the first 4 chapters of Lauren's memoir, Zuzu's Petals: A True Story of Second Chances, free.  Click here and go to the link below the "Buy the Book" button.  Zuzu's Petals is also available on Kindle and Nook.  Hardcover signed and inscribed copies are available at Happy reading!