I felt a weird tug. An instinct. Something said call. I left a message. After peeking at my friend’s Facebook page, though, I realized I had to call back. Before going any deeper into the next few minutes that unfolded on my phone call this past Friday morning, though, I need to back up a little bit.
For folks that know me, you know that the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (the LLS) and Team in Training are big parts of who I am. These gifts came into my life because of my love for a little boy, Kethan, a little boy that should be finishing 9th grade with my daughter, Kyla. I met he and his family at the beginning of 1st grade at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School here in Austin. My life was forever changed, not just because he was fighting leukemia, but because he was a truly special human being. All who interacted with him were changed by him. His passing in the summer of 2013 left a huge hole in too, too many lives. Life is precious. Life is a gift beyond measure. His life changed mine, and because of the LLS, my life has been enriched by the many, many people I have met on my bike, at galas, and at meetings, like the one in Orlando several years ago.
We were at a reception at Seaworld in Orlando. This was the site of our Volunteer Leadership Conference for the LLS that year. As my kids know, I love talking to people. I love people because I love life, and people are a gift. I suspect this one conversation only continued because the two folks I was talking with seemed to have the same off sense of humor I do… we laughed about the fact we were eating seafood at Seaworld… I know, I know…. that’s not really funny, but it kind of is. That one moment, though, has led to a truly amazing gift of friendship with a real light from Kansas City. At the time, I did not understand the kind of loss my new friend, Jennifer, had endured in the passing of her Eddie. In a recent post she made, she said this, “Grief is the price you pay for love.” As I sit here on the 31st #powdereddonutday since Maureen’s passing, I now understand the meaning of these words at the level in which she shared them that night in Orlando. I grieve because I loved. Deeply.
On Friday morning, when I called, my friend Jennifer had a huge hole in her heart. I suspect that hole will not be filled for a while. When I had peeked at Jennifer’s Facebook page after leaving a message, I suddenly saw the horrifying news. I understood why the universe had tugged at me. I realized why this friend from the LLS, this quadruple Triple Crown Team in Training stud-ette, this passionate Royals fan needed a call. On Thursday morning in Kansas City, a special human being was taken from our world, not by cancer, but instead, Darby had been slain walking his 2 black labs, leaving a huge hole in not only my friend’s heart but the hearts of many, many others. In just a couple of hours, the rosary will be said at the Church of the Ascension in Overland Park as the visitation begins for this gem of a man. As someone put it in one of the news stories, “He was part of everybody else.” Think about that. He was part of everybody else.
That is the essence of love. That is the essence of life. That is the essence of what it means to be alive. Can we be a part of everybody else? That in essence is what the circle of life is all about. We’re all connected, and if we stay open to love, then we can feel the tugs at our heart when somebody needs us. Because for as much as we are called to our #onething, our gift, our God given talent, we are also not alone in this world. If we are lucky, we meet the love of our life, like Jennifer did with Eddie, like I did with Maureen. And, if we are lucky, we meet people like Michael Darby, a light taken from us far too soon for reasons beyond our comprehension. Cancer makes no sense, but a random act of violence makes even less sense.
However, love does make sense, and that is how the universe reached out to me on Friday. Darby’s love for his friend, Jennifer, my friend, Jennifer, said call. It is easy to know why the power of his love is so strong when you look at this picture Jennifer shared with me of he and his grandchildren. It is easy to know the power of his love when you look at the smile on his face atop his bike. I know that smile, because like Mike, I love cycling. I love Team in Training. And it is clear as you read the stories that not just his family loved Mike but his employees and all whom he came in contact loved him, too. A restaurant like Coach’s Bar and Grill doesn’t survive 34 years without the glue of love pulling together employees and patrons alike. And love is the essence of the #powdereddonut manifesto.
The most shocking part of the story, though, was the one that came next. Jennifer joked that the banks in Overland Park, KS suddenly had a run on $2 bills. As she shared with me why, I suddenly began to shudder. Mike apparently was known for tipping with $2 bills. It was his signature. His symbol of love, just like the powdered donut is our symbol of love for Maureen. What made me shudder was this. A little over a week ago, as Maureen and my son, Taylor, returned from his journey of love to Thailand with Habitat for Humanity on a global village build, he lost his wallet. Fortunately, he lost it at JFK before the last leg of his trip back to Austin. He had his passport and his boarding pass, so it wasn’t too big a deal. Except for one thing, well two. He had carried in his wallet one of his most cherished items… yup… a $2 bill.
And that is why, sometimes your #onething is 2. We are not alone. We are all connected. And the thing about the donut is this. It, too, has a hole in the middle, just like Darby’s friends have a hole in their hearts. However, if we share love, then that hole is surrounded. In the case of the donut, like this one my friend Jennifer posted to my Facebook timeline this morning, it is surrounded by powdery goodness. In the case of the Church of Ascension this evening, that hole is not just surrounded but filled with love.