Today’s positive thoughts.
Heroism is all around us. But do you see it? When you see it do you acknowledge it or take the time to recognize it? My little boy’s curiosity allows me to try to do that. Sometimes people brush me off or are tight lipped. Then there are the times when I meet people who are nice and want to talk. They want their story to be told. These are the wonderful people who are heroes and who live heroic lives.
This past August while running on the boardwalk, one hot steamy August morning, I noticed a young couple sitting on one of the memorial benches that line the boardwalk. We exchanged smiles that first morning. The next time I saw them they took an interested look at me when I veered off to the side to touch Johnny’s bench. A few days later when I was finishing my run at 27th street they were sitting there watching the sunrise laughing and talking and smiling at each other. When I finish running I always sit and drink a couple of bottles of water and watch the sun continue its majestic ascent into the sky and feel the warmth of it caress my face. This particular morning I walked over to where they were sitting and we struck up a conversation.
Their names are Linda and Jeff and they live in Pennsylvania.. They are on an extended vacation, staying at his parent’s condo in Ocean City. As we were talking about various things we both liked about Ocean City I noticed an amazing sparkle in Linda’s eyes. They are a handsome couple. All through the conversation that morning they were holding hands. I gave them a name of a restaurant where they could get good burgers and great wings (Kirby’s Pub on 94th St) and we said our goodbyes.
We would see each other a couple of times over the next two weeks. One afternoon in September I was riding my bike down the boardwalk as I always love to do and I came across Linda and Jeff again sitting down by the Ripley’s “Believe it or not” sign and they were giggling like little school kids and sharing an ice cream cone. They waved when they saw me and motioned to come over. As I got closer I saw that Linda was sitting in a wheel chair. I didn’t say anything. We were talking and I said you guys have been here for a while you must be loving it down here. They laughed and said “oh hell yeah”.
We talked for a little while that afternoon and then Linda took Jeff’s hand in hers and said quite calmly “I am dying”. Obviously taken aback for a minute I said “Really?” She went on to explain that she has a degenerative heart disease that is incurable and that in July the doctors informed them that there wasn’t anything that could be done. She said she wanted to die close to the Ocean and that is why they are here on an “extended vacation”. I laughed and said that’s the way “I want to go out”. They were surprised that I didn’t get all quiet when they told me the reason they were here. We talked a while that afternoon. I told them my Cancer story and they told me a little of theirs.
They met in college. He was walking to class one day and they collided in a hallway. It was love at first sight. As luck would have it they met after their classes and sat and talked for an hour and they both missed their next class. They were inseparable from that point on. They graduated together. They got married shortly after graduation. They wanted to wait a while before having children and wanted to enjoy each other. They were on their way to a lifetime of happiness until one day she passed out at work from fatigue.
After a battery of tests the doctors told them the news. They were devastated but they decided to live until they couldn’t live anymore. That was five years ago. The medication worked for a while but the deteriation of her heart continued and “well here we are” she laughed.
I saw them again a few days later. I was running along the boards on a beautiful bright sunny day with a vivid blue sky dotted with big marshmallow like clouds. She was getting physically weaker but her spirit soared through the bright puffy clouds of that afternoon. They were sharing an ice cream cone again. This time she was in the wheelchair but wrapped up in a pretty pink blanket and she was glowing as the sun reflected off her angelic face. They were laughing and she got ice cream on the tip of her nose and he lovingly wiped it off with a napkin. We chatted for a while and I ask them what the experience was like. She replied “I feel like I am slowly drifting off to sleep and Jeff is singing me a lullaby”. I felt tears welling up in my eyes and she said “Don’t do that”. The warm sun was shining directly on her face and as I left them to their moment she looked at me and smiled.
As I ran back up the boardwalk I thought how cruel life can be sometimes and how some people can put an element of beauty in an element of cruelty. I left my friends to enjoy their moments on the beach and the boardwalk and I felt the tears roll down my cheeks as I ran back to my Jeep.
I saw them one more time about two weeks ago. She looked happy even though her face was a little pale but her smile was still sparkling. Her breathing was getting a little heavy and she struggled to talk. I told her that I liked to write stories about everyday heroes and if it would be okay if I wrote theirs. She said it would be okay but to write it “after I am gone”. I said okay. She said for me to make sure that Jeff is the hero of her story and not her. I asked if they could both be heroes and she said “no I have the easy part he has the hard part and that makes him the hero”. Then she laughed and said that if I made her the hero “I will come back and haunt you”.
This morning I received an email from Jeff. Linda passed away in the early morning hours wrapped up in that same pink blanket she sat with on the boardwalk and in the safety of her husband’s arms. The beauty of the ocean served as the perfect backdrop for someone to say her goodbye to the world. There is another angel in heaven now my friends and she has a sparkling smile and a pretty pink blanket wrapped around her shoulders. And the world has another hero here in Earth. RIP Linda.
Linda and Jeff this link is for you…….