Two beautiful stories: Death and rebirth

I’ve got nothing to add to these except to say that they are beautiful accounts beautifully told and that you will want to read them. One deals with death, one deals with birth, so let’s take them in their proper order.

First up is from Adam S. McHugh (via AZspot), who says “Thank You and Goodnight” as he wraps up his term as a hospice chaplain:

Hospice has been the best thing that ever happened to me. Hospice has been the worst thing that ever happened to me. Sometimes I feel like I have seen too much. Sometimes I feel like I have seen exactly what I needed to see. I feel like my heart grew 3 sizes. I feel like I left pieces of my heart all over Pasadena, and Monterey Park, and Pomona. I had days where I felt like taking off my shoes because I stood on holy ground. I had days where I felt like putting on layer after layer because I felt naked.

I have holy memories, and I have haunted memories, and they mingle in my mind, like a wedding attended by two families who hate each other.

… I remember the woman whose heart stopped beating the moment I said “Amen.”

I remember the brothers who got into a fist fight after their dad died.

I remember Livia, who I sat with for hours and talked about her childhood in Italy.

… I remember Katherine, who told me what it was like to grow up in London during the Blitz.

I remember the woman who told my supervisor, “Either he needs to learn some goddam respect or else get another mother*%$ing job!”

… When you spend as much time around death as I have over these last 2 years, when every day on the calendar is Ash Wednesday, you learn that ultimately life offers no happy endings. Every life ends in sadness and grief and pain and silence. And all we can do is struggle and work, believe and doubt, hope and fall, run and wrinkle. Every person has both a victor and a victim inside of her. You have more fight and strength in you than you ever imagined, but you also have more weakness and vulnerability than you ever thought. Your bodies will decay and ultimately lose the fight, but you will battle valiantly and courageously. I have seen it time and time again from people you wouldn’t think would be so strong.

This is where I tell you to go read the whole thing.

The second story is from Peter Mercurio and it’s from The New York Times. You only get a certain number of free stories each month from the Times. You’ll want to make this one of them. Mercurio tells the story of how “We Found Our Son in the Subway.”

The story of how Danny and I were married last July in a Manhattan courtroom, with our son, Kevin, beside us, began 12 years earlier, in a dark, damp subway station.

Danny called me that day, frantic. “I found a baby!” he shouted. “I called 911, but I don’t think they believed me. No one’s coming. I don’t want to leave the baby alone. Get down here and flag down a police car or something.” By nature Danny is a remarkably calm person, so when I felt his heart pounding through the phone line, I knew I had to run.

When I got to the A/C/E subway exit on Eighth Avenue, Danny was still there, waiting for help to arrive. The baby, who had been left on the ground in a corner behind the turnstiles, was light-brown skinned and quiet, probably about a day old, wrapped in an oversize black sweatshirt.

Theirs is the kind of story that makes me want to use words like “providence.” It includes a wise Family Court judge whose actions make me want to use words like “inspired.”

Family Court is not always, or usually, a happy place, but this story involves two wonderfully happy moments there in Family Court in New York City. Go read the whole thing.

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  • You only get a certain number of free stories each month from the Times.

    If you’re using Chrome, open an Incognito window. The site won’t know it’s you.

  • AnonaMiss

    Dammit Fred, if I cry at work people will know I’m not (only) working.

  • Also, you could just remove the nonsense at the end of the URL. 


    if I cry at work people will know I’m not (only) working

    I suppose that says good things about your job.

  • AnonymousSam

    Life, death, rebirth. I give you a little more:

    The first documented case of HIV being cured.

  • LL

    Aw, man, now I’m all verklempt at work after reading that adoption/wedding story. 

  • connorboone

    Actually the second case – the first was in an adult in Jone of last year.  Still, two is better than one, and hopefully there can be a cure for all those afflicted.

  • AnonymousSam

    I’m not sure if we’re thinking of the same person, but I did find a second article which references a man named Timothy Brown who was suffering from both cancer and HIV. When he underwent a bone marrow transplant, both the cancer and HIV were found to have been cured. This apparently happened in 2007, though.

    This article says that this was the only other documented case of HIV being cured.

  • connorboone

    That’s the one I’m thinking of.  He had the transplant in 2007, but it wasn’t until last year that the story circulated that he was HIV-free.

  • MaryKaye

    When we adopted a child from foster care it took years.  I understand why, because when adoption goes wrong it goes horrifically wrong and damages everyone involved, and they want to be sure.  But it’s hard to respond to gifts of grace when the bureaucratic machinery grinds so slowly.  I’m amazed that in this case things worked out.

    When I joined an older-child adoption support group, one woman showed me a clipping from her wallet–one of the “Tuesday’s Child” adoption blurbs.  “We saw her,” she told me, “and we knew she was our daughter.”  “Did you adopt her?”  “Oh no.  There was no way we could, with the length of time the home study took.  But I’ve never forgotten her.”  I remember thinking that Tuesday’s Child was a cruel hoax.  It does get people to think about adoption, but it gets them to think about adoption by dangling a possibility that generally cannot happen–that you could adopt that particular child.  You could, if you were already cleared to adopt; but if you just see it in the paper, it’s next to impossible.

    Some of the children we did not adopt will probably haunt me for the rest of my life.  We were told “No” four times and we said “No” ourselves at least twice.  I don’t think either we or DSHS were wrong, but it’s hard.

  • They’ve caught on to that. It doesn’t work anymore — I guess they moved that to a different step in the chain. When you edit the URL and load it, it adds the nonsense right back.

  • lowtechcyclist

    I read Mercurio’s story over the weekend.  A sweet story indeed.   Definitely read the whole thing.

  • After disabling both Adblock Plus and https everywhere (which I regularly use) and clicking on as many NYT articles as I could, I have discovered that you are right. However, this only means that one should find the article with a search engine to see it.

  • Elisabeth

    Really??? Thanks for that tip! I hate that limit….

  • Jessica_R

    And if you would like to read a heartbreaking, magnificent novel about life and death I heartily recommend 11/22/63 by Stephen King which I just finished. It dovetails with Left Behind nicely too, in that we’re constantly gripping about the “heroes” doing nothing to stop tragedies and save lives and the authors refusal to even engage questions of free will or what that even means when you know the future. In telling the story of a man traveling back in time to try to stop the JFK assassination King touches on all of that, and what it means to be alive and know you will lose what you love, either by a gunman’s bullet or the simple passing of the days moving you ever closer to death. It might be a bold, controversial statement to say King is a better writer than Jenkins, but I shall make it. A wonderful story. 

  • Kevin reached out to shake her hand.
    “Can I give you hug?” she asked.


  • (Separate comments because they are two very different thoughts):

    …you learn that ultimately life offers no happy endings. Every life ends in sadness and grief and pain and silence.

    I’m sorry to nitpick this, I really am.  But…really? 

    My grandmother died almost exactly two years ago, after being in hospice for one full month.  And (oh how I hate to use this phrase) it’s more complicated than that.  Yes, at the moment of death, there is grief and pain.  But for someone in pain, there is also an end to that pain. 

    The happy ending need not be the end of life.  And I don’t mean that in some afterlife sense (obviously), but in the fact that my grandmother was living a happy “ending” for many years of her life.  Even (perhaps even especially) in her final years.

    Of course at the final moments of life, there is pain for the loved ones.  But that rawness, that searing pain at loss, even expected loss–that passes.  Missing a person doesn’t go away (and I wouldn’t want it to), but I feel like it taught me preciesly the opposite lesson that McHugh learned–life isn’t a mystery novel, “solved” in the last chapter.  Life has many endings, many of them happy.

  • Aside from being beautifuly written, the first one reminds me, once again, how terrible a job Bruce did