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Thursday, June 10

Just breathe

At Kenan last weekend a woman bought one of my little magnets. It says "breathe". She said she was buying it for a friend who was recovering from a lung transplant. Wow, I said, hope she does well. So far, the woman said with a smile. And off she went.The exchange made me think of an art carnie friend, Mary.

We first met Mary 10 or 12 years ago I think, doing a little dog of a show that few people came to and the ones that did couldn't get to us because of the layout. It was horrific at first, then it became funny. We were new at this business and it took me hours to go find the man in charge and make him take away the barriers. Today it would take me 5 minutes and if he didn't do it I'd have all the other vendors in a wedge formation.

During the hours of inactivity, as is my nature, I went and schmoozed with the other marooned artists. That's where I met Mary. She was selling, if I remember right, incense holders that were bottles with beads and wire embellishments. They were funky and fun and even without actually selling any, she was having fun. For the life of me I can't remember if she was visibly ill then. We just connected.

Over the years we graduated to better events and at almost all of them I would see Mary, who had given up her art show life shortly after the debacle. But she liked to attend them all. At first she was walking around with an oxygen thing. Then we would see her and she would be in a wheelchair. Next year she'd be walking around. Some times she looked really good, others made me think I might not see her again. I never asked what was wrong, we never discussed it. We were fellow art carnies and we enjoyed each other. Nothing else mattered.

Then, a couple of years ago, there was a human interest story on the local news about Mary needing a heart/lung transplant and my heart sank. This was serious, then. I thought of how she always acted as if whatever was wrong with her was a minor inconvenience. After that, when we met, we could acknowledge the presence of the oxygen tank and wheelchair and speak of how she was doing. The curtain had been pulled back. She remained upbeat and positive, shrugging off concern.

She didn't come to the Kenan show, but I don't think she usually does, so I wasn't concerned.

Then, tonight I got an email from a friend of Mary's. It said, in part:

I'll bet you didn't know that Mary finally received her double lung and liver transplant on May 23rd, and is still in Hospital in Pittsburgh doing pretty well, considering. You came to mind today as Mary received a card from her friend who purchased it from you at the Keenan Center show. A beautiful magnet saying "breathe".

I don't know how these things happen. But how wonderful that they do. So, it was liver, not heart. I thought as my eyes filled with tears. And she is doing well.

And she has my magnet. "I hope she does well" I had said to the lady.

I so hope she does. My brave fellow art carnie. I expect to see her at the Christmas shows. No chair, no oxygen. Just Mary.

Can't wait.


BreathinSteven said...

What a beautiful post... My eyes filled with tears too, at the thought of your beautiful little "breathe" magnet ending up in the hands of someone who is special to you... And in the hands of someone for whom something as simple as "breathe" means so very much...

Thank you for telling us about your friend Mary, and her new lungs and liver -- and her new life -- and looking forward to seeing her without a wheelchair or oxygen, and seeing "just Mary"... It's amazing, and sometimes beyond understanding, what the gift of organ donation can do for someone. There is some family out there who suffered an incredible loss -- and in their time of grief, chose to step back for just a moment and think of others -- to think of the Mary's in the world who are dying, who they -- in the midst of their grief -- may be able to help...

And now your friend Mary is alive and thankful, and clutching a little magnet that says "breathe"... I can't wait until you get to see "just Mary" too... And I'll bet that she can't wait to see you and speak of the amazement of these little connections...

I know how Mary feels, and I know what it's like to have friends like you in our lives... Ten years ago, I was in a chair and on oxygen -- I had a double lung transplant in April 2000 (no liver...) After living almost 40 years with crappy cystic fibrosis lungs -- breathing normally is freaking mind-blowing, even after 10 years... My life was saved by a beautiful 17-year-old girl who told her family twice in the month before she passed, how strongly she felt about organ donation. I think of her throughout the day, every day...

You take care... Thanks for brightening my day with your post about Mary... And when you see her, give her a hug from a guy in Chicago who also breathes with lungs that were a gift...

Love, Steve

Terry said...

very cool- no where near six degrees of seperation..