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We are the Lucky Ones

July 13, 2010

I must have woken up on the wrong side of the bed today. That’s what they say, isn’t it? I was happy to pick up two pizzas ordered for lunch instead of staying and working at an estate sale for which I had volunteered. My wife was helping her good friend raise as much money she could before she was to be evicted by the end of the month from her home before it was foreclosed. Her friend was also deeply sad that her son was feeling depressed and in pain and her father was extremely ill and fragile at her brother’s home.

            I was happy to pick up the pizzas but when I left the parking lot, I backed up and finally stopped the car after I heard the warning signal of the car and the loud scraping of metal against metal. I had hardly scraped the back of our car but put a huge dent in the other car, a Toyota’s driver side door. I felt like a schmuck and went in to find out I damaged the car of a young pizza maker from Tomatos A’Pizza. We shared phone numbers and insurance info and then I got a call from the young man’s brother who actually owned the car.

            Shaking and upset with myself and all the aggravation I caused, I planned to go back to the foreclosure sale but before I left, I looked at my Blackberry Tour, only to find a message from Diana, just two days after the birthday of her son, Noah, who would have turned 6 if he were still alive. She mentioned that she had a quiet birthday, did a little work, visited the cemetery, and was “fine” until she had a “meltdown later in the evening” when she was looking for a sketch of Noah that had been given to her that she hadn’t found. She decided to go to the storage unit which was “still full of items to be donated. In between Christmas and New Years, we organized everything, opened the rest of the cards, took down all of the Christmas decorations, donated most of what we had, donated Noah’s toys and clothes to various organizations, cleaned out my room, cleaned out Noah’s room, and organized the items that were sent to Noah. I haven’t been to the storage unit since then.

“When I opened the door, I had this strange feeling come over me. I almost felt like I was trespassing on something sacred – something special. Then I started to look through the boxes that are still there. The full enormity of what Noah had done and what Noah meant to so many people hit me like a rock in the face. Every ornament, every sticker, every stuffed animal, every Christmas card, every angel, every toy, every book, every crayon or marker, everything meant something. Everything meant something to someone. Noah symbolized something to every person who took time out of their life to pray, send cards, money, toys or whatever. If that’s not the most powerful thing to feel at once, then I don’t know what is.

Noah just wanted to play and be normal, Diana wrote, but he was “bigger than life—he was an angel on earth.” She had received a note from one of her staff members who wondered if Brandon Inge felt Noah’s presence on the baseball field and believed that he had. The staff worker “said that she knew how lucky she was to be a part of Noah’s life for the short time that she did.” But Diana felt that  “I am the luckiest person here – I brought him into this life, I nurtured him, I fought through his illness with and for him, I helped him smile, I helped take his pain away, I got to love him like no one else did, and finally, I got to help him leave this life. How lucky were all of us to hear – and you know what? – hundreds of times a day? How lucky were we to watch him eat strawberries with sugar, sweet pickles, black olives, or mayonnaise sandwiches? How lucky were those of us that he wanted to go into my room and spend some time with them alone? Patty, my mom, Mary Beth, Colleen, Teresa, Sharon, Natalie, Chris, Bradley – just to name a few. It’s taken me some time to understand that he led the way – he was the leader of all of us. He was only five when he died, but he was much wiser. His innocence kept us going. His innocence over wanting to play with his Transformers and toys made it easier for us. Even though I know that he didn’t fully realize the power of his innocence, he made it easier. He just wanted to be close to me and play. He made all of us realize something much larger than ourselves. He changed us all. He made us better people for just having those five years with us. We are the lucky ones – he chose us….That, I believe, is the true power of Noah.”

On a day filled with the thoughts of a foreclosure, a son’s pain and depression, a father’s illness, and a car accident, I got a lesson about true luck and gratitude from a young woman who had just lived through her son’s sixth birthday without him. Yet, a woman still in mourning realized how lucky she and her family and friends were just to know her little boy for the five years he was here, alive. Is that not the most profound lesson we can learn?

We are so lucky to have the ones we love, every day they are alive, and even in memory on the days beyond their deaths. Whatever car accidents or financial calamities strike us should not stop us from celebrating the little mitzvahs that are ours, every day, whether we recognize them or not.  

We are the lucky ones.

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