Wednesday, May 25, 2011

In the face of a man

"Thanks makes now a sanctuary." Ann Voskamp's words from One thousand gifts ring in the space between ears and heart now on a daily basis. I felt myself walk in on several moments such as these with customers in the last few days. Sacred, holy, don't-trample-the-daisies sorts of moments. Take your shoes off, open your eyes. These are the moments to tuck away and savor.

A moment like this.

My eyes find his, dark and smooth as the espresso that daily beckons, before he steps into line Monday morning behind the regulars awaiting their morning caffeine. The gentle man, the one who makes the weekly trek from British Columbia to Seattle for chemotherapy, the one with the peaceful eyes and the strong heart, whose skin bears the colorful marks of cancer's treatment. I send him a nod, pleasantly surprised. He’s usually here only on weekends.

He steps up to the register, orders his tall Pike Place brewed coffee. "This cup of coffee - specifically, this roast - is the only thing I taste all day."

Frozen in place, my brain waits to register this new information. A brave smile crosses his face, an accepting shrug lifting his shoulders, admitting, "It's a highlight of my day."

My mouth opens and closes like a guppy fish, my smile not so brave, in a moment recalling all the things that pass over my tastebuds on a daily basis without truly being savored.

With the luxury of no one behind him in line, we chat for a few minutes. A few minutes of story, his life before it changed drastically. Once a successful entrepreneur, in both Seattle and Canada; then, cancer invaded. One cancer, then another, pillaging life, nailing a grim prognosis to the door. And yet. Heavy with hope, born on the broad shoulders of that three-letter word: Yet. This man refuses to let cancer have the final word. He's studying now for his MBA. He knows what the statistics say, what the doctors say, and still he says, "I'm a firm believer that miracles happen."

My head bobs up and down, an emphatic yes. "Me, too, I wholeheartedly agree." And in my heart, and in my prayers, yes, yes, yes! I want to proclaim it on his behalf from an impossibly high mountain: YES!

This moment, this man, this face, these words, play on a large screen in the theater of my mind all day long, compelling prayers I can scarce clothe in words. Compelling thanks for yet another moment of life, for gifts like health and taste that may not always be; for unexpected teachers; for God in the face of a man.


  1. Glad to hear more last night...

  2. wow, im so touched that you would talk about my uncle to me, I've never had a father but i realize i don't need one with him around, he means the world to me,

    once again thank you

  3. Hi Mj, I just saw your comment, thanks for reading and leaving your thoughts here. If this man is your uncle, you are truly blessed. I've just enjoyed a few interactions with him and can see he's a special guy. Cherish the ones you've got :-) Take care!