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The "Wu Word" Blog

December 2014


It seems that everyone around me is falling apart. 

More than a month ago, my father shared about losing feeling in the pinky of his left hand.  Ever the enthusiast and optimist, he light-heartedly and humorously called this ‘the misbehaving pinky,’ and that we would find a way to make it behave again.  No more than three weeks ago, he started to have problems with his right knee.  Last week, I went with him to his neurologist appointment.  As my father was poked and prodded with needles and odd devices to test his nerves and reflexes, I was brought back to about four years ago when I received a completely frightening phone call at work that my father was in the hospital for a stent placement procedure because he was too close to having a heart attack.  In that tiny and cluttered examination room in the present, my father was ever the pleasant and jovial patient with chanting, “The torturing is almost done!”   The verdict: Dad has to get surgery before he loses complete feelings and sensations in his left hand all together.   My father’s verbal conclusion: “Something is bound to go wrong as you get older.  It is all a part of life and old age.”     

In the past week, my friends have shared with me that pressures of the majority who are married and have children have poked, prodded, and, finally, penetrated painfully into them—leaving them numb and naked about how to forge forward when all seems hopeless.  I am the listener, the observer, and the doer to truly do whatever I can to help in whatever capacity I can.  However, I find that in situations of the unexplainable emotions, it is best to listen and be the sounding board than to really do anything—especially to give out unwanted and unnecessary advice.   

I often contemplate my life and the lives of so many others who are in pain and suffering.  I watch and ingest with wonder to how people deal with and endure pain and suffering.  And, then, I think about how I have dealt with my own inner demons from outer and unexpected  and painful situations.   Many have said to me that I have experienced more than the average 32-year-old has experienced.  Many say to me that I am a ‘deep thinker’ who sounds more like a 50-year-old rather than in my 30’s.  I’ve felt a lot of physical and emotional pain throughout my life for myself and for others, and can only conclude that pain and suffering are a part of life to learn to LIVE and carry on and find all the gains when all seems lost.  My contemplation has finally zeroed in on one thing and one thing alone: Believe. 

Growing up, my belief system was most unique.  There are the earliest memories of the Church choir that my mother sang in, playing ‘Jesus Loves Me’ by memory on the piano, clasping my hands and praying on my knees, and scurrying on the playground with Mark who was my best Church friend.  All of this came to an abrupt end when my mother left when I was 8-years-old.  My father’s scientific self came into the forefront when he said to me, “You don’t have to go to Church to prove that you are good.  You just have to do good things.”  Meanwhile, my mother said, “If you do not go to Church or have Church friends, you are going to go to hell.”  Enter my Stepmother about five years later who was a devout Buddhist and the definition of “calm” in the storms of life.  I remember going to a Buddhist temple and eating leafy greens with shaven-headed monks.  My Stepmother was more about silent meditation cross-legged or lotus-positioned rather than prayers aloud on knees. 

Needless to say, my belief system and life experiences were a marriage that created a roller coaster ride that somehow and some way always ended in the best of ways.  In spite of everything, I came to this conclusion that there has to be some kind of higher power and being that somehow orchestrated the unexplainable, unreasonable, and undeniable—and made everything just fall into place in the best of ways. 

Many spend time asking “Why Me?” as a form of control and a desperate need to try to explain and understand.  I was definitely guilty of this while I was growing up, and now I realize that so much defies explanation and understanding.  Now, I wonder if the real question is this: “Why not me?” and to spend time finding the beauty in the ugly, hope in the hopeless, good in the bad, and treasured moments with the people we love the most and the surroundings and simple things that we often take for granted on a daily basis.    For the people in my life who are currently 'falling a part' and need some extra TLC (tender loving care), I have the faith that everything will be okay-- and it will be, because having that little bit of faith will go the longest of ways. 

As the 2014 year comes to a closer and Christmas is about to dawn on us, I am rejuvenated, replenished, and rejoice in believing.   When I look back on my life lived so far, I see how everything has always fallen into place with faith, surrendering, and believing.  There is only so much and nearly no control that we have with what happens in our lives.  There is so much that cannot be explained.  There are miracles and magic all around us that are seen and unseen.  And, there is so much that we cannot see with our eyes, but felt deep within our heart and soul.  This feeling is faith and believing when there is that inclination to believe in nothing and no one—not even you. 

Enjoy this Christmas and each and every single day with each and every single person that brings the unexpected and your capacity and capabilities to ‘believe’ in everything working out in how it is meant to through no forces of your own but through higher being forces! 

Keep the Faith,

Mary ;-)

Without Words

It was just your typical hustle and bustle pre-holiday shopping day at your all-Americanana shopping mall.  Santa Claus’ face was extra beet red with his repetitive and booming “Ho! Ho!  Ho!” to lure wide-eyed and innocent children with visions of sugar plums, reindeer, and beautifully innocent beliefs and miracles.  Lots of people.  Lots of bling-bling decorations to blind eyes.  Lots of loud music to deafen ears.  Lots of EVERYTHING to tantalize and get people to open purses and wallets to pay money for the glorious gifts to give this time of year. 

After a long and arduous shopping extravaganza that had aches in our feet and backs that were sore, my sister and I had collapsed on one of the seats attached to a table in the food court area.  My sister was sipping on an iced coffee.  I was just about half-asleep in a shopping coma with my face cupped in my hands and ready to nod off right then and there. 

I rubbed my eyes to try to wake myself up. That is when I noticed this man walking up and down the aisles of the food court as people laughed, munched, and rested from a long and exhausted day of holiday shopping.  

He was an average and simple-looking man. Medium build.  Had to be about mid-30’s.  A patch of shocking black hair just to keep his head warm.   He wore blue jeans and a black turtleneck.  A black messenger bag hugged his body.    The man’s stride was purposeful, certain, and determined.  He was stopping at each table and then reached in his messenger bag to give out an item that I could not make sense of. 

Before I could figure out what this item was, he was suddenly in front of my sister and me.  His eyes were like dark chocolates that were filled with mischievousness and mystery with a morsel of fear.  His eyes shifted to her and then to me.  My sister and I stared back at this man like little, curious children who awaited with anticipation with what he was about to say. But, he did not say anything.  Not one single word.  Instead, he slowly reached into his messenger bag and placed on the table a small card and a tiny keychain with a smiley face shoe hooked on it.  As he quickly walked away to the next table, my sister and I leaned in to read the card.  We looked at each other in doubt and disbelief.

The card read that this man was deaf, and that he was giving out these tiny keychain shoes for the amount of $2.00.  If we did not pay the $2.00 then he would take the little tiny keychain shoe back.  The card did not indicate if he needed the money for himself suffering from hard times, or if maybe the money was for some organization or for his family or friends. 

“Do you really think he’s deaf?” my sister whispered.

I searched for the man again and caught a glimpse of the back of his head.  On the backs of his ears were hearing aids. 

I nodded to my sister.  “I think he is deaf.  He had hearing aids, or maybe those are cochlear implants.  I don’t know.  But, I think we should give him the money.” 

My surroundings went silent when I saw the scene unfold before me. The man who had just quickly placed a card and a keychain shoe on each table was slowed down because people at the tables where the tiny shoe was dropped were trying to converse and connect with him.  A smile emerged on his face.  Light flickered in his eyes.  His mouth never opened once to speak.  But, yet, he was speaking without words.

He came to our table again, and picked up the card that he had left for us.   His eyes then met ours with glimmers of friendliness and hope.   I gave the $2.00 for my smiley-faced shoe keychain.  My sister gave $2.00, but pointed to his bag.  He opened it, and inside was an endless array of keychain shoes to distribute and contribute to the world to listen to him. 

My sister pointed to the sparkly red shoe keychain.  He happily obliged by handing it to her.  Before we could say anymore, he was abruptly gone. 

“I don’t think I could ever do what he is doing,” my sister said.

“Do what?”

“Go up to strangers and ask for money with these little shoes.”

I looked at her quizzically, and thought to myself, He didn't even verbally ask for money.

I tucked the keychain carefully in my own bag.  I thought about what my sister said.  Would I have done what he did?  I tried to picture and imagine myself walking bravely and boldly to each and every single table as he did, but the picture could not fully form in my mind.  But, who is to say that I would not have done what he did?  Our situations, circumstances, and the need to survive and thrive are what drive us to acts committed and consequences resulted.  Just because we cannot see us doing something in our mind ideally does not mean that we would not actually do it in reality. 

Maybe these tiny little shoes were symbolic of stopping to think how our surroundings and situations drive us and how we never really know how someone is feeling or what someone is going through until we are literally living what they are living by walking in their shoes. 

I had no idea what it was like to be deaf.  I took for granted the sounds, the songs, the words, the voices, and that the great gifts hearing and listening give to us is the ability to communicate and connect with people.  Yet, the irony about this man is what many see as a loss of his hearing was actually his ultimate gain in how he found the way to connect and communicate his message clearly from the written words on the card and from his bag of keychain shoes; We find the way to compensate and gain with what appears to be a great loss.

This man had piqued to curiosity of strangers to try to understand him and even communicate and connect with him.  How many people in that mall and on that one day alone will have a shoe keychain that had shared his story?  How many of these people will maybe even start a conversation once others see the keychain? How many people are there who only appear average, but have went above average in what they have had to endure?  He had made people stop for just a minute about the greatness of communication lying in the ability to connect with others through gestures and facial expressions.   Words are not always needed and the greatest and most profound conversations and words that speak volumes and that provide the strongest connections are through simple and silent acts.  The power of doing surpasses only saying. 

My exchange with this man was wordless and speechless, and less than five minutes.  He had made his impact.  He had told his tale. 

All without words, he had said all he needed to say. 

Keep smilin’,

Mary ;-)

Last Words

You know how there are some people who you meet for the first time, but you feel like you have known forever or in some previous life?  To me, Kyle was one of those people. 

Kyle’s presence could take up an entire room.  At least that is how I felt the very first time the light caught on his red hair.  I was a bundle of nerves, excitement, and just about every emotion every imaginable at my very first 2010 Transplant Games in Madison, Wisconsin.  I was so wrapped up in all the feelings of the games that I didn’t even register as an athlete.  I was a registered spectator that was trying to absorb everything and everyone.  I remember feeling like a stranger in a strange land in that massive and chaotic room of signing-in and then just seeing a red head of hair. 

The guy with the red hair turned around, smiled easily and brightly at me, and said, “Pretty crazy, huh?”            

Three words had formed a friendship.  Kyle and I immediately clicked and connected over the fact that we were two of the few very young transplant recipients.  When he told me that he received his heart transplant when he was 8-months-old, I breathlessly said, “Wow.  You beat me and my two kidney transplants at 5-years-old and 12-years-old.”            

He just laughed that easygoing chuckle of his.  He went on to tell me that he was doing his usually athletic competitions in swimming.

Swimming!  I thought excitedly.  Ahhh….another thing we had in common!  

When I confessed to Kyle that I was a water lover, but not swimming this time around, he said to me, “Oh, you really have to swim at the 2012 Transplant Games!  You will never forget the first time you compete!  You will always remember why we are here and why this is all worth it!  It is so much fun!”

So, when 2012 came and the Transplant Games of America were announced in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I finally signed up for two swimming competitions with Kyle’s words in the back of my mind along with the many other extraordinary transplant recipients who had become my family and friends rolled into one.

I was an absolute nervous wreck on the pool deck for the swimming competitions at the 2012 Transplant Games of America.  I could not stop pacing around to ease the knots and butterflies in my stomach.  I could not stop talking about how nervous I was.  I had to keep reminding myself that this was all for fun and all us transplant recipients giving our all at these athletic events were tributes to our organ donors and their loved ones who saved our lives. 

I saw Kyle on our common territory that we loved—the pool deck. 

Two years had gone by and he still looked the same.  Easygoing and happy demeanor, smile planted on his face, and ready to jump into the pool just for grins and giggles rather than just for the competition. 

When he saw me, his eyes lit up and he said, “Ahh…you are going to swim!” 

My mouth felt like cotton and I felt so sick to my stomach that I could not even say anything.

Kyle said to me, “Just have fun!”

So, I had fun.  I jumped in the water, swam the fastest I could, and let the roar of cheers boost me up to a dimension that I had never experienced in my entire life. 

The magnitude of people and their roaring cheers gave me a natural rush and high that propelled me that  I would swim again at the 2014 Transplant Games of America.  And, I just kept thinking, I’m here and doing all this because of my organ donors and their families who said “Yes” to organ donation and transplantation and saved my life in the process. 

When I got out of the pool, I bumped into Kyle again.  He gave me a high five, and said, “You did it!  You did awesome!”

Our friendship was solidified at the 2012 games with a photo that captured the two of us beaming from our natural highs on chlorine and life. 

When I look at the photo now, I think about how you know you found a good friend and person when the years pass by end up meaning nothing compared to that insurmountable comfort and connection when seeing and spending time with that person again. 

The 2014 Transplant Games of America were held in Houston, Texas.  Again, I saw Kyle on the pool deck.  We hugged each other warmly to make up for another two years that had passed, but truly, it was like there were no time gaps at all once we slipped into the frigid swimming pool to practice laps to escape the scorching Texas heat.   

Although the ice cold water woke me up, I still was feeling internally exhausted from the long and rushed flight. 

Kyle joked, “You need some RedBull!”

“Me?  RedBull?  You’d have to peel me off the ceiling if you give me that stuff!” 

I had a feeling that Kyle and I both had an image of me doing warped speed and wired swim laps after drinking RedBull, because we both busted out laughing.

Throughout my time in Texas, I continued to see Kyle.  He was always with someone or, rather, a group of people.  He was always smiling.  He was always laughing.  He was the picture of health and happiness from his beating and beautiful pre-owned heart transplant. 

On the night before I had to leave Texas, I bumped into Kyle with his family and friends in the hotel lobby that had turned into a major hangout and hub for my transplant family and I to chatter, laugh, eat, drink, and be merry. 

That night, we were all grins and giggles with traces of sadness because our times at the games were coming to an end and it would be another two years until we saw each other again.

Rather unexpectedly, Kyle said to me, “Oh!  I saw you walk with the ‘Transplant Quarter Century Club’ at the opening ceremony!”

“Yeah!  It was amazing!  Everyone is so cool and amazing!  They counted both of my transplants, which is equivalent to 25 years.  I’m the youngest one in the group,” I somewhat boasted.

“Well, it won’t be for long that you are the youngest one because I’ll be joining the group at the next games.  I’m just about to make the 25 anniversary of my heart transplant.  By 2016, it will be 27 years with this heart.” 

“Wow, isn’t that just so amazing?” I breathed. 

“So, I’ll be with you in in 2016, and we are going to be the youngest transplant recipients!  It is going to be loads of fun!” Kyle exclaimed.

“Yeah!  We’ll show them how it’s done!”  I cheered.

Kyle and I high-fived each other, and we said almost simultaneously, “I’ll see you in 2016 on the pool deck!” 

These were his last words to me.  This was our last conversation.  This was my last time seeing and being in Kyle’s larger than life presence.  Kyle won’t be meeting me on the pool deck in 2016.  We won’t be swimming laps together, or give our usual vibrant high-fives.  Kyle died before he could join me with the Transplant Quarter Century Club and walk with me at the opening ceremony at the 2016 games.

And, I can’t stop thinking about him and our times together.  And, I miss him so much that my insides actually hurt.  And, I keep thinking back to his words to me that always revolved around ‘having fun.’

I’ve probably only seen Kyle less than ten times in my life and only three years if you count 2010, 2012, and 2014, but his last words of “Have Fun” every single time we met will always stay with me.  Kyle reminds me that it is not the quantity of time knowing, but the quality of time spent with that person.  I have gained more from Kyle in our short spurts of time that I have gained with many who I have known so much longer.

Kyle, this is the legacy you leave with me, your loved ones, and the transplant community and beyond: “Have Fun!”

This one life will not last forever.  Life is born and then dies through no concrete choices, plans, or controls.  All that truly matters between birth and death is to live.  And, I mean REALLY LIVE--To have fun, laugh, and enjoy without any inhibitions, without any cares from what others may think, and without any second guesses to try to hold you back.   

Kyle, we always had so much fun together.  You always brought out the ‘fun’ in every life you touched and person you met and in everything you did.  I will have fun.  I will enjoy life.  I will truly LIVE.  I will tell everyone in the ‘Transplant Quarter Century Club’ about you.  We will walk taller for you. At the 2016 Transplant Games, I’ll taste the tang of chlorine and think of you and maybe even drink ‘Redbull’ just for you…..just make sure that when I see you again that you will peel me off that ceiling if I dare to drink ‘Redbell,’ give me some more of your famous high-fives, and swim extra laps with me. 

Most of all, while you are resting in peace, make sure to ‘have fun’ in heaven!

Lots of Love & Hugs,  

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