BY: Erin Fuentes
No life is so hard that you can't make it easier by the way you take it.
"Good morning." I answered my business line at work.
"Good morning!" came the male voice on the other end. "What do you want to eat this morning?"
The caring voice on the other end was a pleasant surprise. We shared a common interest and problem that neither of us could share with anyone else we knew. There was peace and safety in the early morning question.
Thinking of foods I loved but could no longer enjoy, I responded, "I wish I could have pancakes with lots of butter and syrup."
Feeling tearful over the loss of the sweet pleasure of eating, my mind settled into my new pattern of sadness. The eighty-two-year-old man on the other end of the line interrupted my pity party. "Go get your carrot juice and we'll have breakfast together on the phone."
Running to the refrigerator, I grabbed the all too familiar light blue plastic cup, now permanently stained orange. "Okay, Bill, I've got it."
"Alright," he said from another state, two hours away. "Let's enjoy those pancakes."
Drinking my carrots and celery, I pictured him drinking his juice on the other end of the phone. It was the brightest moment in my dismal mealtime ritual and I was so grateful he'd called to encourage me.
The conversation only lasted a couple of minutes, ending with his signature, "I've gotta go take care of business." His thoughtfulness made me feel like I had my own angel helping me.
A prostate cancer survivor, Bill was remarkable. In his eighties, he still worked from 6:30 in the morning until after 5:00 PM on his lumberyard six days a week, while managing to single-handedly keep up with the other businesses he owned.
The first time I met him I knew he was special. Within moments of meeting me, he asked not about how I could help him and his business, but about my goals and purpose in life. Discovering that I, too, was on an all-juice diet due to medical reasons spurred him to give me juicing recipes and advice.
After being told his cancer was incurable and he would die soon, Bill researched alternative medicines and began juicing every meal every day. The only meal he did not juice was Thanksgiving dinner. I could not fathom going years without a piece of food touching my lips. Yet his resolve encouraged me and drove me.
After his initial early morning phone call, which took me by surprise, I began to relish hearing his morning greeting. Soon I was asking him what he would like to have for breakfast. His response was usually "Coffee, bacon, ham and gravy."
We were two unlikely candidates to become friends -- he reminded me of Colonel Sanders and I was a frail twenty-year-old. But the universal prospect of sickness, death, and recovery spanned the generations and miles.
Within weeks I was no longer dreading the various forms of juice that needed to be consumed, thanks to Bill taking time from his busy schedule to encourage a young girl in need. Years later whenever I would pull out my dusty juicer, I would remember Bill's kindness to this near stranger, and would remind myself that being positive amidst the trials of life can propel a person higher than the most advanced medicine.
Some people speak of taking lemons and turning them into lemonade. Only Bill spoke of carrots and celery as if they were country-fried steak. With Bill's positive attitude, even radishes and cabbage can taste like warm brownies with hot fudge and ice cream.