Before he left for a new job and opportunity in Philadelphia, I became e-mail/blog friends with journalist Rod Dreher, formerly of the Dallas Morning News and author of “Crunchy Con,” a book about being a reasonable conservative.
He works as director of publications for the John Templeton Foundation and much of his postings concern religious-themed discussions. But he also tells the touching and moving story of his sister, Ruthie Leming, who is battling cancer.
His stories of her courage, that of her daughters and fireman husband, Mike, who recently returned home to St. Francisville, La. (Rod’s hometown), after serving in Iraq (imagine THAT double whammy to face … ALONE), were as moving as anything you can see on “Oprah.” I’ve told Rod that God commands him to write a book about this to share with the rest of the world – beyond the blogosphere.
So I wrote to him about a venture I led last weekend:
“Chalk this one up to another Ruthie Leming victory. Here in Dallas, there is a well-known Celtic musician/singer-songwriter named Michael William Harrison, who has been performing in local venues and pubs for years. He’s my age and like me, grew up in the Motor City. But most of all, he’s a nice guy who scratches out a living pickin’ and singin’ Irish tunes.
In the past few months, he has been battling throat cancer, which is as bad a malady that anyone singer can suffer. No voice, no living. The chemo kicks his ass and he has lost his trademark beard and hair. At the moment, he is just trying to fight as best he can.
So ... I sat there thinking at ye olde Irish Festival, what can be done to help this nice guy? In other words, WWRD (either the call letters to some station somewhere … or What Would Ruthie Do?).
We both know the answer and, yesterday at our annual NTIF at Winfrey Point overlooking a windy White Rock Lake, I organized exactly what your sister would have done for anyone in St. Francisville affected by the same problem. We held an impromptu silent auction (I had all of 3 weeks to get stuff and spent much of last week driving all over DFW collecting items – from CDs, to paintings, to photos of Scotland, to fine 12-year-old bottles of Scotch, to handmade jewelry, and even tossing in a couple of cookbooks from my collection and an old Juan Gonzalez autographed baseball … which looks a little TOO juiced up if you know what I mean.
Hell, someone even walked up with a home theater sound system and I had to talk anyone lady out of donating a single serving set of dishes (wow, that just screams you live alone).
Having no expectations and no clue about the generosity of those in attendance, I kept my hopes fairly low, hoping to collect $1,000, which I thought would be great. But, ah, the power of the shamrock and Celtic music in general ... I’m still collecting checks but it appears we will more than DOUBLE that and everything donated was sold! And people waited patiently to allow me to settle accounts ... and NO ONE fought over anything!
Even MORE special, Michael was able to attend since his chemo schedule had changed. And his expected hour-long visit (it was the first time he got to hear LIVE music in months, he said) turned into THREE hours because ... people DO feed off the energy of others. Love and good will overcomes a lot and makes you stronger; able to face any challenge and slay any dragon.
I saw it up close and in person yesterday; having read your blog postings, I have no doubt your sister will make it through because everyone’s energy down in Loo-ee-si-ann is helping to carry her.
Is it a miracle? Dunno. These things carry different names under different labels. But in the end, it’s about helping and caring for other people (a trait too many people have misplaced in this age of ME-ism).”
I added a few more thoughts in a subsequent email:
“My father taught me one hugely valuable lesson and rule of life: You’ve GOT to make your surroundings better for others than you found things. And in life, aside from raising your children to be their best (or at least try), helping others (without going for the credit) is the right thing to do. Hence, I volunteer to do PR for the Samaritan Inn, Collin County’s only homeless shelter, because it’s the right thing to do.
And I don’t think I can say this enough ... one of your missions, for the remaining time you have on this planet and with your infinite writing ability (I bow to such greatness) IS to tell HER story. In formal written form ... old school ... as in BOOK! Not just her personal battle, but how it HAS touched others to do things "to make things better for others because it’s the right thing to do."