October, for me, will always be radiation month. My son Daniel was diagnosed with cancer in May, and by the fall, he was scheduled for radiation treatments every morning. For two weeks, after putting my six-year-old daughter on the school bus, my sons and I would make the trek to UNC-Hospital. After unbuckling both four-year-old Daniel and eleven-month-old Benjamin from their car seats, I would put Benjamin in a stroller. The three of us would enter the clinic. As we sat in the lobby, waiting for Daniel's turn for the tumor on his neck to be radiated, coffee in a Styrofoam cup, would be handed to me. I'd thank the hospital worker, an elderly man, and sip the hot beverage.
Soon Daniel would be called and taken into the small room for his treatment. Ben, usually content with a toy, and I'd wait in the lobby where I'd pray for all to go well. I also spent time thinking about buying winter clothes for Daniel; he'd outgrown all of his pants, and his next chemo treatments. I sometimes gave a little thought to my pregnancy; I was due in May.
While my thoughts during those chilly mornings changed, the coffee never did. Faithfully, each morning, the worker presented me with a cup. His name was Lawrence, although his name tag said Larry.
Daniel did get winter clothes, and a baby sister. But he never saw his sister as he died three months before her birth.
Now on October mornings, I think of that time at the clinic. Thirteen years later, I still remember the cups of coffee. I look back on that woman of thirty-five, pregnant, with a first grader, a toddler, and a cancer patient. I wonder how she coped. I do know that the kindness of a man who was once a stranger, continues to warm her spirit. He must have seen her coming that first day, fumbling with the front door, hair still damp from her hurried shower, and knew he had to help her in any way he could.
You never know how meaningful your acts of concern---even the simple ones---can be to someone. At the time you perform them, and, many years later.