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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

the bell rings for health

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Come in, please sit down, don't mind the bell, I'll tell you about it in a minute. Here, put this cushion behind your back. Now, let me introduce you to my friend Barry.

I first saw a crowd gathered around this fellow in January last year and moved in close to see what all the hubbub was about. Everyone was jostling and humming and then all around people started shushing. So we hushed. Then Barry told a story. After he was done, I thought, how'd he do that? His story was ordinary, just something about living in Toronto, or maybe it was some mystery in the woods he and his cutey black dog Lindsay found on their walk, or something smart his painter wife Linda said. I don't remember. But it really doesn't matter what the story was about. It was the man's charm, his humble view of himself as a sort of funny ordinary guy who faces life squarely and dutifully, that made me go back regularly with the crowd on the bluff and find something true, and lovely.

A couple months after I joined the Barry-listening crowd, we were all dealt a whammy blow. Barry was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. His narrative changed, but his humility, charm and humor strengthened - or maybe it was just that his true character was more exposed. We listened with hands to open mouths and welled up eyes as he told about scans and tests showing that his cancer had metastasized from the esophagus to his hip, ribs and spine. Even cancer cells crowded around, as if to listen for how his story would unfold. But everything in him and in us the crowd said No to that army. Barry has pulled out chemo, meditation, relaxation, a healthy diet - whatever he can to prolong his story telling days, and we offered him the best advice we'd heard too. He was willing to try almost anything, because after all, he loves the Living thing.

He's an explorer of life, this Barry. These last months he got to examine the deep dark side, and we got to listen, cry, pray, meditate and walk alongside him for his health. Thursday, this very week Thursday, February 18, Barry completes his chemo treatment at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto at 2 o'clock. There is a bell there. When Barry completes that last chemo treatment, he will ring the bell loud and steady, and throughout Princess Margaret Hospital people will cheer, applaud, whoop! That global crowd listening to Barry's story? We'll be ringing bells around the world and cheering and whooping too. At 2pm Thursday my cell phone alarm will ring in my university office. I'll stop what I'm doing - maybe a student will be sitting there, wondering what happened - and I'll close my eyes, thank the Universe for Barry, for his survival, for my friend Inge beating breast cancer, for my own life after melanoma, for all our loved ones who suffer through illness and disease, and ask if we could please be allowed to explore the world with Barry a while longer.

There is a little sign near that bell at Princess Margaret Hospital with a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

"What lies behind us, and what lies before us,
are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."

Read Barry's plan for ringing the bell here. If you join the crowd and ring yours, it will be like D-Day. And oh, I have a story Mom told me about that. On the 6th of June in 1944, Mom and Dad lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. They were working in the tobacco fields to supplement my dad's pay as itinerant preacher. Suddenly on that warm sixth of June, bells began ringing all across the valley. Their neighbor came running out, "What happened, what happened?" My dad replied, "It's D-Day, the Allies have invaded Normandy!" The farmer retorted, "Oh, is that all, I thought the pigs had got out!"

-M
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63 comments:

VioletSky said...

I have a bell ready for clanging on Thursday!
Isn't it wonderful to write a lovely tribute for someone because he is still alive?!

Bagman and Butler said...

Absolutely! I'm ringing for Barry on my post tomorrow, assuming I can figure out how to make Blogspot upload videos.

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

Let's all make a joyful noise for Barry and for everyone fighting the good fight against this scourge of cancer. If you don't have a bell at your disposal, a wooo-hooo into the ether will do just find - or a round of applause - or a song - or a beating on a drum, whatever.

Listen carefully on Thursday - there will be a joyful sound heard round the world.

Shari Sunday said...

I love hearing about Barry. I love the bell and I love the story about D-Day. I need to go look for a bell.

gemma said...

My bell will ring for Barry,and for Anna who is celebrating being cancer free now,and for my Dad who is gone.

Helena said...

Thanks for telling us! I used to read Barry's blog and had no idea he had gotten cancer. Left a few comments there. And put him on my list.

Bella Rum said...

Ruth,
Thank you for telling us about Barry. What a wonderful story.I have to find a bell around here. There's bound to be one somewhere.

Loved the D-day story too.
Bella

♥ Kathy said...

That's so sad Ruth. Thank you for sharing Barry with us.

The Bug said...

I'm signed up to ring a bell - but it took me a while to figure out what bell I would ring (I'll be at work). Our HR office next door has a bell on their front desk for people to ring to get their attention. I'll be ringing that at 2:00!

Susan said...

I reposted at my site, Ruth. You said it beautifully and I am overloaded with work...so thanks for giving me a way to help spread the word.

margie said...

only good and healthy wishes for barry.

Shattered said...

How fabulous for him! I have missed his blog somehow but I am thankful that now I get to visit, listen and learn...

California Girl said...

I found him today for the first time through Reya's blog and now yours. I read a number of his posts this morning w/o knowing his background. Your background helps alot. Thank you. I sent his post about finishing chemo and ringing the bell to a friend in LA now undergoing her own challenge with a very agressive breast cancer that has metastasized to her ribs and spine. She has just begun her process. If good feelings have anything at all to do with healing, these folks will be around a good long while.

shicat said...

Hi Ruth, thanks for sharing this. How thoughtful of you. I didn't realize you had melanoma too? Glad you are well. As for Barry, i will ring my bell, as you set my alarm on my phone, that will cause me to take pause and reflect.
I agree with Laura, too many people die of these cancers, so it is time to celebrate when people recover.
I won't go on about how I feel about Cancer and the medical and pharmacuticals business response to it. I have been down that long road, as you know.
Anyway, I cheer for life and Barry's journey,after all life is really as simple as, "letting the pigs out". Ah,Simple things.

Last post,I was thinking of Cameron's ex wife,the director of the Hurt Locker oooops.:)

Susan said...

What a lovely way to commemorate your friend's accomplishment and milestone.

Can you believe, I don't think I have one bell in this house! I will look for something appropriate and pause at the appointed time.

I love your mom's story. :)

Loring Wirbel said...

I'll ring the bell, but hope is dead here. Not just because Obama loves nukes and Bayh has given up, but because all the latest deficit predictions and the bitter deadlock in Congress has convinced me that hope is gone - for health care, for things getting better. Stick a fork in us, we're done.

Mind you, I'm not depressed, just choosing to join Evan Bayh in ignoring the political wasteland and playing the old "Deus, dona mihi serenitatem accipere res quae non possum mutare, fortitudinem mutare res quae possum, atque sapientiam differentiam cognoscere" game. The decline and fall has passed its tipping point, ring them chimes.

Sidney said...

Strong post... I am in awe to see how courageous some people really are... not sure I would be able to fight like that...

I wish Barry complete recovery ! And I will listen to the bell !

CottageGirl said...

Teary-eyed Cottage Girl sitting here setting the phone alarm for 1:00 (My time) Friday afternoon.
I'll be sending good vibes and prayers Barry's way and also ALL who are touched by cancer
... especially Kenny.
Hang in there, Barry!
Hang in there Kenny!

lovely you said...

Thank you for sharing this, Ruth. What a beautiful thing! It is the 18th here in Melbourne and almost 2 pm. I don't have a bell, but I'm going to play my tiny wind-up music box. It plays Somewhere Over the Rainbow. (And if I get up at 6 am tomorrow morning, I can join in with the rest of you.)

Yay! for Barry. Dreams really do come true!

freefalling said...

**BONG**BONG**BONG**
Getting in a bit of practice.
Cancer sucks.
Let's drown it out with joyousness.

Sandy said...

Wow, what a story, I'm going right over to read about the bell and will join in tomorrow.

Reya Mellicker said...

I could not have described my blog friendship with Barry any better than this! Beautifully said, Ruth.

I'll be ringing my Tibetan singing bowl with a Tibetan purbha, sent to me last year by another blog friend, at 2 pm.

I believe all this ringing benefits us all, I do. Thanks for this beautiful post.

Patricia said...

Thank you, Ruth, for introducing Barry to those of us who do not know him. You have helped make cancer and the fight for life something quite real with your post. I do appreciate it.

Queenmothermamaw said...

Joining you Ruth in the ringing of Barry and all cancer warriors' bell.
QMM

Jeanie said...

A few minutes late to join in the bell ringing, but my heart is singing for Barry's good news. He is truly a wonderful fighter and an inspiration. Thanks for sharing his story.

Skip Simpson said...

The bells rang in Alabama at 2!

Barry said...

I read your post earlier this morning as I drank my cup of tea and waited for my brother to arrive for the drive to the hospital. I had the lights out so I could see the lights of his car in the driveway and read your post by the light of the laptop screen.

And was at a complete loss to know what to say. I wanted to leave a comment but my brain was simultaneously profoundly moved and had come to a complete stop. Incongruous as that might seem.

I'm not much better off re reading your post this evening but I do know I want to say this:

Thank you, friend. Thank you.

Ruth said...

Violetski, I think we should write tributes to our loved ones on a regular basis, while they're alive. Wouldn't it be fun to meet Barry one day?

Ruth said...

B&B, your videotaped bell ringing was perfect, and I'm sure Barry was touched.

Ruth said...

Bonnie, it feels like Mardi Gras and New Year's Eve combined over at your place. Beautiful, and moving.

Ruth said...

Thank you for spreading the bells to Tampa, Shari.

Ruth said...

Thank you for ringing, Gemma. I'm sorry about your dad. I lost my dad to lung cancer. It was just six weeks from the day he was diagnosed until his death.

Ruth said...

Helena, I'm glad you reconnected with Barry. I think right now he is overwhelmed by love and support, and that's a good thing.

Peter said...

Bagman and Butler already brought me to Barry's blog and I have been reading it now and then (including now), with the same feelings that you express so well! So, now reading Barry's post, I got the confirmation that the bell had been ringing! Courage and optimism has a lot to do with healing and Barry is clearly a good example!

Ginnie said...

I think February 18 was a day of joy and celebration in many places, Ruth! Thanks for celebrating ours.

Ruth said...

Bella, well, just saying your name is like ringing one. Thank you for joining in.

Yes, I love that story my mom told, and she was so tickled whenever she told it. She and my dad must have just looked at each other, stunned, and they must have laughed!

Ruth said...

♥ Kathy, let's hope it's not sad any more, time for health and good times!

Ruth said...

Dana, it was a nice moment sitting in my office yesterday. Not only did I have my cell phone alarm ready for 2, I also had a phone call from Peter who was driving home to us after months away, and a call from another friend too. It was as if bells couldn't help ringing out of a mysterious stash of Barry celebration.

Ruth said...

Susan, thank you for using my post at yours. It was such a cool moment yesterday. I would love to be able to see each person who participated - and most of all Barry ringing his bell. I wish he had videotaped it!

Ruth said...

Thank you, Margie. With all the healing wishes going Barry's way, a big giant prayer, I have hope for his health.

Ruth said...

California Girl, oh I hope your friend will find her way through this with all the support of love. Does she have inflammatory breast cancer, like Renee? She is here:

http://circlingmyhead.blogspot.com/

Ruth said...

Cathy, thankfully when someone is diagnosed with the C word these days, it is not necessarily a death sentence the way it once felt. But there is still too much death, and too much cancer.

Don and I are reading a book called The China Study which has transformed our lifestyle. It connects animal protein and cancer. We're counting on him being right and hope that with my history, we can keep the C diagnoses away.

Well I didn't know about Cameron's ex-wife any more than I knew about Suzy. I think she might be #5. :)

Ruth said...

Thank you, Susie.

Ruth said...

Loring, when you devote your being to change as you do, losing hope is bound to haunt every corner.

I find something hopeful in Evan Bayh. And I definitely find hope when I see you and what you carry inside. Yes, I've lost hope in this government, this structure, this media, this everything that controls the way things are. But I have not lost hope in you, or Don, or rauf, or Susie, or Montag, or myself. I see what's inside us, and I just keep sending it up the river.

Don't lose all your hope, my friend. I'm counting on you to keep being you.

Together We Save said...

That was beautiful... learning about Barry, D-Day... all of it. I will be ringing a bell.

Ruth said...

Sidney, could you hear the bells above the Chinese New Year fireworks? Oh, that was not yesterday I guess.

Ruth said...

CottageGirl let me reciprocate for Kenny too. This giant prayer-hug has done me a lot of good, imagine what it's done for Barry.

Ruth said...

Oh, Lovely, it's perfect. I remember hearing a recording of Eva Cassidy singing that after she'd been diagnosed with terminal cancer. It was a heartbreaking rendition, and I'll never forget it.

Ruth said...

Go Letty Go Vince Go Go Go.

Ruth said...

Sandy, from the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters, the bells rang.

Ruth said...

Hi and welcome, Reya. That bowl added a gorgeous tone to the bell choir. Thank you for your good visit.

After my friend Inge finished her chemo, she asked her oncologist how she could prevent the cancer coming back. He said, "Be happy."

Ruth said...

Patricia, thank you for that. Barry's a good story teller, but his blog posts are not really his experience, they are just his telling of them. Sitting through chemo week after week for hours, and the illness, the fatigue, all the emotional upheaval, the fears, I just don't know what that feels like.

Ruth said...

Meeting new friends of Barry's from all over. Welcome from Kentucky, QMM! It was a good moment, and I wish I could have seen everyone ringing.

Ruth said...

Jeanie, thank you, you extended the celebration.

Ruth said...

Welcome, Skip, you had a brilliant video for Barry.

Ruth said...

Hi, Barry. You're welcome. You see what you've done, don't you? You've been you, and shared yourself. We don't know how to thank you for that, so joining your bell ringing is one way. Thank you.

Ruth said...

Peter, I'm glad you and Barry know each other. To choose optimism day in and day out, even though some days are a little pessimistic, that is a gift to all of us.

Ruth said...

Boots, you'll be celebrating the rest of your life.

Ruth said...

Together, together we rang.

dutchbaby said...

I am so sorry to have missed the communal ring but no less joyful for Barry's accomplishment. I will go to our Bunco box and ring the bell as an echo of yesterday's grand event.

Ruth said...

Dutchbaby, I had to look up Bunco box, and it's a good noise maker, thank you for extending the celebration out in Palo Alto!

shicat said...

Greed based medicine,thats my name for U.S. health care. Really makes me want to vomit. What is wrong with our country,why are we afraid of national health care.Crazy. My other friend, not Sharon, just died last week and was denied health care because he had no insurance! Surgery could have lengthened his life. It's infuriating. I grow so tired of the ads for hospitals and medicines. Luckily I have insurance but what about the millions that can't afford it? Crazy isn't it. I agree with Loring,at least the part I could read!

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