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The Craving

January 22, 2013

We sat in our pew, the third from the front on the right, and waited for the service to begin when Lynn and Gary slipped in next to us.

‘Want to go to lunch after church?’ Lynn whispered conspiratorially.

I, in turn, whispered the question to my husband. He nodded, as I knew he would, and I relayed the answer back to Lynn, who whispered the plan to her husband. Then Gary leaned forward, looked at Jim, smiled, nodded and gave him a thumbs up.

‘I woke up craving hash browns from Frannie’s…I’ve just got to have them!’

Lynn, my friend of more than a dozen years, was battling cancer. Advanced ovarian cancer. And she was enduring yet another round of chemo to try to knock it back. It had been over four years since her diagnosis and she was growing weaker. The cancer was winning…and her bad days outnumbered her good ones.

She rarely made it to church anymore, so when she did, it was a pretty big deal. Lynn was so much a part of our little church…having served on various committees as well as taking on the job of council secretary for several years. Lynn was usually the first in line to put up Christmas decorations, help with service projects, fundraisers, and the like.

Once she was seated, parishioners greeted her, even the kids offered her hugs and well wishes before taking their seats next to their parents.

The organist finished the prelude as Pastor Chris turned and faced the congregation. He welcomed us and read the announcements before beginning the service…asked us to turn to page seventy-six in our well used green Lutheran Books of Worship.

During the transition between the Gospel reading and the sermon, Lynn whispered, with a voice stronger than I’d heard in months, ‘I told myself that if I can go out for lunch, I can get my butt to church first…so here I am!’ The transitions between segments gave her the opportunity to spin that thread throughout the service. ‘I can’t wait…,’ she’d whisper. ‘Don’t hash browns sound good?’

We pulled into the parking lot of Frannie’s, her favorite restaurant, getting there just ahead of the after-church crowd. Sitting at the last available table; we narrowly avoided the need to stand and wait, something she would not have had the strength to do.

Lynn knew what she wanted, but the rest of us needed to decide. A process that took far too long for her taste. Out of sheer boredom, she picked up her menu and began to read.

‘What can I get you?’ The petite redheaded waitress asked as she delivered our water. Lynn was now studying her menu in earnest. She had been casually perusing it just a moment earlier, passing the time, nothing more.

Seeing the look of concentration on my friend’s face, the waitress turned expectantly to us, her sharpie poised above the green order pad.

‘Two turkey dinners with all the fixings…got it. Coffee to drink,’ she said. ‘And for you?’ She inquired of Lynn.

‘Ummm…I can’t decide…let’s see…Gary, you go first,’ she said as she flipped the pages.

‘Okay..–Now I know what I want,’ she said with conviction. ‘The turkey dinner…and the spaghetti, too, please.’

All eyes turned to Lynn. What? I thought, ‘That came out of left field. What happened to hash browns?

‘But Honey, you said you wanted hash browns,’ reminded Gary.

‘I know,’ she said, ‘but I changed my mind…I think. Everything sounds so good.’

Gary patiently explained that neither meal included hash browns, which incidentally, was the reason we were here in the first place. Then he proceeded to point out that she was ordering two full meals…didn’t she remember how large the portion sizes were at Frannie’s? The food will only wind up being thrown in the trash, he reasoned. Then, when that fell flat, he tried bargaining; she could order one of the meals, and he’d order the other and they’d bring the leftovers home for her to eat later. A reasonable solution…to everyone except Lynn.

‘No…no…you said you want a cheeseburger and fries…you should order what you want. I want the turkey now and the spaghetti later.’

I knew her well enough to know she’d made her decision. Negotiations were pointless.

Gary tried once more to persuade her to order just one meal, but there was no budging Lynn. She wanted both the turkey and the spaghetti. Finally, he gave up and ordered his burger, substituting hash browns for the fries. Just in case…he knew she’d want the hash browns later, and he had her back. He couldn’t fix the cancer, but he could give her hash browns.

Lynn’s chemo was scheduled every twenty-one days, and afterward, she’d be sick for the next sixteen to eighteen days. Finally, two or three days before the next treatment, she’d feel a little better. So when she wanted to go somewhere, Gary did his best to make it happen. We all did.

Now, Lynn hadn’t eaten more than a few bites for months, so when she ordered two full meals, we were surprised. Inwardly, we wondered if it was a good sign or a bad one. Her appetite was never good during chemo. And this was her third round.

By the time our food came, Lynn was visibly fading, and was only able to eat a few bites. Both meals would go home with her.

She was tired, but her mood remained upbeat. And we would later look back on this day and laugh. Both while she was with us, and after she left.

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One Comment
  1. How is it you can make me laugh and cry in one post? “Lynn” sure loved her food, didn’t she. I remember one New Year’s Eve over at the “Hanson’s” and she was eating everything in sight and I was so gleeful to see that. What a treasure she was to us, eh? I often wish I had known how short our time together was going to be. I would have spent every waking minute with her. But God knew that we couldn’t bear that kind of knowledge, I guess. Sometimes I think I will be more excited to see her in Heaven than Jesus!! We were so, so, so blessed to be in her “inner circle”. Can you imagine the types of food she is now eating at the Lord’s table!!! Go, Lynn, Go….

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