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Be the Glow

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It's snowing again. This latest band brings us up to around 30 inches for the year. It's about a foot more than we usually get in St. Louis. The sun hasn't shined much, either. If it wasn't for all of the red wine I consume, I'd be pretty damn miserable.

For those who have never experienced it, Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a very real thing. In 1999, I moved to Vancouver for a year and a half. Being unfamiliar with the climate, I was braced for a lot of snow. I mean, it's Canada for God's sake. But you know something? We didn't get a lot of snow in the downtown core. In fact, we got less than an inch of snow all winter.

But we got rain... lots and lots of rain. In the downtown East Side, where I lived, it smelled like wet dog, foot, cigarettes and ass all the time. Out of every seven days, it rained for five. After a while, I thought the sun died. I never saw it. I missed it. I was irritated by its absence. I was SAD.

Light is a funny thing; you never quite appreciate it until the lack of it smacks you in the face. For instance, if I'm the first one home in the evening, I know that I have to come home to a dark house, and I absolutely loathe coming home to a dark house. I frown. My butt clenches. I get quite irritated until I get in and turn all of the lights on. And as soon as they're on, I am instantaneously happy again.

As I've gotten older, I realize that light is no longer merely a function or a necessity to simply see through darkness. Light has taken on a different meaning for me... a meaning that's more subjective, and even more personal. It's like I want to make it my own, and create my own sense of how I think it should be.

When I moved into my office, the first thing I did was unscrew every last fluorescent bulb. Apart from the brightness of my computer screens, my whole space is lit by five 40W incandescent light bulbs. When they are all on, there is such a warm feeling emitted that unless I'm under an obscene deadline, it's a pleasure being in the space. Our house is the same way. Every room has the ability to either be lit like daylight, or to simply "glow."

I love the "glow." It brings to mind everything lovely about light; the caressing glow on a painting, the anticipation born from the glow of a strand of Christmas lights, or the face of my wife after 14 minutes of elbowy bliss. And that is the beauty of "glow." It doesn't just describe a physical light source. It also describes the warm inner light of our own humanity.

One of the most beautiful "glows" I've ever seen occurred in the lobby of a Nashville Denny's in late December of 1991. My dad and I were driving down to Florida when we stopped for dinner. After I enjoyed the steak and eggs, my father had to excuse himself for a vicious battle with the "Moons Over My Hammy" he'd just consumed.

As I was sitting in the lobby waiting, an older couple walked out from the dining room to get their coats. They both looked to be in their eighties. What made me notice them was that the gentleman was wearing a three-piece-suit, and his wife was wearing a red dress and way too much lipstick, which she was also using for rouge. They were in the nicest clothes they owned... having dinner at Denny's.

Before they left, the man helped the woman put her coat on, and she did the same for him. He then handed the hostess a camera and asked if he would take a picture of the two of them. She obliged. The man had his left hand on his wife's shoulder, and his right hand was wrapped around her, touching her belly. The woman held his right hand with both of hers, and she looked up at him lovingly as the picture was taken.

And it was during that split second from the light on the flash when I noticed that these two people had probably spent the last sixty years with each other, and yet they were more in love than they ever were. I silently thought to myself that if I was to ever get married, that would be the only reason: to experience that kind of "glow."

Those two people had a massive impact on me. I remember everything so vividly like it was yesterday. It was a 45 second encounter 23 years ago, and it has remained with me like it was part of my own DNA.

We all know people like this couple; maybe not people who are tenderly in love for 60 years, but we know people that we are inexplicably drawn to. They are the ones who make us laugh, make us think, tell us the truth, pick us up, and hold our hand. They are the ones who "glow."

I want you to think of those people, and have their image in your mind, because if you ever have to face the nightmare of cancer, they are the first people you should seek.

When I look back on my own journey, I have come to realize that even on the brightest of sunny days, cancer had the ability to envelop my soul in a darkness that is almost unimaginable. Even the most strident of optimists know this darkness, and know it well. It is a journey on a broken road that, let's face it, no one wants to take.

When I started on my path, I realized that I still had people walking with me when I would have understood if they wanted to sit this one out. And I realized that at the end of my road, and in my darkest times, the only thing that brought me out was the "glow" of human and divine love that never left my side.

And I still see it today. My friend Hannah, who is still battling after countless surgeries, chemo treatments, a rotationplasty, and two types of devastating cancer, still pushes through because of the love of those around her and her tenacious will to stick around for the main event that is the rest of her life.

So for those who are battling now, and to those who may one day have to enter this fight, always remember to look toward the "glow," and if possible, to be it.

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