The Universe is Calling (Are you screening or picking up?)

An extraordinary thing happened to my mom on Friday, and it got me thinking about the tides and eddies of the universe.

It started as an ordinary annoyance: the phone and internet were on the fritz all day. Late in the afternoon, the service was back, but Mom and Dad realized they were inexplicably getting someone else's phone calls and this other party was getting theirs. The other party involved called and asked Mom to please make sure anyone who called was given the bollixed number.

Mom, being the Universal Mother Soul that she is, sensed this woman was upset over more than phone trouble.

"Are you all right?" she asked.

The woman was not all right. Her son, a young man in his 20s, had been diagnosed with lymphoma that afternoon and would be starting chemo this week. He has a 4-yr-old daughter, the woman said, and they didn't know what to tell her.

"My daughter was diagnosed with lymphoma when her daughter was five," said Mom. "She's still alive. She's doing fine. And her little girl is 20 now."

I hate that my mom had to live through this world-wrecking experience with me, but I'm so grateful she was there for this woman in that moment. Mom stayed on the phone with her for over an hour, listening with informed compassion, sharing hard-earned practical knowledge and mom-of-the-cancer-person coping mechanisms. When you're suddenly adrift in that storm, a lighthouse means everything, and my mom is so good at that, shining a steady beam of faith from a rock solid foundation of common sense.

Astonishingly, when Mom told this woman I'd written a book about my chemo experience and mentioned my name, the woman actually recognized me from my radio show twenty years ago. They'd apparently listened to me every afternoon in her office, where she'd worked with my brother, Bruce, who died in 1999.

By the time these two mother-soul-sisters tearfully hung up their mutually discombobulated phones, Mom says, "We had to believe that God was very much in charge of crossing the phone lines."

Moments later, Qwest called to say they'd uncrossed the lines and Mom's phone was working fine.

"Do you believe in God or coincidence?" I asked Gary after I read him my mother's email.

"I believe in ball-bearings," he huffed.

"Oh, come on!" I said. "At the very least, that deserves a resounding What are the odds?"

"That had to be Uncle Bruce," said my grown up little girl, Jerusha. "He was a techie." (And ever shall be.)

I'm a big ol' hippie, I know, but in my heart, I believe in God as the continuum of love that connects everything and everyone. Together we are the Universe. And Universal Love is the heart of God. Anecdotal evidence is all around us: we are the answer to each other's prayers. We keep looking for a bolt from above, but God has already given us to each other as a gift.

The thing is, this sort of extraordinary happening is actually not out of the ordinary at all for my mother -- or for me, in fact. I'm constantly amazed at all the little ties that bind. But that's because I'm my mother's daughter. When I was a teenager, I genuinely thought she was psychic, but the kitchen table reality is that she generates these serendipitous encounters by being the kind of woman who says "Are you all right?" instead of ignoring the pain in the voice of a stranger. She experiences extraordinary connections with people because the door to her heart is always open. The Universe speaks to her no more often than it does to anyone else; the difference is, she's listening.

I could get lost in thoughts about what it would mean to art, relationships, politics, and publishing if we could all keep that line open, but I want to end here with a few words on the ball bearings of the situation. Having cancer as a 20-something seriously sucks, and I've recently learned of a couple terrific resources I wish had been around when I was diagnosed:

Everything Changes: The Insider's Guide to Cancer in Your 20's and 30's by Kairol Rosenthal
From Publishers Weekly:
After being diagnosed with thyroid cancer at the age of 27, Rosenthal, a choreographer and now a patient advocate for young adults with cancer, crisscrossed the country, interviewing other young cancer victims. Rosenthals text is part guidebook, part true confessions (including her own), as she segues between intimate conversations and sound advice on topics ranging from dating and parenting to working the health-care system and coping with pain. The interviews are riveting...the work as a whole is poignant, raw and informative.

Visit Kairol's "Everything Changes" blog for book tour info and continuing insights. (Note to PW: We are not "victims"; we are "survivors" for whatever the number of hours, days, or years we are alive to give interviews.)

Plus peace, love and grooviness to all.

PS ~ If you'd like to read a meticulously researched book on a fascinating bit of American history, check out my mom's book, Fifty Cents An Hour: The Builders and Boomtowns of the Fort Peck Dam.


janet little said…
What a beautiful story, Joni!
Wow. Amazing story. Bless your mom and that young man and his mother. But I see the universe already has...

Btw, Joni - great picture!
Joni Rodgers said…
Hey, Janet! So glad you saw this -- I consider your friendship one of those serendipitous little gifts from the Universe.

Isn't that photo a hoot? Gary took that at Universal Studios in Florida, and when I saw the "Universe to Joni" set up I about died laughing.

Have a great week, everybody!
Vicky said…
I truly believe everything happens for a reason. Joni,thank you for sharing this amazing story.
Suzan Harden said…
It's those little things we do that can make all the difference to another creature. Your mother is a blessed woman.
Theresa Lehr said…
Joni- God knew what he was doing when He gave you to your mother, and her to you. You bless each other, and others in the process. Wonderful story. We need to hear of the goodness of people more often!
Joni- Thanks for the shout out about my book and blog and for schooling PW on victimhood.

Your mom's story is incredible. I do believe in coincidences. I love dissecting the world and seeing that all of our lives are coinciding all of the time, and every once in a while a nice little fluke happens where were cross tracks and find extremely useful and meaningful connections.

Hope you are well.

Oh, my. Joni, thank you for this meaningful, multilayered post. I don't want to ruin it with an analytic comment, so I'll just point out the sentence I'm printing off and posting above my computer: "...the kitchen table reality is that she generates these serendipitous encounters by being the kind of woman who says "Are you all right?" instead of ignoring the pain in the voice of a stranger."

Tell your mom I would like to meet her. I really mean it.
With hope, Wendy

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