Sunday, June 6, 2010

Wishing Upon A Star

I’ve had a running theme develop these past couple weeks and I’m way overdue for a post. The theme is, strangely, stars.

Ever since breast cancer Round 1 (10 years ago), I’ve had this private thought: In the event that something were to happen to Dane (or me, for that matter) it would be kinda cool for us to pick out a star where we could meet. While a specific star (North Star, a star in a constellation, etc.) is fixed and findable on this side of the universe, it seems, even though it’s the great unknown, it would be easy for the one on the other side to figure out how to get to it. And then we could have a moment with each other, each of us on our respective sides of the star.

When breast cancer Round 2 hit in August 2006, this idea picked up some urgency in my heart, but there was really no good time to suggest it. It would be too spooky. And then when things took the bad turn in the fall of 2009, I simply jettisoned the idea. But then one day in October, for whatever reason, our conversation turned to the stars. So I seized the opening. In Dane's bed-ridden state we couldn’t go out and actually pick a star, so I decided to suggest a star—something simple, but not too cliché like the North Star. I figured the Big Dipper would give us something to work with. So, we had this conversation (I’m using our nicknames; this comes into play later).

Bear: “If anything happens to one of us we should meet at a star in the Big Dipper.”
Dane: “That’s a good idea.”
Bear: “Maybe the star at the end of the handle?”
Dane: “Don’t care.”

The “don’t care” response was probably two-fold: 1) “I’m tired of answering questions”; and 2) anything in the Big Dipper is probably fine.

So, we had a plan.

In February, a few weeks after Dana passed away (I’m still not used to those last three words btw), I was in Florida for a grief recovery trip. One clear night I decided to take a walk on the beach to have the first moment with Dane and the Big Dipper. I had yet to look at it since December 23. It was a beautiful night. The first task however, was to determine at which star Dana would want to meet since we left that rather open-ended. So I gazed into those ever-familiar points of that ladle in the sky just to see if something would emerge. And something emerged. The image at the top of this blog is not a picture I took, but an enhanced image of the Big Dipper. If you know Dana in the slightest, you might be able to tell where my eyes and heart landed. I’ve never noticed (or registered with any significance) that one of the stars is dimmer than the others. Dane would ALWAYS pull for, root for, and pick, the runt of the litter. The underdog. That faintest star connecting the handle to the bowl would have to be our star.

Fast forward to just a week ago. I decided to investigate the stars in the Big Dipper, knowing they probably had names, and wondering if I might find something else cool…maybe even along the lines of a God stamp. The feint star that had emerged for me is named Megrez. So I Googled Megrez (pronounced MEE-grez). I’m going to paste in below what I found:

The faintest star of the Big Dipper, Megrez is in the Dipper's middle, linking the handle to the bowl, and in the bigger picture linking Ursa Major's tail to the Bear's hindquarters. The name appropriately refers not to the Dipper, but to the Bear…


Of course! I’m thinking we picked the right place to meet. And another God stamp for my collection.

Last month I attended the gala for Atrium Medical Center’s (the Middletown area’s hospital) foundation. Dana had worked a lot with and for the foundation—writing much of their newsletter and fund raising material over the last few years. And, she had helped plan this particular gala (it’s held only every three years, so it’s been in planning for a long time) and she had actually suggested the theme: Wish Upon a Star. I! The foundation invited me as their guest. This was a definite “run toward the fire” event. I enjoyed dinner with the foundation folks whom Dana loved and loved working with; and they loved Dana and loved working with her; I talked with our oncologist Albert Malcolm whom I hadn’t seen since Dane’s passing. He was glad to see me and expressed how much losing Dana affected him, his staff, and this community. I saw many other healthcare professionals who had been along our journey, not only as pros, but as friends. And I saw many longtime friends.

But I wasn’t prepared for this.

As I perused the items in the event’s silent auction I suddenly saw a sign: “In memory of Dana Shafer.” And there for auction was a basket of knitting, knitting books, and a copy of “Mud Pie Annie,” a children’s book Dana co-wrote with her mother. It was a step-back, take-the-glasses-off and boo-hoo-in-public moment. I didn’t even know the person who had put this together, but I met her before the evening was over. Jane and Dana had worked on the foundation together, but also had become friends through knitting. I was, quite simply, overwhelmed.

At one point in the hospital president’s address during the gala’s program, Doug McNeil said, “and our dreams come true when we wish upon a star.” At that line the entire room became a fantasia of stars reflecting everywhere that then set the atmosphere for the rest of the evening. The room was full of ooos and ahhhs. I wondered if that was Dana’s idea and I had a warm contentment that it was. As I left the banquet hall, the foundation’s director, Mike Stautberg, caught me and said, “I don’t think I told you, that starlight thing we did was Dana’s idea, too.”

I know my girl.

I will look to the stars. I will wish upon them. And I will meet Dane at the underdog Big Dipper star in The Bear.

I leave you with an image of the Big Dipper and The Great Bear (Ursa Major).