Friday, July 22, 2005

Who's The New Guy? - Back To Work!

Well folks, this is it. After nearly a full year away from the office due to my liver disease, I returned to work today. It was surreal - not just because of a full moon. Determined to keep up my exercise regime, I rose just before 6 AM and logged a vigorous 3.5-mile walk on one of those glorious, surprisingly chilly (at least in shorts) mornings when you feel like you've got the whole world to yourself. Yesterday, I was a horse at breakfast while Tasha was a duck showing off its unicorn dance. Today, I had time to figure out Blue's Clues with her before trying to wrap my mind around how to wrap a tie around my neck before hitting the 8:13 train.
Back at Dow Jones Newswires, my office was preserved in the same state as it was a year ago. The calendar said July, but it was 2004. Stacks of year-old 'current' stories - the ephemera of the newswire business - were dispatched to the circular file. A foot-high stack of mail yielded missed opportunities to join the King and Queen of Norway (who new?!) at a concert last March.

The prize in bundle was an envelope addressed to David Christ Bird - an unusual abbreviation for Christopher, and how did they know anyway? - from the Iranian Mission to the U.N. Inside was a beautiful card of a watercolor spring scene with a message printed fully in Farsi (not a word in English) wishing me (I'm told by an Afghan friend who can read the language somewhat) a joyous Norouz, or Persian New Year. I mused in the space in March how correct it seemed to celebrate the New Year at the Spring Equinox, not in the deep winter of January. Not clear that the SaveDavid blog is big reading down at the mission - though I've had a few good friends there over the years - it's more likely that my mailing details (scrambled as they were) appear on some list there due to my past receipt of an Iranian visa.

Everyone at the office was gracious and supportive - as they've been throughout - taking me not to take too fast. And on the capital improvement front, a wall has been knocked through to give more light a view of the Hudson River. Apart from glad-handing, and tidying up, the day was made up mostly of deleting Spanish-language emails offering mail order Viagra and learning my way around the nifty new coffee machine, which makes passable espresso. I had to buy some new threads (thank goodness for outlet stores) to save everyone the embarassment of my old baggy wardrobe - and I could almost hear people from a distance saying ''who's the new guy?'' before getting a closer look. It kind of felt like the first day back at school...

Coming just two days after the 7-month mark for my new liver (Dora) - and on my first day back - a poignant reminder of our desperate days of last winter popped off the page of The New York Times as I read it on the inbound train. Anchoring page A20 was an ad featuring a slightly grainy portrait of a young, pretty woman obviously cropped from a snapshot. With a bold headline: Please help me save my fiancee, the ad said: On Sunday, Shari's liver failed. Her only hope is to find a liver donor in the next few days. Ideally today. I will do anything to save her. She needs type 0 or A. 917-854-8191. Our wedding is set for October 15th. Please help her be there. Thank you, Robby.

My first reaction was to offer hope to Robby and Shari, after my experience. I searched under a combination of key words and found an Adweek story about Shari's situation - the notion of taking out an ad to plead from help came from the fact that Shari works at one of the big promotional agencies. I was glad to know from the story that Shari is in NYU. I wrote briefly to them to say that they were in great hands - as my situation attests - and to offer my prayers.

Heaven has a new angel...
Tonight, as the fireflies twinkled and more than a hundred friends and family members held lit candles and share comfort, we said goodbye to Sara Chaikan who passed away Sunday night not long after her seventh birthday. Sara, who was a pre-school classmate of Alex's at Tree House in Basking Ridge, bravely battled with brain cancer for nearly half her life. She was remembered as sweet girl with a heart as big as all outdoors, who in our minds will be forever free of the wheelchair that held her in these final months, and forever skipping and dancing. Sara and her wonderful parents, Karen and Steve, are forever in our hearts.
Oddly, I've had the phrase ''I thank you Lord for most this amazing day...'' in my head in recent months and I've taken to voicing it aloud on my sun-drenched walks. I've always loved the wacky, mixed up play of the words and I was reminded tonight it comes from e.e. cummings - and it was one of Sara's favorites.
I was reminded of the words of Monsignor Walter Nolan - a long-time family friend - at the funeral of my mother Anna Bird, in February 2004. Fr. Nolan said his mother had always told him - and I firmly believe this to be true - there's only one question God asks you when you get to Heaven: ''Did you enjoy the world I gave you?''

For Sara, the answer is clearly: Yes.
Let's all live our lives that way.

Memorial contributions in the name of Sara Chaikin can be made to
Making Headway Foundation, Inc
115 King St.
Chappaqua, NY 10514
(914) 238-8384
Making Headway is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the care, comfort and cure of children with brain and spinal cord tumors and other catastrophic neurologistical illnesses.

Last Sunday's Parade magazine tells the follow-up story of a man receiving a gift-of-life kidney transplant. The man's plight was reported last December and I read it while waiting for a liver to come available to me.
Along with the immense kindness in this altruistic act, what hit home for me in the story was a quote from St. Augustine, which puts into perspective how to go about caring for your fellow man when there are so many who need our help:
''Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special attention to those who, by accidents of time, or place, or circumstance, are brought into closer connection with you.''

It's off to bed. I've got a train to catch tomorrow morning - and miles to go before I do.


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