Today is Sarah Bach’s 43rd birthday. Yesterday she was given the last rites after a year-long battle with metastatic melanoma. A battle that appears to have been grueling and filled with extraordinary grace. I don’t know Sarah, though I have met her husband and kids a couple of times. I’ve thought about her every day, though, for months. Often several times a day, because of the ribbons. Giant, happy-looking orange ribbons that circle the broad trunks of trees, the thin branches of azalea bushes and posts of mail boxes throughout our neighborhood. If you live where I do, you know who Sarah Bach is even if you’ve never laid eyes on her. You know, and your life has been changed.
Sarah is a mother with three young children and an adoring husband who thinks the world of her. I doubt I’ll ever write a novel about a romance as real and eternal as the one Sarah and her husband have written this past year.
Their family is devoutly Catholic, blessed with a grace that has carried them through disappointment after disappointment as each new treatment failed to halt the progression of her cancer. Together, last Wednesday, they told their children she was dying. To me, the situation seems utterly wrong. Unfair. Horrible. Tragic. I know plenty of people who didn’t take care of themselves and healed. We all do. The photos I’ve seen of Sarah before she became ill show a gorgeous woman who is fit and vibrant. Sarah had a legion of people praying for her. And yet she’s leaving three elementary-age children.
Her husband and friends tied ribbons around the trees and then a local market began selling them. More ribbons popped up throughout the neighborhood. They reminded me to pray every day. They reminded me it’s possible to care deeply about people we’ve never met and that no matter who we are or where we’re from, we’re all riding the same bus. Every step outside my house is a visual reminder that communities grow when imperfect strangers become perfectly caring.
In the neighborhood, our children began asking about Mrs. Bach, her illness and whether she would die. We had conversations with our kids we hoped not to have for a long time; conversations that blessed us and, I believe, them.
It is so easy to trust when life feels like a cleanly cut puzzle, one piece fitting neatly next to its neighbor. I suppose the deepest trust, the richest faith, the one that works, is honed when it is tested, when we can somehow cry out, “It’s not fair!” and “Thank You,” in the same prayerful breath.
I hope Sara Bach won’t mind that some lady she never met is writing about her. She’s part of my life now and, I hope, part of yours. You can read Sarah’s Journey “Fight Like A Girl” on http://www.caringbridge.org/story_bach. I hope you’ll read it. And her husband’s blog entry on June 4th. http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/sarahbach Let their story change your life. We prayed for one kind of miracle and got another as we discovered we are all each other’s angels.