The Fisherman

Throughout my life I have often felt the “knowing” of intuition. Although I have not always listened, I was always pointed towards the right path to travel.  After becoming a pediatrician this awareness became part of me.

My sister JoAnne died from pancreatic cancer almost four years ago. Her life was filled with smiles, passion and love for her children, husband, family, friends and the children she cared for as a school nurse in Connecticut.  She lived an inspired life and her willingness to endure and accomplish were endless.

Four years ago she called me at work and told me she had just returned from the hospital where a CT scan of her abdomen revealed advanced pancreatic cancer. I couldn’t breathe. She told me everything would be all right. We cried. With the support of her entire community she ran a marathon one month after receiving this news and died seven months later. She chased, fought and endured the suffering this cancer cloaked her within every day. She accepted the pain and lived for the love of her family, friends, faith and the children she loved.

As I drove home with my wife on the day of her diagnosis I experienced a sign of hope. My wife was driving and I was in the passenger seat. We both were softly crying.  As we neared our home in North East we both saw a man walking on the side of the road.  Our gaze met. A voice within said to help this man. We turned around and pulled over in front of him. He was about 50, mud covered and dressed in fishing gear and waders. Although intellectually disabled, he told us how he had become separated from his friends, lost his fishing reel and breathing heavily he pointed to the gorge he had just climbed up to reach the road.

We helped him into our car and planned to drive him into town to the fire station when the same voice told me to go to Middle Road and head for the lake. We drove a half-mile ahead and turned north on Middle Road.  Within minutes we came upon a young man on a cell phone next to a truck on the side of the road. I could see the man was very upset. He appeared to be making a phone call for help. I jumped out of our car and pointed to the man in our backseat. He ran over to the car and told us he thought his friend had drowned.  He told us they were fishing in the gorge and became separated.  He searched without success and raced back to his truck to call for help. It was at that moment we arrived.

As we drove away all I could think of was the height of the 20 Mile Gorge and how he had ever climbed out. Aged, confused, tired and muddied he was given the strength and shown the way. I knew then that this was a sign.

During the pain and loved filled months that followed this day was always with me. Jo Anne and I talked about this fisherman often.  The religious and metaphorical meanings touched our souls. I will always remember her smile each time we talked about this man. A smile framed by belief, acceptance, trust and the magical opportunities life and death provides each of us. Although her body is now gone her magic remains and the understanding this fisherman gave me that forgettable day will never be forgotten.