Saturday, May 15, 2021

Finding the Good Despite Hardship

“My brother had cancer when he was a teenager,” the man said. And I could tell how difficult the situation must have been for his whole family. That’s the thing with cancer—it affects everyone, not just the person plagued with it.

He went on to explain that his brother got better with time but still had lasting problems that will follow him for a lifetime. “If I could win the lottery, the first thing I’d do is try to help my brother.”

Thick emotion laced his voice, and I realized he’d done so much to help me because he personally knows how horrendous cancer is.

“How did you get into this profession anyway?” I asked. Then I heard such an intriguing story. 

He’d become a CNA first—doing everything to make elderly people feel important and valued. “There are just such amazing people out there.” He even took care of details, helping residents look exceptional, so when they went to breakfast they could proudly look other people in the eyes and feel their best. “After that, I worked with people...right before they’d pass away.”

It must have been devastating, yet through the whole conversation I felt this man’s love and compassion that obviously rooted from what he’d experienced with his brother years before.

“You know, it sounds kind of strange, but I think when someone passes you can still feel them in the room. Once a man passed—and it seemed like he stayed there, watching.”

I’ve seen someone pass away too—my son. That peculiar lingering feeling, well, it’s something you never forget. And although I didn’t tell this man, I also thought my son stayed in the room long after he died....

Then Mike explained how he got into massage therapy so that instead of focusing on palliative care, he could help people get better. 

(That’s how I met him, because he often works with doctors to help patients heal through massage. Someone—a saint who would like to remain anonymous—made it possible for me to get a free massage.)

Anyway, as I talked with Mike, I felt an overwhelming calm. He thinks the afterlife must be such a wonderful place. “I can’t wait to hug my dog,” he said. “Just to feel her jump into my arms.”

I pictured the whole perfect scene. But then I suddenly remembered how worried I’ve been about eventually dying someday, the afterlife, and so many other things. I mostly stress about my husband and kids. To be suffering this hardship alongside's got to be tough. Despite that, a simple truth remains: We all have trials—it’s how we grow from them that matters. Look at Mike! Because his brother had cancer, he has positively impacted so many lives. Out of hardship...came something tremendously good. Maybe my battle with cancer will inspire my children to help other people who they wouldn’t have empathized with before. Maybe....

So, I’m grateful to the person who let me get a free massage, but I’m equally grateful to the masseuse who shared his time and talent. He spoke humbly and really knew exactly what I needed to hear. It’s mind boggling how certain conversations and people can come into our lives at the right time. That’s what it was like talking with Mike Johnson, the insightful masseuse at Absolute Massage Therapy. Thank you for helping me find the good.


  1. I more than teared up as I read about Mike and his dog. I don't know why dogs always touch my heart so much. I'm still tearing up, I must go clean my eyeglasses after I finish this. You created a picture in my mind, of meeting up with all 12 of my dogs in the afterlife. It's such a lovely picture, I will try to keep it stored for when I may really need it. Thank you.