Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Joy of a Peach

Did you ever eat a peach that was so sweet, so juicy, so delicious, so pleasurable that you were tempted to smoke a cigarette afterwards (even if you don’t smoke)? I was reminded of such a peach the other week when I bought a peck of peaches from an orchard in scenic Northwestern Virginia. These peaches were really good, and I was sad to see the last one disappear. They were so sweet and so juicy that you almost needed a bath after eating one. And they made me think back nine years….

In the summer of 2002, I was in the early phases of my chemo for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and feeling pretty ill most of the time. I could stomach some meat but mostly starchy foods – cereal, rice, soup, and so forth. I could not eat fruit or vegetables, despite my normal love of them, most of the time without immediately wanting to hurl. After trying a few times, I just realized that fruits and vegetables were not going to be part of my diet. I wondered if they would ever taste good again.

Then one July day, one I remember so clearly, I had been off chemo an extra week because it had made me so sick I got hospitalized. So my oncologist gave me the additional week to try to regain some strength. And this particular day, I was in the kitchen, and I looked at these peaches that had ripened nicely, and I said to myself, “You know, I am feeling pretty good. I wonder how one of these peaches would taste?” So I decided to find out.

I picked one up, sniffed it, and the smell did not seem sickening to me. I hesitated a second, and then bit into it. The juice ran down my chin. The taste, after such a bland diet for over a month, was incredible – like an explosion of deliciousness in my mouth! I almost felt like weeping with joy! I slowly savored every bite, licking the juice from my fingers, and then I ate another one. It was just as delicious. And it suddenly hit me.

It is the little things in life, whether we remember each of them or not, that make life worth living. The smile of a child as she wraps her hand in yours. A stolen kiss. A memorable meal. A family get-together. A wonderful book that you read. A gorgeous butterfly or bird. A walk in the woods. A beautiful piece of music that you heard. A conversation with a friend. A sweet, ripe, juicy peach.

Now, many of these moments are not going to be remembered in every detail the way I remember that peach of nine years ago, a peach that made me feel normal for a few minutes while I forgot how sick I was and how many hard times were yet to come. But trust me – with a few exceptions, these are the moments that have made your life what it is. They are the moments that make you, you. And you wouldn’t trade them for any amount of money.

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