Two Words Column that Started Everything

This is the column I wrote that generated the response that caused me to think of the concept of Two Words. I hope you enjoy.

The two best words in the English language

Suppose you could only hear two words. Which one solitary phrase would you prefer?

When I was fresh and young and waited anxiously to be “Grown Up“; days extended for weeks, years fossilized agonizingly into forevers, and the sight of shiny, wrapped, sparkling presents covering the kitchen table, illuminated by the glow of candles on a brightly colored cake, brought two joyful words: “Happy Birthday.”

Years paraded onward until hours were crammed with binders, book covers, and ballpoint pens. Forcing my head from the soft pillow each weekday morning via the nasty braying of an alarm, I stared impatiently at the oversized, featureless, inhumane, institutional school clock as it clunked sloth-like, minute by minute, until the end of my annual imprisonment. I longed to fill my ears with the sounds of: “Summer Vacation.”

The phrases that bring joy change with life’s seasons. Education’s victory lap culminates in “College Graduate.” Career searches terminate with the contracted: “You’re Hired.”

Expressions of elation come from all places. Upon ratcheting up my courage enough to ask her to share her life, my love blessed me with, “I Will,” which became – declared in front of friends and family – “I Do.”

Children came forth and the doctor greeted us with, “Perfectly Healthy.” And as grown men, I remain burst-your-buttons proud of “My Sons.”

So much emotion; so few syllables.

Earlier this year, my 47-year old brother-in-law – more brother to me than in-law – went for a “Routine Procedure.” Without forewarning two words unalterably stabbed through his life, “Rectal Cancer.” Two more followed thereafter: “Stage Three.”

Our family has felt like it has been in free-fall since that time, “Complete Upheaval.” He, my sister, and their nine-year old, intelligent, loquacious, spirited son, have had their lives put “On Hold.” From far away, I have followed their path and hoped, wanting to do more. “Feeling Powerless.” “Very frightened.” “Praying hard.”

With “Unbearable Anticipation,” I answered a phone call to hear the results of the surgery to remove his tumor and rid his liver of a lesion. She was his rock, facing her own fears, to “Be Strong” “For Him.”

“How is he?” I asked.

“The doctors said it went real well. He’s got a long road of healing – and, of course, it could come back – but they got everything! He’s cancer free!”

She laughed, a blast of long-held tension pouring out from within. So did I. It began as a self-conscious chuckle; a slight, faint trickle of happiness. Reinforced by the doctor’s words as they slowly began to sink in, the joy and laughter merged to become a wild, freewheeling, uninhibited torrent of jubilation pouring forth from an inner place that once again dared look forward to tomorrow. Laughter, tears of joy, oft times interrupted with two words, repeated endlessly, as if what the doctor said would vanish if not restated: “Cancer Free.” “Cancer Free.” “Cancer Free.”

There is light again.

Thank God.”


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