Friday, January 20, 2012

Mets Hero Gary Carter Gave Us Hope in a Dark Hour

Cruel Ironies of Life

Gary Carter’s brain tumor is spreading and it breaks my heart. I never met him, but for a few hours in October of 1986, he changed my world from a dark, serious cave of grief from which I saw no exit to one of light and hope.
October 25, 1986: Where were you? Red Sox fans cannot forget and Mets fans cannot forget. When October 25, 1986 dawned, I was a fan of neither team. Baseball did not interest me a bit. The World Series? Something on TV to avoid.
However, when you’re sitting in a hospital room that is quiet, save for the breaths of your child who has a terminal illness, television is a welcome distraction. On that night, all I had to do was sit by my child’s side and continue to pray that a miracle would diminish the brain tumor that was stealing her life. My husband preferred the distraction of television.
Distraction, indeed. As game six of the World Series progressed on the TV in the hospital room, I watched him change from subdued to intent, to beside himself with anxiety, curled up like a spring twisted beyond its limits and ready to burst.
Why? That game on TV. As he became more intent, I began paying attention, too. The Mets were the underdogs, and the Red Sox were supposed to win—something about breaking a Curse. Ken was rooting for the Mets. Why? I don’t remember, but I figured they were as good a team as any, especially because Mets catcher Gary Carter lived in Palm Beach Gardens, a few miles north of us. I joined in, wanting to root for the Mets, but clearly seeing that their situation was as hopeless as the one in which we had existed for the preceding 16 months. As the final moments of the game ensued, I envisioned the Mets losing, just as we were losing, as Alexa’s life ebbed away in the bed beside me.
Red Sox fans who weren’t even alive on October 25, 1986, know what happened. I am not a baseball aficionado, but from my perspective, it went this way: The bases were loaded, there were two outs, two strikes, and as soon as Gary Carter struck out, the Red Sox would win the series. As Ken trembled and groaned, I said to myself, “The Mets are going to lose. I know they are,” and I felt that loss compound the greater loss we faced at that time.
Bill Buckner changed all that as he let Carter’s game-winning home run slide past his mitt, through his legs, and into World Series history.
Ken and I jumped up and clapped and cheered. We won! We won! We won something that we needed to win, something to diminish our grief, to put a temporary band-aid on the bigger game of life that wasn’t going to end the same way as the Series.

When life is darkest, a glimmer of hope can sustain us, can help us carry on, can help us meet the next challenge. We lost our next challenge on November 2, 1986, a short week later, as Alexa died in our arms. But for those short hours on October 25, 1986, we felt hope, we felt victory, we rejoiced. Because of that, I’ve always felt a special bond with Gary Carter and the Mets.
I had nothing to cheer about when I learned of Gary Carter’s illness several months ago. Irony is cruel. How can it be that the very brain tumor—glioblastoma—that robbed us of Alexa now threatens to rob us of Gary Carter? I don’t understand it. All I know is that it breaks my heart and because of October 25, 1986, I feel such personal grief, and I want Gary Carter to know how much he means to me, to Ken, and how he moved us away from dark and toward hope. I want to thank him and wish him God speed. I will continue to pray for Gary’s miracle.

The newspaper clipping is from The Palm Beach Post editorial page, late October 1986.
The photo of Alexa was taken a month or so before she died.
For the most recent (not very encouraging) news on Gary Carter's condition, please see:

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