My friend called me early this morning. A few minutes ago actually. Her mom is sick. Really sick. She is young and beautiful, with three grown kids, a one year old grandson and a husband who has woken up everyday since the day they met like he just won the lottery again. He adores her like nothing I’ve ever seen before. She is easy to adore.

She has cancer and has been fighting it for years now. This last week things turned again and she was in the ICU for days, up one level for a few more and is finally going home today. She is going home right now to try her “last ditch effort”, my friend said, with a new batch of chemo called Carboplatinum. I told Zoe that it sounds more like a hair color than a potential life saver and that she should check the box. Zoe said, “The irony never stops. This stuff will make sure my mom never has hair again.”

To be clear here, this friend that just called isn’t just a friend. Zoe was my first real friend, best friend, someone I have in my entire life’s gallery of memory. We have been friends for my forever.

And to be clear here, Zoe’s mom is not just a mom of a friend of mine. She was a family for me growing up. The family that didn’t get divorced, the family that ate tostadas for dinner on most Friday’s because it was fun and they all loved them. When I was over, which was a lot of Fridays, we would eat tostadas in front of the tv together on these cool fold out trays and talk and laugh with each other during the shows. This was my family with two older brothers who taught Zoe and me how to skateboard, how to spit, how to skip to level three on Super Mario Brothers and who took us (reluctantly) to our first rock concert. This was my family where you caught the mom and dad kissing anytime you walked into the kitchen. This was the mom who made the perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich on Wonder Bread because she knew how much we loved that awful bread. This was the only other mom, besides my own, who could fix my hair the right way. This was the only other mom, besides my own, that could kiss a boo-boo and actually make it better with that kiss. This is the family, to this day, with an always open front door, with an infinite supply of Rollo’s and tortilla chips , out on the coffee table, fresh and ready to eat, ready to chat, any time, any day, always.

Zoe’s mom is gorgeous (the knock your socks off kind), graceful, witty, charming as it gets, and just plain fun to be around. She exudes beauty and happiness and her laugh will make your tummy tickle every single time. And when she starts firing off questions at you, like she loves to and will do every time she sees you, somehow, all of the answers require nothing more than you saying something good about yourself and your life. Zoe’s mom is a remarkable woman, in such a complicated and brilliant way that it makes everything I have to say about her sound like a massive descriptive injustice. But I’m trying anyway.

I’ve only prayed one other time in my life. The kind of praying where you fold your hands and look up to the sky and start things off with, “God? It’s me. Jesse.” I was in high school and I was sick. I was stuck in an MRI tube when I started talking to a very standard, Christian version of God. I promised him that I would quit smoking and try to be nicer to my brother (I followed through on both, give or take a few weak moments with the brother). It was all I could think of to offer in return for my well being. Funny what you come up with when it’s time to bargain with God. If you ever have before, you know what I mean, and if you haven’t, count those blessings of yours. Anyway, I really don’t believe in that God and didn’t then either, but when I was a few tests away from either being diagnosed ok or not the What-If potentials around religion started to run ramped.

I believe in energy. Ironically, this is something I have had quite a rocky relationship with. But I believe in it most of all. And I would go into detail here about my belief in energy but it is really that vague and uncomplicated. (I also believe that whatever it is that we all believe, we should really consider leaving some wiggle room in there, so not to get too blindsided, and to have room ready, when bits of truth start to surface… but that sounds a bit preachy, so I’ll stop there.)

Zoe would tell you she believes in dinosaurs, but enjoys talking to folks that don’t. I like that a lot.

The last thing Zoe said before she got off the phone with me a few minutes ago, to go into the hospital to pick up her mom was, “Pray for my mom today. Meditate on this Carboplatinum stuff making her better.”

I have this heavy feeling inside that this is the all-or-nothing hand that is being dealt to Zoe’s mom today, and I don’t know why and it is breaking me inside. So, I’m stuck, with my hands struggling to figure out if they should fold together or not, as I pray for the second time in my life, with all of my might, to Carboplatinum and to every What-If there is.