2012 Fall Conference Speaker, Rev. Debra Jarvis: Speaks (part one)

On Saturday, September 29th 2012, Living Beyond Breast Cancer will host the Annual Fall Conference at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel. Women from all over the country will join us for presentations on a plethora of topics, ranging  on tops from “Long Term Survivorship” and “Newly Diagnosed,” to “Care for the Caregiver” and “Navigating Health Insurance Claims.”  Today, the LBBC Blog is happy to introduce Reverend Debra Jarvis, our closing plenary speaker at this year’s event, as she shares the beautiful story of her “Last Supper.”

It was four days before my first chemotherapy and the impending taste bud destruction. For my “Last Supper” I chose Lola, a modern Greek restaurant in Seattle. That means you can get grilled octopus and dolmades, but you can also get high-tech martinis and wild Pacific prawns.

Our server was young and beautiful and her dark hair was rinsed cherry red. She cheerily explained the specials and asked if we had any questions. Having just had a mastectomy, all I could think was, “Have you had your mammogram?”

Instead I blurted out, “Of all the restaurants in Seattle, this is the one I chose for my last meal before chemo.”

She blinked for a few moments and then smiled and said, “I’m so glad you chose to come here.”

I chose goat; cider braised with honeycrisp apples, roasted shallots, and celery salad. It was divine and I say that as an ordained minister and experienced foodie.

Our awareness that this was our last dinner out before six months of unknown chemo side-effects made every bite, sip, scent and sound sublime.

“This is the best dinner I’ve ever eaten,” I said holding hands across the table with Wes. He could only nod since his mouth was filled with chickpea fries, but I saw his eyes well up.

Our server came back to ask if we wanted dessert. “Just the check,” Wes answered.

She gave us a big smile and said, “You’re welcome to pay next time you come in. This one is on the house.”
We didn’t leave for another twenty minutes because we couldn’t stop crying.
On my two year end-of-chemo anniversary I said to Wes, “Let’s go to Lola!”
I made the reservations and then, after a moment’s hesitation, told the hostess our experience from two years before. “I know it’s crazy,” I said. “But is she still there? She had cherry red hair.”

“Hold on.” I was on hold for a few moments and then someone picked up.

“I remember you,” the voice said.

It was her—Sabrina our server who is now a manager! We were coming in Friday night the only night she was there. Coincidence? I think not!

We were a party of six and Sabrina bought our appetizers and desserts. I gave her a copy of It’s Not About the Hair. Bathed in gratitude, we ate, we drank, we laughed. The goat was as delicious as I remembered.

Before we left I hugged Sabrina and said, “You just don’t know how many times I’ve told that story of my Last Supper.”

“I’ve told the story too!” she said. “I understand about the eating because my mom had chemo.”

I was stunned. “Gosh,” I said. “I didn’t realize that. How is your mom doing?”

She hesitated a moment. “She died—when I was little. But I still remember.”

I gave her another longer hug. Clearly, in the few years they were together, her mother had taught her about love.

No wonder that night had felt like the Last Supper:

Do this in remembrance of me.

And she had.

Debra Jarvis, “the irreverent reverend with something to say,” is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. She is the author of several books, most recently It’s Not About the Hair: And Other Certainties of Life & Cancer (Sasquatch Books, 2007) which was finalist for the 2009 Washington State Book Awards.  For more information on her work or her writing, visit her website. Visit the LBBC Events page for further registration information on the 2012 Annual Fall Conference.

4 thoughts on “2012 Fall Conference Speaker, Rev. Debra Jarvis: Speaks (part one)

  1. Oh my goodness, this is such a touching story. I’m so glad you were able to reconnect with the cherry-haired server, and two years later you are out in celebration with a group of people who love you. It’s just incredible what a little consideration and compassion can do for both giver and recipient.

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