It was just a pie. Bursting at the seams, towering high. Under normal circumstances, my brain would have screamed, “Run – a bite of this will stick to your hips forever!” But normal had gone away.

It wasn’t just a pie. It was given to my husband at work to give to me. His colleagues knew his wife was fighting cancer, and someone thought I should have a pie. I don’t know who was the giver. All I know is, this pie came when I needed it the most.

Mike brought it home, and I looked at it suspiciously. I was nearing the end of months of chemo, and its cumulative effect was harsh. Food was no longer my friend. But here was this pie.

The crust was golden and clearly homemade, its imperfections evidence that the baker had taken care over each ridge and indentation. There was time and effort – and more – invested in this pie. Mike brought me a small slice. I was huddled under a couple of afghans. I was always cold now.

There was chocolate under peanut butter under whipped cream, and more chocolate drizzled over everything. It was beautiful.

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I took a hesitant bite. It was a bite of heaven: the creamy layers didn’t sting the layer of sores in my mouth. It was soft, so I didn’t need to chew much, which was good, because even my teeth hurt. Chemo made everything taste metallic, so my taste buds did not respond… but my memory cells did, and there was joy in knowing I was eating something that was once something good. And it stayed down!

That pie fed me for days. I would cut a sliver in the morning (cancer has no rules), get through it in a few hours, and repeat the process periodically. Its nourishment carried me past the last of the chemo: the calories sustained my beat-up body, and the gifting built up my shaken soul.

That pie feeds me still. Because it meant that someone I didn’t even know heard I was hurting and did something to help; the strength that comes from being on the receiving end of something like that, completely unexpected, is indescribable.

Throughout my cancer journey I experienced incredible support from family and friends, and I discovered one of the many positive side effects of the disease: cancer bound our family together even more tightly, it made family out of friends, it gave me a formidable team for my fight. Without them I would have probably lost both my mind and the war. And that support continues, because cancer doesn’t actually ever end.

But this pie was a different thing. This was from someone unknown, so that someone also did not know me, had no idea if I was a good person, if we had anything in common, if we would have been friends had we crossed paths. The only thing we shared with any certainty was our humanity, and what united us at that point in time was cancer. It wasn’t necessary for me to deserve a pie, and nothing was necessary to the giver beyond the giving. That pie was a glimpse into heaven.

Ever since, I look at people I don’t know and I think, could this be the one who made me that pie? Or made a pie for someone like me? Or might one day make a pie for someone like me? Or do something as wonderful as that?

How can I adequately thank someone unknown for something that strengthened my faith in the universe, reaffirmed my belief that there is good in every single person, bolstered my conviction that there is the potential for good in everyone?

There is no such thing as just a pie. Or just a ride to a doctor’s appointment. Or just a card. Or just a cup of coffee together. Or just sitting silently with someone during chemo. No act of kindness, of caring, of compassion, is ever small or insignificant - or even random - but holds within it the power to change lives.

It was much more than a pie. It was almost 10 years ago. And my heart is still bursting with thanksgiving.