For this special edition of Sound Effect, the theme is “Small Miracles,” tales from our live storytelling event. Host Gabriel Spitzer recounts his brush with death after years of humiliation in swim class. Ty Reed recalls how a random encounter saved his life after he fell into homelessness and addiction. Cindy Healy is moved to tears seeing a special spacecraft in a Matt Damon movie. Queen Mae Butters remembers a powerful friendship formed at the end of her hospice patient’s life. And Paul Currington learns to breathe through the smoke of his past.
SINK OR SWIM
It’s 1985, and little 8-year-old Gabe is shivering on the tile floor next to Jewish Community Center swimming pool in Canton, Ohio. After wrapping up his “Advanced Beginners” swim class, he lined up with the other kids awaiting our Red Cross cards. That card would be my ticket to the next class: Intermediate.
The instructor came down the line and, when she handed me my card, it did not say “Intermediate” — it said “Advanced Beginners.” It appeared I would not be advancing at all.
I repeated the class. And again I flunked. And again. I’d take the Advanced Beginners class four, possibly five times.
So as soon as I was able, I retired from swimming — at least until college. Gabe shares his story about a brush with death.
By his own account, Ty Reed is gainfully employed, has the love of his friends and family, and is a productive member of society. But less than five years ago, he went from being a successful mortgage professional to “a down and out homeless person.”
One day, in the summer of 2015, it all seemed too much. Ty found himself alone in a hotel room and a feeling of desperation and loneliness started to wash over him. That's when he started to form a plan to end his life. Hear how he tried to carry out his plan, and how it was thwarted.
It may have not completely hit Cindy Healy, a former NASA engineer, until she was sitting in the theater watching the Matt Damon movie, "The Martian." Wiping away tears, she leaned over to her son and whispered “that’s my spacecraft.”
Getting the Pathfinder to Mars didn’t come without challenges. The budget was minimal. Some people involved didn't even want to work on it, because something that had such a slim chance of actually making it might ruin their careers.
But Cindy didn't back down. Listen to this story about her role in completing an out-of-this-world mission.
Queen Mae Butters was panting her way up six flights of stairs, just about ready to turn around and find someone else to take the job. "Then I hear Rose's twangy New York accent encourage me from above: 'You're going to make it nurse! You're almost here! Keep climbing!'" she said.
Rose had been diagnosed with liver cancer, refused treatment, and was given two months to live. Between the minutiae of daily care, Queen Mae Butters learned about parts of Rose's life she wasn't around for.
Listen to this story about an unexpected friendship and one of the hardest parts about working in hospice care: saying goodbye.
SMOKE OF THE PAST
Sitting in an emergency room, trying to catch his breath, Paul Currington had one thought playing over and over in his mind: “Please, God, please don’t let my last thoughts on Earth be of my mother.”
They weren’t his last thoughts, especially of his mother — a woman with a volcanic temper, he says, who always was enveloped in smoke. Paul shares his story, which spans decades, about the cancer that took his mom’s life, his feelings about her in the years that followed, and learning something unexpected about an ever-present voice when he struggled in the times he struggled to catch his breath.