“Please, Mom, come sooner rather than later.”


It’s an email from my daughter Katheryn in England, a continent and an ocean away – Katheryn, who, three weeks ago, was given a diagnosis of breast cancer, stage two. She was told that she needed mastectomy surgery to save her life. It would likely be scheduled in the next month. “Please come sooner rather than later.”


I had begun searching through flight options when my housemate asked, “Is your passport current?”


Oops. It had expired in February of this year.


Go online, find the form, fill out the form, check the box for “expedite” (which guarantees three-week delivery instead of five or six) and add another $60 “expedite fee” to the total on my check. Find a place on Whidbey Island that does instant passport photos. Put everything, along with my expired passport, into an envelope with priority postage guaranteeing delivery at the Philadelphia Expedited Passport office on Monday morning. Hand it all to the postal clerk before closing time on Friday afternoon. Whew!


Then on Saturday morning I got a call. New tests had caused Katheryn’s docs to speed up the timetable. Surgery was now scheduled for the coming Friday.


Now what? I wouldn’t have a passport for another three weeks. A friend suggested I call my Congressman to see if he could help. Yeah, sure, I thought. Equating “Congress” with “help” is not likely these days. Nevertheless, I called the local office of Congressman Rick Larsen early Monday morning. I spoke with a staff person, Jamie, who listened patiently to my story, including the part about how my expired passport and all my info was now somewhere in the bowels of a bureaucratic office in Pennsylvania. She agreed to make some calls on my behalf, and would call me back. I remained skeptical.


The short version of the rest of my passport story is this: Jamie reached a congressional liaison in the passport offices; he okayed the emergency nature of my passport request and alerted the reception clerk in the Seattle Passport Office that I would be coming in on Wednesday morning. When I arrived the clerk (and his computer) located my paperwork in Philadelphia, including my check and my expired passport. The several clerks who worked with me did not fit my perception of “bureaucrat” at all – they were alert, kind, efficient, and respectful. I watched as they patiently moved many dozens of citizens through a streamlined system of service that did not feel at all like the stockyard feedlot I had expected. In less than an hour I was called back to Window Number Three, and was asked to return to the passport office at 2:00 that afternoon. By 2:30 I had a brand new, very expedited, valid passport in my hand.


When I went back to the reception clerk to thank him for all he and the others had done for me, I told him I would never (well, not for a long while, anyway) disparage “government bureaucracy” again!


Now: get those airline tickets, and get to England to be with my daughter.

19 replies
  1. Starr Rohrman
    Starr Rohrman says:

    Happy to hear Congress came to your rescue at such a crucial time in the life of you and your daughter and that you were able to get to your daughter quickly. Hard to know what to say at such a time as I have a daughter of my own and can imagine your anguish and hers. Wishing, with all my heart, for a good outcome for you both. Mommas are strong medicine.

  2. Fenna diephuis
    Fenna diephuis says:

    Wonderful story Cynthia! I’m thinking of Byron Katie’s wisdom: “Reality is so much kinder that the stories we make up about it.” Blessings as you bring your healing Presence to your Kathryn durning this difficult time! I give you both my best.

  3. Val
    Val says:

    Prayers sent out to all!PASSing to a new PORTalS of mother-daughter, daughter’s diagnosis and recovery and healing – body, mind and soul, all the medical, today and future life questions, silence, prayer and the cloud of witnesses and community praying for you all. Abundant blessings of peace, Val

  4. Mary Quick
    Mary Quick says:

    Prayers from Indiana. For many things including safe travels, strong wise doctors, better news after surgery, and blessings in this time.

    Please keep us posted, and give Katheryn hugs from me.

  5. gary
    gary says:

    Cynthia – I have a story to share at some other time. For now travel safely and may your daughter have healing and comfort through this ordeal.

  6. Alison Heins
    Alison Heins says:

    This takes my breath away! How the “universe” lines up on our behalf! I am sorry for the news, but this will be an Important Healing Journey in many ways. Take it all in, as I know you will. Safe travels, dear one! Please give my love to Kathryn.

  7. Johnny Palka
    Johnny Palka says:

    It’s a wonderful story, Cynthia. May Kathryn’s story turn out equally well! As for bureaucracy, my own interactions with it have generally been good ones. And let’s not forget that teachers, firefighters, EMTs, police, and many others – even people like me who are professors at state institutions – are also government employees who, for the most part, try to do the best job they possibly can.

  8. Charmaine Kulczyk
    Charmaine Kulczyk says:

    Dear Cynthia prayers go with you, and continue for Katheryn & Orion. Godspeed. With the healing embrace of love always.

  9. ann Linnea
    ann Linnea says:

    Dear Friend,
    Go safely and well. Deep prayers for Katheryn and Orion. So good to hear a good news story in the midst of this scary moment in your life.

  10. Ted Falcon
    Ted Falcon says:

    Great! I had a similar experience working with Jim McDermott’s office some years ago. A story for another time. Blessings to you, and blessings to your daughter. Let me know when you are returning. You and your daughter are held in Light always.

  11. Joal bydalek
    Joal bydalek says:

    So sorry to hear the news about Katheryn. Please remind her that I am a twenty year survivor of agressive stage two carcinoma in the breast. Even though chemo is rough, she should think about it. However, if she can have radiation, which I couldn’t, that would be the first choice, I think. She will know so much more after surgery. Please feel free to call me any time. I am working from four until ten thirty EST week days. I love you both and will pray for a successful outcome!. I have never actually met Orion, but would be happy to talk with him if you thought it would help. Do you have face time on your computer? I have it on my I pad . Just an idea.

  12. Chris Schacker
    Chris Schacker says:

    Travel safely, my friend, both inside and out. May your daughter be well and know she has a wonderful Mom.


  13. christina b
    christina b says:

    Thank you for this way to clue us into your situation and allow so many folks to stand at your back in this time. Blessings to you, Katheryn, and Orion.

  14. Lynn Willeford
    Lynn Willeford says:

    Those people in the Seattle passport office were great to us too when we realized our passports had expired a week before heading out of the country. And it’s good to hear that the staffers at Congressional home offices are still doing such a great job. My grandmother had that job in NY for many years before she took on her own political office and I always imagined her treating the constituents as well as she treated us. Good luck on your journey, Cynthia, and to your daughter.

  15. Barbara Joy
    Barbara Joy says:

    Blessings Cynthia, for you and for your daughter, and for all those known and unknown who are supporting her in a return to full and perfect health.


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