In early 2008, I interviewed Pastor Scott Piper, the pastor of Kuna Baptist Church, who lost his wife, Julie, to cancer, leaving Scott with their seven daughters and the church in the middle of a new building project. We went to El Gallo Giro to do the interview over lunch, sitting at a table near the front, where all comers and goers would walk past us (big mistake).
Over the course of lunch, Scott told me in detail the story of his wife, Julie Piper, how they met, how he came to be the pastor of Kuna Baptist Church, how they raised seven daughters and then how Julie became fatigued during a softball game, how she was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer, how she went through treatments and “how poised, quietly confident, elegant she remained through it all.”
Scott broke down several times, such as the time he told me that they reluctantly decided to go through with cancer treatments “so the girls would know their mother tried to be with them as long as possible.”
I did my best to keep it together. The last thing I wanted to do was to break down and cry in the middle of an interview. But thoughts of my own cancer diagnosis and the thought of leaving my own children tugged at my heart. And seeing how difficult it was, still, for Scott pushed me close to the verge of tears many times during our interview.
My final breaking point came when I asked him how the girls were handling things, and Scott told me the story of when his 3-year-old daughter was leaving their house out the back door one day, stopped, came back in, closed the door and turned to her father.
“I’ve been meaning to ask you something,” she said to him. “When is Mommy coming back? I miss my Mommy.”
That was it.
That was enough to make two grown men sitting across the table from each other at a popular Mexican restaurant break down into fits of uncontrollable tears.
Unfortunately, that was the exact time that the local director of the Better Business Bureau happened to be walking by our table and decided to introduce himself.
I’m not sure exactly what I looked like, but I did my best to compose myself and wipe my face with my napkin. Perhaps he thought I had eaten something spicy, for he paused only briefly to ask me if I would be interested in running a column about avoiding scams.
I was still choked up, but I managed to give him my card and asked him to call my office or send me an email later. He looked over at my lunch companion and realized he had walked in on something he shouldn’t have. I can only imagine what he must have thought our discussion was about.