It unfolded over a few months. Dan would ask how my wife was doing, adding his cheers and encouragement -- in his sonorous voice -- with each new milestone I'd relate. The cancer hadn't spread, I told him. They had caught it early. My wife was starting chemotherapy. She probably wouldn't need a mastectomy. Everything, it turned out, turned out just fine.
Sometimes Dan would squeeze my arm. Once, we even hugged.
Gradually, as he knew I was up to it, Dan started telling me about how hard he and Becky both fought breast cancer, about how his love for her only grew, even as he knew he was going to lose her.
In her last days, Becky the life force was thin and frail, and Dan Olsen had to face a future he had planned with her, entirely without her.
On hearing his story over these chance encounters and promises that one day, we'd have coffee or a beer and really, just really, talk, I was able to answer a question I would still be asking had it not been for Dan.
Should I, heaven forbid, ever have to -- Would I, could I, ever get over the loss of the love of my life?
But I could go on, and I would live. And if I could be anything like Dan Olsen, I could do it all with dignity and grace.