Life can be challanging

Life is truly challenging. One day everything is fine and the next…who knows? My daughter has ILC breast cancer. This type of breast cancer only shows up in 10% of people and doesn’t usually show up on a mammogram. It is frequently found by feeling a lump. It can also be difficult to treat.

ILC or Lobular breast cancer was only defined as a different cancer in 2012 and now research is being done on how it can best be treated. It has some things in common with lung cancer and a study is being done in Britain using the newest lung cancer med as a treatment.

Enough said about the disease itself. For me the hard part is watching my child go through all of this. Like most people I want to die before my children. I know this is not always possible but I don’t want to watch their pain. I think most parents feel this way.

During my time working as a nurse in pediatrics I saw parents struggling with the pain of having a seriously sick child. Losing a child has to be excruciating.

My daughter has a good prognosis but the journey changes your life forever, No more going blithely through each day. Even after treatment has had good results there is only remission…not cure. Learning to live with this reality is hard. I would take it from her if I could.

She is a positive person and is adjusting to this new world but I am having difficulty. I am a mother and want only the best for my children. Life is not perfect and we all have to live with that reality. Sometimes it is just not easy.

Grief is linked to joy

It is difficult to explain what I am experiencing so that it makes sense. My thoughts have been going in many directions lately. I have revisited so many scenes from my past. A video has been running in my head most of the time. Visiting the past is becoming a big part of my grief process. The moments when life was so wonderful pop up and bring me both joy and pain. It reminds me of the idea that when dying we see our life pass before us.

When I lost my husband my focus was on losing his present person. Missing him day to day was front and center. Things to do took precedence and I would wake each day with the nagging feeling that there was something I was forgetting to do. Just the normal routine of living had disappeared.

Now that I am mostly settled in my apartment and have a new daily routine I guess it frees my mind up to explore the things that made our years together so amazing. Now I can bear to immerse myself in the times that bring my grief to the surface. I am more able to endure the pain so that I can also feel the love and joy.

The wave

I love C.S. Lewis. His books have inspired me for many years. Today I came across this quote from his book “A Grief Observed.”

I don’t think I had thought about grief in this way but it is so true. I have been washed in fear. Not constantly but over and over. Just when I think it has disappeared it comes again and overwhelms me.

It makes me wonder why fear? What am I afraid of? There is no clear answer. Some things can be seen such as being alone but others are not so obvious. Most of the obvious ones have been dealt with…finances, paperwork, moving, but still the wave comes.

Each time I can feel it tugging at me…wanting to pull me under but then it subsides. Each time it is possible that the pull is less strong but not enough to really feel.

Time will pass. The wave will someday bring memories of love and joy and the fear will recede. I only pray that it continues to lessen with fear and increase with love.

Powerless and more

So much has happened in the last few weeks that I have been unable to compose any posts. My mind has been unable to settle enough. After the week of absorbing my daughter’s breast cancer diagnosis Austin was hit by a winter storm that not only shut down power but decimated the city’s ability to provide water. My daughter’s home had power the whole time but still has no water. We are tired, thirsty and smelly. On Wednesday we moved from our apartment that had no power and only moments after getting my husband settled he died from what we believe was a heart attack. We are overwhelmed. This morning I read this poem in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Prayers from Prison” and found great solace from the words of the last two verses of the poem “Joy and Sorrow.” I place them here for your reflection. I know I will read them often.

“What then is Joy? What then is Sorrow?
Time alone can decide between them,
when the immediate poignant happening
lengthens out to continuous wearisome suffering;
when the labored creeping moments of daylight
slowly uncover the fullness of our disaster
Sorrow’s unmistakable features. Then do most of our kind
sated, if only by the monotony
of unrelieved unhappiness,
turn away from the drama, disillusioned,
uncompassionate.

o ye mothers, and loved ones-then, ah, then
comes your hour, the hour for true devotion.
Then your hour comes, ye friends and brothers!
Loyal hearts can change the face of Sorrow,
softly encircle it with love’s most gentle unearthly radiance.”

Love just grows

“I have found the paradox. That if you love until it hurts there can be no more hurt. Only more love.” Mother Theresa

To love is a risk. We open ourselves to being hurt. It is scary. Most or us have been hurt at some time and we remember the experience. However, the alternative is to not take the chance and miss out on some of the most wonderful thing in our lives. The truth is that love and loss are part of life. None of us lives forever. Loss is inevitable whether from a death or someone leaving us. Relationships are tricky things and hurts are part of how we learn. The more love we give away the more love we have. Love doesn’t decrease but grows the more we share it.

Don’t be afraid to take a chance. Sharing love is so important that it can’t afford to be missed.

What to do?

I have been reading the most amazing book. It is The Choice by Dr. Edith Eva Eger. She is a psychologist and survivor of Auschwitz. For part of the book she tells her story as a lead in to the things she has learned since and how our choices frame our lives. She begins with this statement: “It took me many decades to discover that I could come at my life with a different question. Not: Why did I live? But: What is mine to do with the life I have been given?”

This is a question that I have struggled with for a long time. At 80 years of age I am not sure that I have the answers yet but I have made progress. Over the years I have realized that most of my purpose is to do this as much as I am able to help others. There are so many who have never had a chance to experience understanding and acceptance which for me are part of loving. Being present for others in a real way is important to me. Covid has made this difficult and it has been hard on me not to be physically present.

I can’t think of anything more important than to be there…present, open and accepting when needed. I wish that everyone could see love and caring as an answer to so many issues infecting our lives. Spread love, hope, kindness and acceptance. It could change everything.

Comfort

resting

This is Tillie. Tillie knows how to relax. She is trying to teach me the same thing. Look at her. Don’t you wish you could rest like that…not a worry in the world. But that is now. Tillie is a rescue. We don’t know what happened to her before but we do know how she is now. She has shaken the past away and now rests without fear. She is calm and is still trying to teach me that I can relax and the world will continue.

The hero in my life

I want to write about my husband. He graduated from West Point in 1962. It was shortly after that there was war in Viet Nam. I won’t comment on that war except to talk about my husband. He went there for the first time about 1967. At that time he was a Captain and was assigned to be a company commander. To this day he talks little about his time there other than the moments that were amusing in some way or good stories to tell. He has never talked about the other side. Thankfully he did not have PTSD although I’m sure there were times when all that he experienced he felt deeply. He did come home with malaria and still has attacks of it to this day. He has never talked with his children or grandchildren about those days. As we prepare to move things have been pulled out of closets and they discovered that their father has 5 bronze stars for valor. To read the commendations fills me with pride and love. When he returned from his first posting I received a letter from the men in his company sending us money they collected for us to go out to dinner. The letter said that he was the reason they were still alive and that he was the best company commander they had ever seen. He deserved that and it meant more than any other accolade. He did have to go back for a second time and worked with the The Montagnard people who are the indigenous peoples of the Central Highlands of Vietnam. He loved these people and brought home some of the weaving the women did. This is a bracelet much like the one I have.
I still wear this
They were given as a symbol of respect and friendship. He was made a member of the group he worked with which required him to drink their version of an alcoholic beverage which he said he barely got down. He respected them greatly. He has always followed the traits learned at West Point of Duty, Honor, Country and always will. He expects people to behave with integrity and be truthful. The many times he is disappointed he accepts the ways of the world and moves on. I am proud of his life and he will continue following those things he learned at West Point for the rest of his life.

How love lives

Being very close to 80 and having spent 58 years with my husband has somehow reminded me of the writings of Kahlil Jibran. His discourse on how to live together is the way I feel that my husband and I have been through the years. I love this from The Prophet.

Let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together, yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.