Taking What Life Gives You: Living in the Moment
“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” Martin Luther
If I had known that my five-year-old would start throwing up at 8 o’clock this morning, I wouldn’t have spent the last three days worrying about it.
It all started on Wednesday night, or rather, Thursday morning early early – at 2am – when a light from the hallway bath streamed into our bedroom and woke both of us. What’s going on? I found my nine year old on his knees, retching and there the fun began.
Lots and lots of laundry. And me, running around with hand sanitizer and Lysol, determined Nightengale that I was, declaring that the buck stops here – must not let anyone else get sick (especially me).
He bounced back swiftly, as kids do so well, and I sanitized the house again as we re-started normal and enjoyed a busy Saturday. But I worried constantly.
I worried that the twinge in my belly was nausea. I worried that my five year old would throw up in his bed or on his floor (as the little ones love to do, and how would we get it off his brand new rug? On our way home from a birthday party he declared he was carsick. Oh no, it’s here! This is it! I leaped (so to speak, since I was driving) into action and ordered him to use his fire hat, a party favor, as a bowl if he needed to throw up. He was horrified at the suggestion.
By the time we arrived home, he was sound asleep, not sick. Merely exhausted from a long, fun day.
Sigh of relief and the worry began again.
I worried about missing work. I worried about letting people down while I tended to my family. I worried about exposing other people to our kids’ germs. I worried.
Well, now that what I worried so much about has actually happened, I guess it’s time to spend all that emotional energy on something else. Like being distressed over what I had actually planned to do today…
But then I read the 30th of 31 installments of a child’s life. Tomorrow is the end of the story and the end of a precious miracle of living and chosing joy. If you haven’t been following, writer and blogger Mary Tyler Mom, aka Sheila Quirke, chronicles the 31 months her daughter lived with brain cancer. It is a raw, honest, beautiful and heart-breaking story of choosing hope instead of despair.
“When all of this began so long ago and I first typed the words ‘choose hope,’ my guess is that most folks assumed the hope was for Donna’s cure. If I’m honest with myself, it probably was for a time, but as much as that mantra is for Donna, it was for me as well. To remind myself that hope comes in many forms and, more importantly, it is a frame of mind, a choice one makes. For so long, and to this day, it is the only way to live. Without hope, how would I wake up in the morning? Without hope, how do you continue to be with Donna, laughing and playing and so brightful, knowing that she will be gone much too damn soon?
As much as I hoped for a healthy Donna, there were other things I hoped, and still hope for. Hope to get through the day. Hope that there will be another day with Donna. Hope to find the joy in life. Hope to not become bitter or angry.
Hope to find a way to live with the cancer in our lives without it overtaking our lives. Hope to adopt a child, knowing that Donna would not be able to carry one herself due to treatment and to provide her with the knowledge that familes are made in all different ways. Hope that when Donna was uncomfortable or in pain, that it would be transitory and she would bounce back…
…The hopes change and continue to evolve, as they should. At the base of all of them, though, is that we, this family, whatever that may look like, will somehow survive. Some of the choices we’ve made along the way have pointed to this. Buying the larger home two years ago; pursuing the fancy pants preschool for Donna, a place we felt could nurture her smarts and spunk; welcoming [Mary Tyler Son], or ‘Little Fatty Chumpkin,’ as Miss D calls him; enrolling Donna in dance class and pursuing it despite relapse after relapse after relapse.
These have all been choices, conscious and deliberate choices, made in the face of cancer. These are our apple trees. And my latest hope is that these trees will sustain us when our world does go to pieces. That these trees will feed us and shade us and shelter us from the inevitable storms that will be.”
This beautiful toddler lived and thrived in the face of terminal cancer. Her parents, despite their worry and grief, chose hope instead of despair. Who am I to do otherwise with my meagre and paltry worries, wasting energy and wasting joy? For crying out loud, girl! Get a grip.