Archives for category: grief and loss

(Oh I know, last week was the last one, but it just didn’t feel right ending/starting the year without one to grow on!)

It happens every year. 

As I start to put the Christmas stuff away, I find myself wondering what my life will be like next year when I take it out again. Today, as I held each little ornament or snowman in my hand for a moment before bubble wrapping him up, I thought to myself, “The next time this is in my hands, what my life will be like?” Being a bona fide Suzy Sunshine I almost always feel hopeful, so I imagine things like that perhaps by this time next year I will have found true love and a lifelong partner, perhaps I will be a published author, and my son will be happy in college. Somehow this forward thinking helps me shape my goals for the year, not so much as resolutions per se, but in defining what I want to make happen in the next year of my life.

Many a year throughout the holiday season, a particular lyric in the song, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas has resonated to my toes. The line is, “In a year our troubles will be far away.” Man, have I had some years that lyric just played over and over in my head and it seemed, was playing in every elevator and store I stepped into during the holiday season. I felt like God was reminding me that it would get better. Like say the year my husband walked out two weeks before Christmas, or say, the year I got diagnosed two weeks before Christmas. This year my life was even and good, so while the words didn’t pound in my ears like other years, I did see other people struggle during these holidays with family troubles and illness and such. This year, the song reminded me that the world is indeed fair, and that we all take our turn with that lyric for sure. And we can use that lyric to whine, or use it to instill hope and say. “Yes, the troubles will be far away, because I will make that happen.”

This practice of “envisioning” as I pack up the holiday stuff has served as a good exercise in establishing what I want and don’t want, what I need to eliminate and what I need to put effort into finding. It has also taught me a lot about what I wish for and understanding that God is in control of that.  Because each year when I unpack it all, I re-evaluate what I hoped my life would look like last year at this time, and almost always, it’s not like I envisioned; I never reconciled with my husband, I didn’t die of cancer. But almost always, it’s better than I could have dreamed.

My son and I giggled last week about how it would be nice if after life events and experiences, like the holidays, you could fill out a checklist and rate your experience. Handily checking off quantifiers like “met my expectations” or “exceeded my expectations.” He, being the statistical whiz that he is reminded me that however exceeding your expectations might not always denote a good thing. Another friend reminded me that expectations are planned failures. I dunno I think it goes both ways, I always expect the best and yes often do find myself disappointed…but I’d rather go through life expecting the best, than like Eeyore.

I prefer to think of it as thanking god for unanswered prayers.

I also drive my kids nuts as I get somewhat weepy too when packing up Christmas (and no not because it means the season of eating is over.) No, I weep when I think about how a few of the people and one dog I love oh so much are getting older. As I pack the stockings, I find myself wondering if a little paw print stocking will still be hung next year with care, and it makes me cry. But all the same, this practice pokes at me like the pine needles on the floor and makes me cognizant of the need to embrace every day with that person, or tripawd as be the case.

The year I got cancer, the packing away ritual was especially difficult and emotional. As I bubble wrapped my collection of Christmas kitsch, I only wondered, “Will  I be alive next year?” Would I ever unwrap this crocheted candle again, or would the task be done by tiny motherless hands?

Being thrifty, I am one to go out the day after Christmas and stockpile the usual suspects I know I will need for next year like wrapping paper, bows and those sorts of things. Occasionally in the post-Christmas shop, I come across some kind of deeply discounted Christmas decoration and I pick it up imagining how it will look on my mantle next year. In the days that followed that Christmas cancer diagnosis, I was in a store and came across this little five-inch tall concrete Santa. He fit solidly in my hand; his heft felt reassuring. He had a little divot in his Santa sack allowing a spot to put a votive candle, or perhaps a small red Christmas ball as he stood sentry on the porch steps for the holidays. I loved him, yet I vividly recall putting him down in the store thinking, “Why should I buy this; I may not even be here next year.” 

But eventually as with all things Lauren, several days later I climbed out of the catastrophic death spiral, getting a toe hold on the edge the canyon rim and hurling myself up over the edge onto steady ground.  I decided that if I didn’t believe in my future, no one else would, and certainly a number of cancer cells would be doing an end zone dance if I didn’t get on with it. 

So, while admittedly I didn’t buy wrapping paper, I went back and bought Santa. Curiously, I chose not to pack him away, perhaps unconsciously avoiding the internal talk of death in my head as he was rolled in bubble wrap. Instead, he stayed next to me on my desk all year. He was a sentry alright, a guard of a belief in a future, of belief in life and good things, and of belief that in a year my troubles would be far away. Until the next year, he solidly stood guard, seeming to onlookers with an empty pouch, but to me with a pouch full of expectations and a life ahead of me.

Go ahead everyone. Buy Santa. Expect the best. Make it happen.

Advertisements

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house,
This blogger was tired and so was her mouse!
The blogs of the year had been posted each week,
With the goal that 52 would end as the peak.

Yes, a goal had been hung, like a stocking with care,
A blog a week for a year, and she was quite nearly there!
“I’ll continue on,” she thought; but while all snug in her bed,
Visions of junior mints and a blog break danced in head!

Last January she came, dressed in pink from her head to her foot,
Her mind was from her cancer was all tarnished with soot!
When she started to write, old thoughts served to remind,
Of the icky days of old, but Oh! The gifts she would find!

When out of the blogosphere there arose such a clatter,
It seemed what she said, to lots made the matter!
So onto her laptop each week she flew open the sash,
And her WordPress publish button, she nervously mashed.

She said not a word, but went straight to her work,
Writing about PTSD, grief (and some really big jerks!)
For after five years, she had a head full of ideas and hair,
And the scars and the lessons of cancer to share. 

The keys of the keyboard; Oh! how they danced!
As the emotions of the big C trampled and pranced!
She wrote and she wrote of feelings both wise and quite fearful,
And a few posts about her wee ones, which made her quite tearful!

This new little blogger so lively and quick,
Knew in a moment, she was no longer sick!
Finding mirrors and perspectives alike in the blogosphere,
And humor, frustrations and commonly held fears.

And then in a twinkling she saw on her screen,
The comments of the bloggesses so sweet and serene.
New friends o’er the world were nestled all snug in their beds,
While Blue Geckos and Underbellies danced in their heads!

She made more friends than imagined (and all she quite fancies,)
Like Wendy, Katie, Marie and both of the Nancys.
Philippa, and Beth, and Brenda and again,
We mustn’t forget Jan, Terri, AnneMarie and Renn!

They giggled about chemo and “twang arm” and more,
And shared the experience of fear to your core.
They talked about thigh cancer and things lost and found,
And they shared cancerversarys, and how klunkers abound!

They shared their frustrations at finding a cure,
And found peace in numbers, of that I am sure!
They found new friends in the most extraordinary of places,
Like Yangon and Ireland, and lots with no voices or faces!

They talked about bedazzled bald heads and daisy dressed ports,
and they found in each other, a worldwide cohort!
They held virtual hands as “Captain Anxiety” danced in their heads,
And celebrated after those quite harrowing rechecks, the finding of NED!

But after working her goal of a year full of blogs,
She needed a break to refresh, from unleashing the clogs.
Yes her little chemo brain-brain needed a rest,
And she needed to cuddle her wee ones, in their little Who-nest.

And what to her wondering eyes should appear,
As she hit publish on this Christmas morning so dear?
As she glanced out from her laptop, while wishing for snow,
She looked back and saw, “Hurray! It’s your 52nd blog!” in the glow!

More rapid than Komen, all year the bloggers they’d came,
And she knew in her heart they’d continue the same!
So she rode out of sight shouting, “Carry on Y’all,
And blog away, blog away, blog away all!”

“On Philippa and Wendy, Annemarie and Renn
On Katie and Nancy, Beth, Terri and then,
Do you recall, the most famous blogger of all?
Marie the red-headed blogger; she led the blog ball!

For a month (maybe two) she’ll be gone but return,
With new blogs on life’s other travails, and fresh ideas to burn!
But for now laying a finger on her laptop to close,
A break from her blog, was the path that she chose.

As she hit “publish” today with a quiet Christmas morn’ tap,
She found her goal in her stocking, and settled for a long winter’s nap.
And she exclaimed with such love as she drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to y’all, and to all a good-night!”

 

Back soon,
xoxo 
Lauren

When all the noise is gone there is only God.  ~Author Unknown

 

This post was written the first Christmas after I had cancer; it still reminds me every year of what is important and and what is not.

 

See God does put us right where we need to be.

Yesterday was slammed for me and I still had yet to pick up the two CD players and the Yankees cap I needed to complete the list of my “angel tree kids.”  I was further frustrated as I planned to do the shop last night while Amelia carpooled to dance with another kid, and then she told me at the last-minute that surprise! It was parent’s night at dance and I was expected to go watch the practice and dance with her.

So off we race to Target at 4:45, trying to run in before dance with me wondering when in the world I would get to the specialty store at the mall for the Yankees cap.

We get to the CD player aisle to find the shelves COMPLETELY empty, I mean nada player to be found.  I couldn’t believe it.  Amelia says, “Just go ask the guy.”  Now when in Target have you ever gotten an answer other than “Sorry we’re out;” especially a week before Christmas?

So I find this kindly elderly black man, a Target employee at the end of the aisle. And I ask him about the two I want, a pink one for the girl and gold one for the boy.  He quietly scans the bar code of the empty shelf for the pink one and says, “Wait here, I’ll find it.” Off he goes, not to the stockroom mind you, but somewhere out of sight, and boom he comes back around the corner with one in his hand. Next, he scans the boy’s one, and again says, “Wait here” and he comes out not a half a minute later with the one I wanted in his hand.

I thanked him and said jokingly said, “Gee, you can’t make a Yankees ball cap appear can you?”  And he says, “Go over right next to the fitting room in men’s.” 

So Amelia and I start walking down that way and this HUGE spilling over the top filled cart comes out of the video gaming section and almost knocks into us. I mean it was filled to the brim with toys and games and clothes and food and a PSP. There was this little kid, like 7-year-old kid holding the side of it, absolutely dancing out of his skin; he was jumping up and down and an ear to ear grin. And with him is this crowd of adults laughing at his glee, and his mom, crying saying “Josh, this is just gonna be the best Christmas we ever had!” 

Turns out it was the Carolina Hurricanes Hockey team doing the charity shop with families.

Off Amelia and I wander, (very doubtfully mind you,) to the very far corner of men’s to find a small hat section we never even knew existed, and on the bottom shelf, there it sits; one Yankees cap.

 Go figure.

 And just like that, we remembered what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown.

And just like that, we understood what may seem like a bother or a chore to knock off our lists as we are busy living our own busy lives, may be an action that can affect the world exponentially, in ways we could not even imagine, unless it is put in front of us.

We remembered that steadfast and even believing in the impossible makes it possible.

I was reminded of what a privilege it is to be able to buy gifts for my kids at Christmas to start with, and what a gift it is to be able to give joy to other people’s kids. And how really, that is why God put us here; to take care of our brothers and that God always puts you exactly where you need to be when you need reminding.

Reminding of what a privilege it is that your kid is healthy and can dance, and you can watch and are alive to dance with her.

I’d like to believe that if I went back to Target today, and asked about the employee to find to him thank, they’d say, “M’am, we don’t have an elderly black man working here.” And then, when I went to men’s section, they’d say, “We don’t carry Yankees merchandise.”

I won’t test my theory though; I’ll just choose to believe in my angel.

“And that’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown” ~Linus Van Pelt

Years ago, then President Kennedy made a speech about the space program and our need to keep advancing it. He referred to the story of some little boys running through the green, green fields of Ireland and coming upon an orchard wall that seemed perhaps too high to climb. Instead of turning back the boys took their hats and threw them over the wall, and thus, then had to climb the wall to go get their hats; the toss leaving them with no choice but to go over the wall to retrieve their caps.

I have always been a throw my hat over the wall kind of girl. Sometimes it’s because I am just dying to know what’s on the other side, sometimes it’s just for the thrill of the climb. Being an eternal sunshiny optimist, I think it’s mostly because I believe that what is on the other side of the wall is not better than what I have, but something new and different and grand to experience. Mostly though, just like those little Irish boys the toss is made to force me to do something I thought I couldn’t do, to make something happen, to experience something that would not have had I not done so. Truth be told, I get a wee bit agitated when there are no walls to climb, my fingers itch and fidget with a cap in hand, and I start to actively search out walls when that happens. 

When we are making our way through our life and come across the cancer wall, I think that most of the time our oncologists and surgeons rip the cap out of our hand and toss it over the wall for us. They lay out their neat tactical plans of how we will scale the wall and give us visions of how 85 or 95 percent of the people have made it over, and how they are living life on the other side of the wall. We want to visit this magical and unbelievable land on the other side and really don’t have much choice but to go after our cap to cover our bald heads; then too, to go after it is infinitely better than staying on this side of the orchard wall, where things appear to be dying.

But after cancer, as we continue onward through the vast field that is our life, what do we do when we come upon a wall? Do we bemoan the fact that it is unfair, because we already had to climb the big wall o’ cancer? Do we even have the strength or gumption to climb anymore? I mean honestly what’s the use if we are gonna die while trying? Do we avoid walls altogether? Do we see it as a positive or negative? An adventure or labor? 

Cancer makes us hesitate. It makes us want to hold on to what we have and clutch tightly to our caps because well, we might need it to cover our bald noggin again sometime soon. Cancer makes us afraid to plan and take on new things. Throwing our hat over a wall feels like buying green bananas. Cancer eats zest. Cancer makes us afraid. Cancer makes us tentative and bit distrusting of planning for the future. Cancer makes us think the devil we know is better than the devil we don’t. In the months just after treatment is completed it is hard to believe there are better days ahead, it feels counterintuitive to trust that the ice is thick enough to skate out on and into our future.  

After five years, I prefer to look back at that time of caution and fear as a time when I was just resting and gathering my strength. I remember it now, with my sunshine spin, as a place where yes I may have taken the cap off and considered the toss but in the end held kept it in my hands as I sunk down with my back against that wall to as they say in the south, sit a spell.

But I can tell from my perch high atop of yet another wall, five years and a million walls out from cancer that once you catch your breath and no longer need that cap to cover your head, cancer becomes a catapult sailing you high over the wall and into life after. Cancer catapults both our caps, and us. Cancer makes us want to experience everything that is behind wall number one and two and three and four. Cancer in the end, makes us adept and easy hat tossers, and skilled climbers with a penchant for finding even higher walls. Cancer makes us grateful for the toil of the climb.

To move from a place of fear, from a place of clutching our caps to our chest to a place where we are making the toss we have to believe that the days ahead are better than the days behind us. We must believe we are capable of making the climb and will live to see the other side in order for us to throw. We must be willing to give up the status quo and the safety of what we know, for perhaps the devil we don’t (which may in fact, be a devil of a good time.) We must toss our hats over with glee and sense that an adventure beholds us, not a tragedy. We must be excited about the climb. But mostly we must actively find our own walls by beginning to move through life again. That is what life is all about Charlie Brown; making the run to kick over and over, even though the ball may get pulled out at the last minute.

A tad impulsive I am yes, and admittedly I have been known many a time to toss before I totally think it through. Sometimes I have created my own walls just so I can toss. But I have found that ninety-nine percent of the time the climb is worth it and that the sweat and toil of working toward a goal remind me I am alive. If I thought about it too long, I might not make the toss; cancer has given me the luxury of not having a lot of time to think about it.

Life is in the preparing to climb. Life is in the climb. Life feels like drawing the deepest of breaths when you are on top of the wall. Almost always, I find not greener pastures but my hat, and lots more life experiences to fill it with.

There are a million things that cancer took from me but two million more I have because cancer, many found on the other sides of walls I would have never thrown my hat over had it not been for cancer, and many found while making the climb.

And heck, I’d rather die while climbing a wall than die while standing at the bottom, anxiously peering at it, clutching my hat, trying to screw up the courage to make the toss. As Mr. Buffet says, “I’d rather die while I’m living than live while I’m dead.”

I didn’t survive cancer to just stand there. Neither did you.

Walls don’t come to us, we must go to them. As they say, ships in the harbour are safe, but that is not what ships are made for.

The prospect of a short life has made me to run gleefully to them, and throw my hat over the wall again, building my wings on the way down the other side.

Just not angel wings…not yet at least.

“One thing about trains: It doesn’t matter where they’re going. What matters is deciding to get on”

~The Polar Express

It was indeed a great Thanksgiving here at the ranch. The week started off with a grand gathering of all the people I love for our Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and then like a wide-angle lens zooming in, became more focused as I pulled my wee ones closer and closer, ending with just me and the kiddos doing oodles of fun things these last few days. Read the rest of this entry »

Once when Amelia was just a tiny little cutie pie (as opposed to the even bigger cutie pie that she is now,) I woke up to a sticky note on my bathroom mirror. It said in little kid printing, “Thank you for protekting me.” Read the rest of this entry »

I know this blog is supposed to be about breast cancer and its emotional life, but take second look-see at the top of the page, at the fine print part that reads, “and life’s other trevails.” (I know, the spelling is subject to question) Read the rest of this entry »

I’ve recently taken on this less than sparkly little habit of calling 2011 my Lost Year. Read the rest of this entry »

Pink.

Who knew such a benign and gentle hue could summon such strong emotions, and could wield such power? Read the rest of this entry »

Once, when Amelia was about three or four years old, she, Colton and I were driving along. The two of them were of course in the back seat and all of the sudden Amelia yells, “Who’s driving the car!?” In the seconds that I was trying to figure out what she meant, Colton chimed in and answered, “Mom is.  The person who has their hands on the big wheel up in front is the one who is driving the car.” Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: