I’m a good mom. I bet you are too. I care for my kids, I love my kids, I challenge them and help them grow into curious, creative, happy little children. In fact, I’ve been deliriously happy being their mom the past three years.
The hardest part about this cancer is dealing with the possibility that I might not beat it, that I might not survive to be their mama through their baby years, their preschool years, grade school, and beyond. That someone else would raise them, with only pictures and stories to tell them about the mama that loved them so much.
It’s hard for me to deal with these kinds of emotions and questions. Not “why me?” because, really, why NOT me?, but why God is allowing this to happen. Not to me. To them. I spent a lot of time last week wrestling with how, exactly, the God I know and trust could let my sweet, sweet babies grow up without a mama. Or with a sick mama. They’re little babies, after all, not even old enough to remember me pre-cancer.
And it’s been hard to write about. Hence the absence of content this weekend. But it’s getting better now. I’ve been thinking a lot about Browning’s poem again, and, really, Friday’s thoughts aren’t the end of the story.
In fact, it was hardly the beginning. The phrase “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,” had been whirling around in my mind for so long that I was desperate to find the poem, and to think on it a bit, and come to a resolution. But in this age of internet-ease, I found the poem too quickly, and in the excerpt I read (thinking it was but a short poem in its entirety), I only glimpsed a bit of what Browning intended.
The full poem Andrea del Sarto is so much more than that…
In the poem, the painter is wrestling with his gift, noting that he is pretty good at what he does, translating his vision to the canvas, and that his art is reasonably well-recieved. But he laments that he doesn’t have the soul of many artists who struggle to put paint on canvas in a way that is pleasing to the critics of the day. That he catches only glimpses of the heavens that they view and work to put on paper. He mourns what might-have-been, if only he could clearly see the heaven that others see and fail to fully represent.
And I’ve been thinking about the glimpses that I’ve seen of heaven, and what more I hope to see here on Earth if I’m permitted.
I’ve written before that I’m happy. That I’m content. That I’m secure in my view of self, and that I’ve left my SAHM/WAHM/WOHM conflicts behind in favor of enjoying and loving my kids while they are so small and need me so much. And I am. My view of heaven is simply to be given the time and space to raise my kids and let them know that their father and I (and their grandparents, and their uncles, and their cousins, and friends) love them and that they will grow to be good people. To sit outside on a summer’s day with them. To play in the park. To visit with friends. To spend time laughing with family. To pet a dog, and to foster homeless dogs again. To laugh, and to cry, and to rock a baby to sleep.
I know I can do these things well.
But am I settling, like the painter that Browning writes about? Would it be audacious of me to allow myself to begin to dream anew, and to set new goals that lead me on to that place After the Cancer? Am I ready to allow myself a peek, a glimpse of the future in a time that I may not see?
Do any of us really know that we have a future?
It’s funny. I thought that having a serious disease might make me sensitive to news stories of random accidents and violence, and sometimes it does, but sometimes it doesn’t. Lately, I’ve come to a new conclusion. We all are “going to die.” Each of us has an expiration date. The only difference is that I have a pretty good idea what my “cause of death” is going to be, whether it’s soon or whether it’s 20 or 30 years from now. I have a diagnosis. But I also have a chance.
I have a chance at a beautiful future. A future filled with sunlight, and joy, and laughing children playing in the back yard.
All I have to do is fight the cancer. And love my babies. And allow myself to glimpse the beauty of the heavens of possibility. Just because today there is hurt, and pain, and worry, that does not mean that tomorrow will be the same. There is beauty yet in my future, and I believe that I will live to see it. After all, that line in Browning’s poem is more technically a couplet:
Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp
Or what’s a heaven for?