… Or what’s a heaven for?

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.

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.

It’s hard.

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?

46 Responses to … Or what’s a heaven for?

  1. amanda says:

    Your words defy the odds and have harnessed the attention and devotion of legions of strangers, you my dear, shall do the same in body and spirit.

  2. Jacquie says:

    Oh WhyMommy you are so amazing! You continue to amaze me everytime I come here!

  3. Kristin says:

    What a beautiful heaven.

  4. BetteJo says:

    Talk about spirit!

    Cancer is not pretty but it sure can make you find the beauty in life.

    Yes, please do keep fighting! Sending you continued strength~

  5. sam says:

    I wish everyday that I could take this away for you. I wish there was no such thing as cancer.

    You’re so amazing!

  6. Life isn’t about what you have but what you have to give. And you are certainly giving it all you got. I hope you can find solace in that.

    You’re absolutely right. Nobody has the golden ticket for a tomorrow. So WhyMommy keep on enjoying today.

    Your whole family continues to be in our daily thoughts and prayers. You really ARE amazing!

  7. Lynn in GA says:

    Yes, you must allow yourself to dream, plan for the future, etc. NONE is guaranteed a tomorrow. We all have a time and a date that we will leave this earth, but only God knows when that is. For me, thinking about my own mortality, always brings me back to my children and how they will live without me. That’s the hardest part. I don’t know why God does that to children, but hopefully, someday, we all will know!

    Keep fighting! You’re an inspiration to many!

  8. lildb says:

    though I’m moved beyond words I wanted you to know I’m here, and I’m listening, and you are leaving an indelible mark, regardless of what happens over time. and your children will know you through that mark. it is a powerful, brave stamp you are placing.

    thank you for being so powerful and so brave at such a difficult time.

  9. mamalang says:

    Awesome thoughts. I’ve been struggling this weekend with mortality…and while I try to live in the moment, I realized that I still have a long way to go. Thanks for helping me along in that quest.

    Prayers and hugs your way.

  10. maggie says:

    Lovely. Without fighting, there is no point. Be strong and brave.

  11. Binky says:

    You said it.

    We’ll all be here as you keep saying it.

  12. Katherine says:

    You’re doing beautifully.

  13. ohgrammy says:

    I am immeasurably proud of you. . . . Your passion in fighting this cancer with openness and conviction helps us all deal with the uncertainties that our tomorrows hold. Your words are a lifeline for your boys but a gift to us all. I pray for your strength,courage, healing. We know Who holds all tomorrows.

  14. Emily says:

    Yep. All you have to do is fight this cancer. Piece of cake. Now, if you had to learn to make lemon souffle, as well, then you’d be trying to do way too much 🙂

  15. Stimey says:

    Tough stuff to deal with. Share your love as much as you can today and fight for a tomorrow. That’s what we all need to do. We are all fragile, as are our children and, yes, we can have long-term goals and dreams, but we can’t forget to live in the now.

    Fingers crossed, you and I and our kids and all the others will have that beautiful future. I believe that your chances are as good as the rest of ours. (And that’s pretty good!)

  16. This is beautiful. And that you can go from “Why me?” to “Why not me?” is testament to your strength of character, it really is.

  17. Your words are a gift to us all. Thank you so much.

  18. Whymommy, my heart’s full for you but my brain is completely empty. As you know we’ve had a rough few months too, and on one of my particularly difficult days a new friend sent me this. I’m passing it on to you because it gave me something to chew on, and calmed me, and because I admire you so much for how you’re facing this, eyes and spirit open.

    “…Lawrence writes that we all walk around carrying open umbrellas. We’ve painted a sky onto the underside of the umbrellas and when we look up, we see the sky we’ve painted, it’s familiar, it never changes. Once in awhile, a meteor comes crashing through our umbrella, a poem or piece of music or a piece of art or an experience, and our umbrella sky is torn. We look up and we see the real sky. And it’s terrifying. We quickly take a needle and thread and we sew the tear and we paint over the stitch and recompose our umbrella sky. Perhaps, we should spend time gazing through the tear before reaching for our needle and thread. That it’s the uncontrollable, wide open moments where we can truly grow and expand beyond our painted sky…”

  19. I meant to clarify the source of the umbrella sky: that would be DH Lawrence.

  20. whymommy says:

    Wow. Kate, that’s beautiful. Thanks.

    Everyone — thanks.

    Ohgrammy — I’m sorry you had to read this. I thought I warned you not to in time….

  21. Kat says:

    Wow! Beautifully written. You go girl!


  22. LawyerMama says:

    Wow. Whymommy, that was beautiful.

    Of course you should be audacious enough to reach beyond cancer. Your life will be more than cancer.

  23. Imstell says:

    Your words are truly beautiful. I’ve been waiting to see if we all reach that “a-ha” moment. That moment when you realize that, yes, you could die from cancer. But you could also, just as easily walk across the street and be hit by a car. There are no guarantees in life. I believe it truly takes a “near death” experience like cancer, etc to really get just what a gift each and every day is.

    Congratulations on joining a wonderful club – the club that really sees how precious life is.

    Also, Sweet/Salty Kate – Holy Cow! I’ve gotta write that stuff down!

  24. I can’t imagine how hard this must be for you!! What a beautiful post – praying for you and your babies…

  25. Bon says:

    rendered moved beyond words, but recognizing the rightness of yours.

    and you know what? i needed those today, needed to be reminded…so i thank you, Whymommy.

    i hold you and your babies in my heart.

  26. ~JJ! says:

    You are in inspiration.

  27. Jen E says:

    Look to your future. See it vividly in your mind. See yourself sending your kids to kindergarten and the prom. See yourself watching them walk at college graduation. See yourself holding your grandbabies. A positive state of mind is so very important.

    Sending you cyber hugs and holding you in my prayers.

  28. Susan K says:

    Wonderful post. I think of you every day. When I play with my girls, I think of you with your boys. I think about fun things that you can do when you are tired…. we made flour and water paste this weekend. A mess, but such fun! Food colour to add variety. And a thought…. suggested a while ago to your wonderful husband via email, but maybe now is the time to say it out loud to you. Write your boys letters. Hand written. Talk about what you did that day – or what THEY did. Talk about the fun you had. Talk about how they are growing, what new things they are accomplishing. Write on paper. Or buy a couple of those blank books and write in there. Date them. Sign them. Cry onto them if you need to and watch the ink run. Have them draw pictures next to your letters. I cherish my mother’s letters. When I pull out one of her hand written recipes, I can’t help but smile. It is a connection, maybe stronger even than a photograph. Through the years. YOUR handwriting. YOUR thoughts. And after the chemo, when you have beaten this beast, you won’t “need” the letters for them, but you will have them and how wonderful they will be – not in a year, but in 20 or 30.

  29. Oh yes, absolutely. Why not believe. Why not accept questions and worries at times, but believe.

    So awesome. Did I mention you inspired a post by me? You did. And more. 🙂

    Big (HUG)

    Ravin’ Picture Maven

  30. Sandy says:

    I have been reading but never really had words to say until now.

    I think it is every mother’s fear to leave their children when they need them most. Sometimes I am a basket case thinking of the things that might happen to me and leave my son alone, wanting mommy…and mommy not being there. This is normal.

    But, you have an advantage now. I am a Buddhist…and one of the things we are taught when beginning the Buddhist path is that everything is temporary. Nothing is permanent. We will all die one day…now you can really start to live life…you know now that you can be all you want and need to be for yourself and your children.

    I feel you can beat this cancer. You just have to allow yourself the hope to do so.

  31. Kathy Conrad says:

    I would like to say that I totally understand where you are at at this most immoportune time of your life. My daughter passed away a little over 4 yrs ago. It was not expected, we did not get to say goodbye, she left behind a little gift (her daughter) for me to raise and answer all the questions that you mention in your blog. Please rest assured that no matter what we feel in our hearts, Only God knows when and why. All you can do is live for today, believe in tomorrow and love always. The little one that now calls me Mom, knows her “mommy angel” she knows who and where she is. She loves her, she talks to her, she lives to be happy. She believes in all that she is learning, God is a big part of her life and as we all know, He is the devine. His love for us is unconditional and he would never let your children feel pain or hurt. Always trust him and never let your heart wander. You will survive no matter where you are. God is holding your hand and guiding you daily. God Bless ! Kathy and Shyanne

  32. Ana says:

    I wish, oh I wish I could live understanding that life is not promised to me. I admit it shamefully that I take my life for granted at times and I weep at the fact that not everyday I live to the fulliest as if it were my last. You have a little better glimpse, but still muttled into your future because cancer is a luminating presence in your life. I need to take the cancers or struggles in own my life and find new life, new purpose, new hope and full inspiration of what heaven is so that I can have peace. Do you know how much you are blessed because you have this peace?

  33. tori says:

    You sound like you feel similar to what I felt when diagnosed. I m pretty ok with what I have accomplished in my life, but would be very sad for my family and friends. That is not to say that I don’t have more I want to see and do, but my heart would break for other people, not my own loss if I did not beat my cancer.

    I’m still praying for you, and I know from my own experience that so many people praying does a lot of good.

  34. urban urchin says:

    What an amazing woman you are. Thank you.

  35. ewe_are_here says:

    Amazing take on life. Just amazing.

  36. MammaLoves says:

    You are beautiful.

  37. ggirl says:

    The knowledge that we are all going to die is one of the greatest gifts of the many gifts I’ve received from having cancer. We all know it in an abstract sort of way. Catastrophic illness tapped me on the shoulder and reminded me, “that means you, too, my friend.”

    I’ve come to believe that life takes the measure of us constantly, in how we deal with our pain, in how much pain we can endure, in a million other ways. Sometimes lately I feel very, very small.

  38. Tanya says:

    WM .. your fears are so real. I think they swell up in the pit of your stomach and the quiet pain that you alone suffer is so great, and it’s constantly on your mind. You, and only you have your deep silent thoughts and the heart wrenching fear of your unknown future.

    Only those walking in your shoes truly know that pain. We are all praying for you, and we all think of you, and others in sililiar situtions, and we have great hope for you, and you have touched our most inner being, and our hearts. We are speaking physical earthly healing for you. Your team will grow and your name will be on many tongues and minds in prayer. We will be your trumpets.

    Look towards your future. Tell the world that you will win, and you will beat this, and never give up. For you, for your children, and all those you love, give with every ounce of your being, the fight for life. Be courageous and be proud … and know that you will be a survivor, and that you will live. ..and when the dark thoughts come in, hug your babies tighter and look them in their eyes and believe that you will be here for them always.

    I worked as an Oncology nurse for 8 years and I know that some of the women I was so blessed to meet, told me that for them, the will to live gave them the courage and the energy to battle this demon called cancer. I know you have that “will” within you.

    I am not a radical person. I do not know how these words came from me. But I was so compelled to say them, therefore, I believe them.

    I will continue to pray for you,

  39. whymommy says:

    Tanya (and everyone, really), your words are a beautiful gift. Thank you. Thank you.

  40. stacey says:

    I discovered your blog very shortly before your diagnosis and have been a faithful reader since that time. You are a fantastic writer and an inspirational mom. I have not commented before but this post was so moving that I just have to let you know how much it has me thinking. Thank you for all you are sharing with us.

  41. Ally says:

    WhyMommy, I am continually amazed by your thoughtful way of being during this cancer fight. Why not me. That blows me away. Continue fighting your best fight. I will be praying that your post-cancer path will be illuminated.

  42. Ally says:

    I forgot to say yesterday that I loved that you started this post with, “I am a good mom.” That is something you don’t read much here in blogland, even though I know there are many, many great moms out here. I love how that statement caught my immediate attention at the start of this piece.

  43. Kyra says:

    I agree with everyone – you are eloquent. Have you ever thought of writing a book and submitting it for publishing? Just a thought. (Maybe you already are, I didn’t see it yet.) My prayers are with you.

  44. Tracy says:

    I think that the way you seem to stay inside of and celebrate the moments of motherhood and friendship is a pretty daring way to live. You are courageous and lovely and I’m glad that somehow, pinballing through the momosphere, I ended up here.

  45. whymommy says:

    Ally (and all) — check out http://girlsgonechild.blogspot.com/search/label/I%27m%20a%20good%20mother (also linked at the beginning of my post) for a roundup of other moms saying, in many words, “I am a good mom.” Girl’s Gone Child encouraged a series of these posts back in May, and I just loved hearing it. We ARE good moms, and we don’t give ourselves enough credit, I think….

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