“Me happy.”

… and then, on the morning of his fourth birthday, before any of the presents, the cake, the party, and the friends, my littlest looked up at me in a quiet moment, gave me a snuggly hug, and said, “Me happy.”

And suddenly, all of it — the chemo, the pain, the lonliness, the aches, the despair, the struggling, the treatment, the side effects, all of it — was worth it.  Because my children, my very dear and sweet and kind but most of all MY children, the only ones I’m really responsible for when it comes right down to it, are happy.

They aren’t scarred.  They aren’t afraid.  When we spent some time playing in the hotel pool on Friday after my work concluded, they laughed and giggled and bounced up and down in the water in my arms or with the kickboard as we learned to swim (having missed those lessons I looked forward to taking them to so long ago, when I was first ill), and they we had so much fun together.  When they saw the kinesio tape holding my shoulder in place, they simply asked, 6 yo Widget asked, “Mama, is that tape from chemotherapy?” and I swooped him into my arms and said, “Nope, that tape is just to help my bones feel better.  It doesn’t hurt.  And Mama’s on a break from chemotherapy. Do you know why?”  He said, very earnestly, “Because you’re working this week?” And I was so glad he asked it out loud, because I could say again, “Nope, because Mama’s got a new medicine to take that will work even better and not make me so tired this Spring.”  And he said, “Good,” and we paddled to the other end of the pool.

We try not to talk about it so much, to not make their childhood soundtrack hushed whispers and talk of chemo, but we do talk about it matter-of-factly, like others would talk about things that are normal and everyday in their lives, and I think that’s how the kids are responding.  That it’s normal. And everyday.  And not to be feared, but to be dealt with. 

That’s our approach to resiliancy, and I hope it works.  It seems to be.

We just got back from church, where I hope and pray my kids will find solace and not anger when the day eventually comes that they’ll be there alone.  I want them so badly to understand how much the body of believers strengthens me, and how beautiful I find faith.  How much I love singing the old hymns, next to people I don’t even know sometimes, but who unite with me in our belief that there is a God, and that he hears us, and that he gives us peace.

Widget and I were admiring the stained glass windows quietly at one point (let’s pretend it was before Mass), and we agreed that they are beautiful.  Then I asked him in a whisper, “What is the most beautiful thing in this church?”  I heard an answer I did not expect from a six year old boy, but had planned to teach him as he grows.  He said, unprompted, taking his hand from his hair where he’d been twisting it, “The people.”

As it turns out, he already knows.  He knows that there is good in the world, and that beauty is found in the community of people who gather to praise, to lift up, and to help each other.  Whether that community is the stay-at-home Moms Club that we poured our hearts and lives into when the boys were babies, the Jewish community that we gathered together with for nursery school, the Catholic community that we have now joined and put our energies toward, the blogging community that you know I love and treasure and my family knows helps me as only words can say, the Blogalicious community that moved me almost to tears Friday night as we screened the new Blogalicious movie and cheered women speaking on screen or afterwards, our neighborhoods … community is community, whereever you find it, and, at the end of the day, the most beautiful thing is always the people.

Thank you for being my people, and for supporting me and each other as we go through difficult — and joyous — times.

34 Responses to “Me happy.”

  1. Stimey says:

    You have great kids. Really, really great kids.

  2. Kristen says:

    With your example, of course he knows the importance of people. I’m glad that you know now that he knows. Your imagery was magical on this post. Thank you.

  3. Michelle says:

    Simply- The People!

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Susan N, Kristen, Minky {moo} and others. Minky {moo} said: Happy tears. A beautiful read. “@whymommy: "Me happy." http://t.co/Cvndd9t” […]

  5. Calliope says:

    what a beautiful, beautiful post. Thank you.

  6. Donna W says:

    That’s amazing. You’re amazing, and so are your kids. “Out of the mouths of babes.”

  7. Catherine says:

    What a beautiful post, thank you Susan. I was hoping your celebrations with your son and family were going well – so good to read this. And wonderful to read how connected you and your family are to your communities. You’re giving your children SO much, these early years are the most powerful life-long influence (there’s recent scientific evidence about this, as you probably know).

  8. Sunday says:

    That was so beautiful Susan. Your words and your insight always bring tears to my eyes and hope to my heart.

  9. My heart is full. So lovely. This may be my favorite post ever.

  10. Niksmom says:

    Me happy, too. What a gorgeous glimpse into the lives and minds of your children. You are teaching them such an important lesson…don’t let fear win. What a wonderful legacy.

  11. *m* says:

    Me awed. 🙂 What a wonderful story.

  12. Susan says:

    What a beautifull and loving family you all are creating. Your boys are awesome.

  13. I too am awed and on the edge of (happy) tears. You are such an amazing parent and guide, and you are bringing up two wonderful caring, compassionate, wise and happy young men. If I can do half as good a job with my kids, I will be proud of myself.

  14. loran says:

    So happy to hear the hope and confidence in your voice! I think the kids do so much better w info, realness and honesty. They feel like nothing is hidden from them then. You are teaching them so very much about love, life, community and character!

  15. Linda Lawrence says:

    Widget’s comment about the church reminds me of a song our kids used to sing in choir:

    I am the church,
    You are the church,
    We are the church together.
    All God’s people,
    all around the world,
    yes we’re the church together.

    The church is not a building,
    The church is not a steeple,
    The church is not a resting place,
    The church is the people.

    Yes, it is the people! How wonderful you have those people to support you and your family.

    Love you!

  16. Sarah says:

    You are one of the beautiful people who I am so glad to count as part of my community.

  17. I’m new to your blog but I wanted to say that your post is beautiful. We all have hopes for our children to be strong, grounded and full of God’s love. It sounds like your children are already there at such young ages. God bless you all.

  18. I got chills from this: “He said, unprompted, taking his hand from his hair where he’d been twisting it, “The people.” ”

    The future of the church, right there.

    I’m glad you’re talking about it matter-of-factly. I think kids almost always seem to know when something is going on, so I would think that whispers and secrets would make them more fearful.

  19. Margaret says:

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom. My husband was diagnosed with Stage 3B lung cancer in December and it’s been a very hard couple of months as we come to terms with treatment and the prognosis. We’re trying to take one day and step at a time.

  20. Ruthie from California says:

    Bless you, Susan, for reminding me that it is all about the People. Thank Widget, too.

  21. Kaylee says:

    Susan, I’ve been following your blog for a while – don’t think I’ve ever commented, but I just wanted to say that it sounds like you’re doing such a super job with your kids – really being intentional about what you want them to know, and value and believe. I think they’re going to be amazing people (are already actually)and be a blessing to many around them. God bless you and your family!

  22. They really and truly are simply wonderful because of the many lessons you are always teaching them! It really is all about the people and community. Glad to be part of yours!

  23. What a dear, sweet, smart little boy… And what an amazing mama.

    xoxo CGF

  24. Miz says:

    what an amazing post. I love your writing voice and your ability to be wise & witty all at the same time.

    Ive read this post 3 times and these sentences are remain my favorite:

    We just got back from church, where I hope and pray my kids will find solace and not anger when the day eventually comes that they’ll be there alone.

  25. jodifur says:

    Oh yeah. This post makes me so happy. I’m so bummed I didn’t get to see you on Friday. Why do we keep missing each other?

  26. That’s just beautiful. I’ve been worried about scarring my 5yo boy, who has witnessed the death of one grandparent from a brain disease up close, the parting of his parents, and will now face the lung cancer diagnosis of a second grandparent all within a year. (Not to mention the fact that he also knows I have 2 close friends with cancer.) You have no idea how much this post just helped me. Thank you and be well.

  27. What sweet boys you are raising. Good on you, mama 🙂

  28. Stella says:

    Children are so much more astute than we give them credit for.

    I love that you are talking matter-of-factly about your cancer. It reaffirms my actions with my own children (which I take untold grief for from friends and strangers alike). We talk just so about Danny losing his hearing someday – both to him and in front of him. We speak straightforwardly about Grammy dying from her lung cancer in the not-distant-enough future and going to Heaven to live with Jesus. And that her cancer is caused from smoking cigarettes and how bad they are. We are amazed at how many refuse to assign blame to smoking in front of children… as if the bad thing that it causes is mystical and best not spoken of. (Naturally, we also remind little minds that it’s not polite to talk of someone dying until an adult says it’s ok.) You know my mantra, “Knowledge is power!” Arming our boys with the truth cannot be bad when presented with love.

  29. Jeannine says:

    You. Your offspring. = amazing and beautiful.

  30. so glad for such a wonderful day and your fantastic support system. rooting for you to be here until we’re all old and grey. xo

  31. JoC says:

    Lovely lovely lovely!!

  32. Carrie says:

    Susan, it’s been far too long since I’ve visited your blog – so much has happened, in both of our worlds. But I am grateful to read this…I’m grateful for your “Happy,” for that is the greatest gift there could possibly be.

    I’m still cheering for you!

    PS – I shared your Relay post with our local RFL team. We’re hosting our very FIRST event in Lake Stevens this year and I’m the online chair. It’s been such rewarding work and I can’t wait until May to see the whole thing take place. Thank you for continuing to fight and celebrate all of your victories. You are what keeps us going.

  33. annie says:

    What a beautiful post! I agree that the matter of fact approach is best with children. Cancer is in our lives and there’s no avoiding it but for them to see us not only survive but also thrive while dealing with all the cancer baggage, is so important. What beautiful people you are raising!

  34. Dawn says:

    You are such an inspiration to them, to us. Thank you for sharing with us.

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