… 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.