I’ve been blissfully happy this week, and too busy to blog!
Three days with Marty and her wonderful boys, full of action and adventure and play, all within my little house. We did leave one day to venture to Ikea, and it was all colors and corners and wonderful things – and of course the long walk to the checkout with preschoolers. 🙂 But we had a marvelous time, just being together and playing with our little ones. Little Bear missed preschool (I don’t even know how many times) in favor of play with our friends. Our old friend Beth came to visit, and we told stories of times gone by and marveled at how things had changed. Marty and I were mistaken for sisters – twice. She loved my boys, and I hers, and I protected one fiercely from a man at the metro station intent on (verbally) pushing his anti-gay philosophies in front of impressionable little ones. I say that not to brag, but to remember. We must teach the children tolerance and love, and to remember that God is love, and we are to love one another, as we have been taught by words and by example, being loved ourselves.
Yes, the last two weeks have been all mixed up with Bible and friends and difficult scriptures (the blind man, healed, and Lazarus, raised from the dead, both in RCIA and on Sunday) and hope and fear and fearing to hope. I had my scans on Friday, and I marked my 1 year anniversary since my last surgery on Thursday, and I celebrated only by not thinking about it at all, and by siezing opportunities to LIVE as much as I could.
Bon came to town Thursday night, arriving just as our government was about to shut down. I lay in my bed Thursday afternoon and evening, exhausted from a trip to Union Station with the three darling little boys, Marty, and C, and wondered how I would even be able to drive over to see her. But on Friday, I had my scans and wanted so much to LIVE strong and get out of the house, and I drove to U Maryland, where Theorizing the Web was to take place later that day. We met and I liked her immediately, not surprisingly, since we’ve been friends since 2006, never mind the fact that we had never even met before.
We talked so long and so much about the differences in our government that I suggested we go see it! We skipped the Capitol, it being full of angry men refusing to compromise, but I took her to the Library of Congress, my favorite place in the world, a palace of words, and she proclaimed it beautiful, a temple to knowledge, and we stood in the atrium for moments that felt like forever, soaking in the monument to learning, adventure, work, and books built in 1897, capturing a distinctly American era, with its ptuiis (small sculptured cherubs) holding books and bows and the telephone. We listened to Tom the Tour Guide, a lovely retired man who clearly loved books as much as we, and he taught us tidbits not only about the building but about America’s strong and proud history, and we reveled in the opportunity to be surrounded by creations of past scholars and artists, and with others who also appreciated such things. We paused for a moment afterwards in the downstairs hallway with Science and Family at one end, and Poetry at the other, accented inexplicably with a giant collage of technology – flat screens from floor to ceiling – and marveled at how we each felt immediately at home. We walked to Union Station in the rain, gawking at the Supreme Court and the Capitol on the way, covered as it was with what we now knew should have been the Liberty Cap – proposed twice – ever the symbol of fights for freedom, that would have been preserved forever on our Capitol if Jefferson Davis had not stood in the way of early designs. And now it is gone. We walked, and talked about the flowering cherry and pear trees, and the lilac trees in PEI, and Oscar and Posey and Widget and Little Bear, and then the homeward train came to a stop, and a magical afternoon was over.
I slept again Friday night, after our traditional Friday Night Pizza with the boys, and woke rested yet still exhausted. The boys came back in and snuggled with C and me for an hour, just wanting to be with us, and us with them.
After a time, I got up and went to a double baby shower, thrown for Minky and also for Jess, and had the most amazing time with Justice Stacey and UrbanMama, TechSavvyMama and TeachMama, Laundress Sue and Stimey, and I tried not to think about anything else, but the scan results weighed on me, I have to admit. I came home ready to make a memory with my kids, and we watched Star Wars together, snuggled on the couch, for their very first time, and it was magical.
but then Old Ben (Obi Wan) died in the movie, and Little Bear had lots of questions as I snuggled him to sleep last night. “Mommy, why did that man die?” He was very old, my sweet. He had finished what he was meant to do. “Anyone else die?” Well, my sweet, everyone dies. (This was the first I had told him this; he has been exposed to more than he ever should have been, with my cancer fight; the least I could do, I thought, was to shield him from needless death until he was old enough to understand. But now he was asking. It was time.) “No, Mommy. Not Mommies! Mommies never die!” he exclaimed, strong, confident words from within my arms. Oh, my sweet. Everyone dies, someday. “But not mommies. Not til they’re very, very old?” (Oh, my heart. Bent if not broken.) Mommy will try, sweetheart. (He was quiet. It was time.) But if I do? I will watch over you from Heaven. I will love you always, and I will love you from Heaven if I must. I will watch over you always, and my love will be with you in your heart.
And then he suddenly fell asleep, and I could not tell his thoughts. Across the room, I heard Widget sucking his thumb, which he does when he’s thinking hard and forgets that he’s a big boy now, and so I crossed the room and talked with him for a while. But he is 6, and guards his thoughts, so I do not know if it was the right thing or not. I want so badly to reassure them but not lie to them. To not promise that I will always be here and not die until they are all grown up. Because I can’t promise that, and I will not make promises that I know will be broken, at a time when I cannot reach them to hold them in my arms and comfort them as I have so very many times. And so, I make promises that I can keep. I love you. I will always love you. My love is always in your heart. Remember that, my dear ones. My love is always in your heart.
And as children’s church this morning took up the story of Lazarus, I dashed downstairs to be there with my Widget (C was with LB), not even knowing what I feared, but when he raised his hand to share, it was only that his dog had died, many years ago, and I breathed a sigh of relief. When I rejoined him in the pew, I held him on my lap and hugged him, never wanting to let go.
You are the perfect mom for your kids. You really are. You give them love and honesty and those moments you share, in their memories, in these words you write, in C’s words and mind, and in your friends’ words and minds. Your kids will always know how much you love and protect them.
You have all of my love, but you know that.
And I can’t wait for the day that you and I go to the Library of Congress. I want to see too.
Thanks, Stimey. I hesitated to share all this, but I need to remember. And I need my little ones to one day know that this week – this month – I have lived life to the fullest, and that is always what I strive to do. AND, no matter what may come, I love them with all my heart, and I always will.
Susan, I read your columns, but try not to at work, since they skate right over and through our mother’s hearts straight to truth and fierce and scared and so much love. They bring me back to all those moments so many of us have felt, arms out wide and circled tight around our children…and yours.
What a beautiful and powerful series of moments you have shared for your children and for us, and I thank you. I don’t comment much, but I always read your posts. When I do at work, well…walking around with sniffles afterwards. “Yeah, fighting a cold, yeah that’s it”
I want to see the Library of Congress now. I have visited many libraries but always missed that one.
So for my mother who read to me and for Susan who reminds me that there are many beautiful things to be experienced, I am making time to visit.
We ARE sisters.
You and Marty were in my thoughts and prayers last week. I offered prayers of thanksgiving for the friendship that you share and prayed for you to have the strength to endure a house full of little boys! I would loved to have been a fly on the wall. She and I talked briefly the night they got home and it sounded like y’all had a great time.
I follow your non-scientific blog faithfully, praying for you and your family as I read. It is difficult to be honest with your children and protect them from things they cannot yet understand. I remember well trying to talk with mine the first time cancer came calling on me–really us because something this affects the whole family. Tommy was 13. He became very withdrawn, filled with anger and was so afraid I might die. Actually, as I reflect, being afraid might be one reason that he is so protective of me today. Marty was 9 and didn’t quite grasp the reality of things. She knew I was sick and waited on me hand and foot on chemo days as she continues to do when she visits today. The second cancer came after they were adults with families of their own. Still, I have struggled at times to be completely honest and to protect them from the realities. All I could think of the day the doctor told us that my cancer is incurable, is how hard that was for Tommy to
Continued. At times, my computer has a mind of its own . . .
hear. He was in California to see about us and had accompanied us to the doctor. I saw on his face the same fear that had been there when he was 13. Today both children know the reality, but they face it with faith and hope, still supporting me whether they are by my side or miles away.
In February my main supporter, my backbone, my everything was taken from his life on earth. There are times I miss him so much that I wonder if I can live this life without him. I went for scans about ten days ago and for the first time, I went alone. Several offered to go with me, but I felt like I needed to do this by myself. It was a mistake. As soon as I sat in the waiting room, I texted Marty about what I was feeling. Her immediate response helped. She was with me in spirit. By the time I made it to the examining room to hear of the initial findings of the scan, I was quite teary. Tom, who was quite needy himself, always held my hand, prayed silently and assured me that whatever the news, we would trust God and face things together. Once again, the news was good: no increase in disease; no decrease; things are stable. From the beginning, he and I determined to LIVE and not fear. I was declared “incurable” in 2006; here it is 2011. We chose to look at my disease as “chronic” and to delete “incurable” from our vocabularies.
I was a bit wary of hearing a sermon today on the Lazarus passage and did not agree with the minister’s interpretation. It did encourage me to think more Affirmation of Faith came from “A Brief Statement of Faith” from the PC(USA). It begins: “In life and in death, we belong to God” . . . and closes with: “Nothing can separate us from the love of God, in Christ Jesus . . .” It was what I had chosen as the Affirmation to be said after the sermon at Tom’s memorial service.
Thanks for letting me ramble. I typed a lot of words just to affirm and encourage you; to congratulate you for the mother that you are; to tell you how thankful I am that you have been a part of our lives for many years; to say, once again, that you and Curt can have peace because God is in control. Dear Susan, I love you!
Our sermon this morning was also about Lazurus. But when the young Pastor used this opportunity to share with the congregation that his sister’s breast cancer had returned, given only months to live due to extensive liver involvement, the tears began to flow. I was able to shield my 8 year old son from my unexpected emotional reaction, as his words hit too close to home. We have already had the conversation that you described; however, I secretly fear the day those words become my reality. I can only hope and pray that we both continue to beat the odds, along with so many other Mothers, so that our young children can grow up with their mother’s guidance during their most impressionable years.
“I want so badly to reassure them but not lie to them.” It must be so very, very difficult to find this balance. My prayers and thoughts are with you.
So enjoyed our brief visit together last week. Next time, and there Will be a next time, we will visit longer. And you’ll meet my kids and I yours. I know the absolute most selfish prayer I pray is that God will allow me to grow old and see my children grow up, and know grandchildren of my own, and if really blessed, great grand children. It’s selfish, and I know it’s selfish, but it’s my prayer. You’re more brave than I am, I didn’t get to tell you that last week.
It really should be a law of the land that mothers can not get sick and can raise there kids till they are no longer kids and even have kids of their own. I hate that you are going though this.
This may be odd of me but when my kids ask me about dying and illness(they are both 6) I will not ever say things like ….Ill always be here, or Im not going to die till Im an old lady. I just cant promise that to them because I simply can’t say that is going to be the case. I to believe in not making promises we do no know for sure that we can keep. So I say things like you said. I will always do everything I can to be here with you and if anything ever happened to me you will be loved and cared for buy so many people, And Ill love you from heaven and see you in your dreams.
You handled that moment perfectly x
What a heartfelt, beautiful post. It’s so hard to walk that fine line with our kids, wanting them to always hope but not lying to them. Breaks my heart, as I know it does yours. *hugs*
Oh my you influence me more than you will ever know. You inspire me and focus my thoughts and remind me of all of the things that are so important in life.
I make the same promises to my boys too. I will love them, no matter where I am–but we both know we want to always be right there for them.
I love you my friend. I am thinking about those scans non-stop. I got the worrying covered. You go LIVE!
A very moving story. *sniff*
Do you have your scan results yet? I wasn’t sure when you said they weighed on your mind if you were talking about the anticipation or the actual results.
What a wonderful week you had! I laughed when you said LB missed lots of preschool because he must have been delirious to have the nonstop party.
Your children can never forget that you will always love them because you WILL always love them and won’t let them forget. I’m so happy that you had such a great week, Susan. Friends are awesome.
when we stood under those vaulted ceilings looking up at all those words and names, you said “all that matters is who we love and touch, and what we leave behind.” i blinked back tears. you are right. and i tell my children the same…that love does not stop with death. but still, still. those conversations are so bare to the bone of it all, and i wish you had no need to have them. i wish with all my heart.
you are lovely, you know that? you have such presence. what i’m left thinking about Little Bear drifting off in your arms is that he heard you and believed you and simply knew it to be true and was comforted, because that love emanates from you, Susan. the force, it is strong in you. 😉
thank you, again, for an incredible afternoon, our pilgrimage of sorts…to the temple of all the reasons why we write here. i felt like we were schoolgirls playing hooky. the gift of it, the silliness of us splashing in the rain…one of the best days i’ve had in a long long time. gratefully received.
wow. i’ve admired your strength and triumphs for a while, but i must say that reading about the way you shared the idea of death “even mommies” blows me away. my son will be 3 in a matter of weeks, and i can see these thoughts running through his head as he absorbs more and more in our world. i have stressed and worried about how to explain things like this to him, if/when they happen. last week, our 5 year old dog began having seizures and i was in knots wondering how to talk to jackson about this… thank you for sharing your words. you are so absolutely right.
Once again, I’m grateful and moved and in awe of your honesty and grace in living and writing. I’m left with a “sense of music” – it’s a beyond-words feeling. Your living life to the fullest while battling cancer, your love for your sons and longing to stay with them…
I think of you often, Susan – and not just when I read an update of your blog. I thought of you when I read a recent article in The New Yorker about Bach and the cantatas he wrote (the cantata form “traditionally served as a musical meditation on the Scriptural readings of the week”). Bach experienced a lot of tragedy in his life, and his music covers the range of human emotions. If you’re interested, here’s a link to the article:
Another time in recent days I thought of you was when I began reading David Brooks’ new book – “The Social Animal.” Here are a couple of excerpts from the introduction:
“We are living in the middle of a revolution in consciousness. …[most of the researchers] believe that mental process that are inaccessible to consciousness organize our thinking, shape our judgments, form our characters, and provide us with the skills we need in order to thrive. John Bargh of Yale argues that just as Galileo ‘removed the earth from its privileged position at the center of the universe,’ so this intellectual revolution removes the conscious mind from its privileged place at the center of human behavior. This story removes it from the center of everyday life. It points to a deeper way of flourishing and a different definition of success. …This inner realm is illuminated by science, but it is not a dry, mechanistic place. It is an emotional and enchanted place.”
Thank you, Susan. I send love and hope for many many blissful experiences for you and your family.
>> I will love you always, and I will love you from Heaven if I must. I will watch over you always, and my love will be with you in your heart.<<
I love this – thank you so much for sharing.
Your joy is palpable. And your love.
I am so pleased to hear the joy in your words.
Your conversation with your boys brought tears to my eyes, your honesty and compassion are truly something to aspire to.
You are so full of grace. And like Amie, you inspire me every day too, to live EACH and every moment.
And if I were so eloquent, I would have said something like what Alice said above: Your words “skate right over and through our mother’s hearts straight to truth and fierce and scared and so much love. They bring me back to all those moments so many of us have felt, arms out wide and circled tight around our children…and yours.”
You are loved.
Beautiful post Susan.
Tears. A beautiful post, and your beautiful words to your children are a gift.
I had my first visit to the Library of Congress last year while in DC on a short work assignment.
Like a kid in a candy store, I took my passport through the Jefferson Building and stamped it at all the famous destinations. I know you commented that it was your favorite place in DC, as I was tweeting my awe. Why am I not surprised it’s your favorite place?
this was such a beautiful posting. i think about you daily (and pray as well)