Mommy, why….?

I love my kids.  I love my kids more than life itself.  I know this beyond a shadow of a doubt, because chemotherapy is so very difficult and the side effects (nausea, weakness, sleepiness, constant fatigue) so very debilitating that (speaking only for me) I just can’t see doing it every week for the rest of my life if I didn’t get to spend the other six days with them.

The kids (Little Bear, 4.5, and Widget, almost 7) have been real troopers this summer.  They’ve stayed home with me for weeks at a time, emerging only for church and when a friend comes to pick them up for playdate.  They’ve had playdates with the children of Mommy’s friends more times than I can count.  They greet them with a shy hello or a boisterous “SURPRISE!” as they bounce down the stairs and then start talking to our visitors shyly, quickly heading out to the back yard to be pirates on the playset, work in the gravel pit, or just sit and tell each other stories for hours, as they did with teachmama‘s littlest.  They accept dinners that appear out of nowhere gracefully, and they’re learning to eat more and different things, as they’re exposed to that kind of turkey or this kind of cheese that somehow we’ve forgotten to introduce to them yet.  The three of us play play-doh or legos, play board games, or read books together whenever I’m able to sit up and Daddy’s at work.  When I’m too tired, well, there’s always tv on demand, and sometimes we read books in bed together and we all slip into a nap.  When I’m just resting, they’re often in the playroom or the basement, building forts, setting up the army men, or making up elaborate adventures with their toy cars or action figures.  Widget and Little Bear play with each other very well, and only occasionally do they need to be separated or corrected because they can’t get along.  Very occasionally.  Like every third day.  They’re wonderful kids.

Widget's letter August 2011The boys spend day after day with their Grandparents when they visit, for a couple weeks at a time in one case and two days every week or two in the other case.  Between the two sets of grandparents, there is always someone there to help when my husband takes me to chemo, and for part of the day before which is so difficult.  We are all so lucky to have such wonderful grandparents and friends — for the side effects of this cancer and its treatment are truly horrible, keeping me in bed for most of the day three days a week, emerging just in time for treatment on the fourth day, and yet the children take it all in stride, for they are loved so much — and they know now that so very many people love them too.

Widget does chores with me when I’m feeling good enough.  He and Little Bear take the laundry from the hampers to the laundry room, sort, and help me shoot baskets with the socks into the washer.  We take the clothes out together when they’re dry, and the kids sort the socks or fold the shorts and each kid always puts away his own clothes in his drawers, and helps Mommy carry the towels and sheets upstairs as well.  They get out their own silverware at mealtime, set the table, and clear it when they’re done.  They’re just now big enough to load the dishwasher with me and empty it when it’s clean, and they’ve accepted that chore too.  We do these chores first thing in the morning and on the weekend, when I’m feeling best.  They don’t realize how much they really are helping me, as taking clothes up and down stairs tires me out.

On Sunday mornings, we go to church, as long as the air conditioning there is working.  Several times this summer it wasn’t working, and it was so hot for me that my arm swelled and my belly swelled and I went straight to bed afterwards.  That was the end of the day.  So some days, I admit, we miss church, and I feel bad about it.  But we usually go, and it’s nice to sit together as a family.  The children lean sleepily on us while we listen to the homily, and we all pray the Lord’s Prayer out loud together.  The kids know how to make the sign of the cross and to walk nicely up for communion with their Daddy and me.  Little Bear sometimes sprawls out on the pew and tries to sleep, but Widget sings the hymns with me and he listens.  Oh, does he listen.  On Sunday, all was well and we were doing fine, when all of a sudden, during the pastoral prayer, he leaned over to me and whispered, “You’re back on the list.  Why are you back on the list, Mommy?”

and my heart sank as I realized that he had heard the prayers for the sick and there was my name, front and center.

He looked at me with real surprise, and I put my arm around him and hugged him, as I watched a bit of his world come crashing down.  He looked at me innocently and waited, and I hoped that he wasn’t putting together the pieces of how he had been helping me more, and I had been napping more, and so many people had come by to sit with me recently, bringing along lunch or dropping off dinner.  My world started to spin a bit, and I had to catch my breath before I told him the truth, as I always have:

You know how Mommy’s been so tired lately?  They’re praying that I get better soon.  Okay?

and he nodded, and we kneeled with the congregation, but my heart beat so fast.  The child that I prayed would be bright and curious and ask questions, asking “Why, Mommy?” about the birds and the trees and the color of the sky had finally asked the one I didn’t want to hear.  But I answered it, and kept my arm around him, and we left church a little early that day, all four of us squinting in the bright sun.

45 Responses to Mommy, why….?

  1. Jackie says:

    What a testament for the good job you are doing at keeping things “normal” that your very bright little boy didn’t notice until he heard your name.

  2. ilinap says:

    My heart skipped reading this, Susan. No words, my friends, no words. But so many hugs and prayers.

  3. *m* says:

    What a beautiful family you have. You are an amazing mom — and writer.

  4. Amy says:

    I’m sitting here crying and I don’t know what to say. Your wise little man, so mature beyond his years. I just want to hug all of you.

    Cancer sucks.

  5. queenofspain says:

    Sometimes they are smarter than we know. But remember…they are also stronger than we realize.

  6. Stella says:

    You break my heart, Susan. There but for the grace of God…

  7. Fadra says:

    Susan – you are brave in so many ways and a true testament if motherhood at its finest. Putting your children before you. Always.

    Stopped by tonight because you were on my mind. Saying an extra prayer for your family tonight.

  8. Bon says:

    bright and curious and trusting and loved. it seeps from this.

    how hard, that moment.

    love to you both. strength to you, and yours.

  9. What a lovely post, Susan. Sending lots of love and strength to you and your littles. xoxoxo

  10. Sue Farrell says:

    I hope you can feel the hug I’m sending.

  11. my eyes are pricked with tears. i can’t imagine having to answer that question.

    love and strength to you and your family. always.

  12. Stimey says:

    You have really wonderful kids. And smart too. And thoughtful and fun and nice. All of these things will help them in their lives. Sometimes it will make life harder too, but you are giving them every single tool to be happy children and adults. You should be incredibly proud of the job you are doing with them.

  13. Michele says:

    Your boys argue on average only once every three days? I’m not sure how you do it, but you’re an awesome mom. All the more awesome, given all you’re dealing with right now.

  14. Susan, you are such a tremendous role model for your children–and have given them the tools to be truly amazing and clever and insightful—and caring. My heart skipped a beat when Widget asked you that question and with the grace and elegance with which you responded. So much love to you…..always.

  15. Amy Swygert says:

    Oh, Susan. Mommies have to answer so many “Why” questions. But that’s one question no mommy should have to answer. My heart goes out to you and your sweet boys.

  16. loran says:

    beautiful. the words. and all of you. xo

  17. pgoodness says:

    Your kids are amazing – you should be so very proud of them.

    I admit I’m crying at him asking you. When I was going through my surgeries, I was petrified my kids were going to ask more questions – wimpy of me, I know. We took care not to hide anything from them, but kept the details to a minimum. But they are smarter and more resilient than we give them credit for.

    You are such a good mom, even in the depths of treatment. Sending much love and strength.

    • We told him everything the first time – but now he’s six, and it’s hard on him. I think he’s known I’m sick again for a long time, but didn’t want to admit it to himself. We’ve tried just to keep both of them busy, and remind them every day and night that they are loved.

  18. justenjoyhim says:

    Those moments are heartbreaking. Huge *hugs* to you.

  19. Oh, Susan, there you go breaking my heart again. Your kids are so lovely. I am so glad they have been such troopers. You are such an amazing mommy. I wish you better days soon. Thinking of you and your family every day. Hugs.

  20. Cristie says:

    What a testament to your strength and warrior spirit as a mom that he didn’t know you were fighting. They are so lucky you are theirs and you that they are yours.
    Thank you for sharing all of this with us.

  21. Nothing I start to type seems right. I just can’t imagine.

    Love to you and your boys.

  22. Your never fail to amaze and inspire. I glad I read this tonight instead on tomorrow or I totally would have failed on the no cry rule tomorrow!

  23. Galit Breen says:

    This is such a gorgeous, heartfelt post. My thoughts go out to you, your little ones as they wrap around your beautiful words.

  24. Elizabeth says:

    Hugs. thanks for sharing this with us.

  25. Candace says:

    Susan, this world is a better place for everything you are and have accomplished and will continue to be and do. Not just this but everything. I wish for you that your path didn’t have this huge challenge. Your beauty and grace shine through everything, though…even through a computer monitor to someone who has never met you in person. And it obviously lights-up your children, as well. What good-hearted little people you are raising.

  26. Donna W says:

    I have no words. You are in my prayers.

  27. It is so hard to be honest with our little ones when we want to protect them from the heartache. I love that you managed to do it without overwhelming him. I hope next time the why he asks will have an easier answer. Praying for you and your family.

  28. Eve says:

    I’m thinking of you and your brave little boys. Hugs!

  29. Dorothy Doyle says:

    I’m always deeply touched by your posts, Susan. You have such wonderful and loving instincts with your little boys. I thought you handled Widget’s difficult question with tremendous grace. My prayers continue for your healing and for your dear family.

  30. Sarah says:

    Sending gentle hugs and prayers for you.

  31. Amy says:

    Never were two boys more loved. Never was a mother so loved, by her own children and by so many more.

  32. Magpie says:

    Love to you Susan. And a gentle hug.

  33. Linda Lawrence says:

    Often church is the best place to ask the hard questions of life. We are happy, Susan, that you have a church that cares so much for you and your family. Love you and praying for you.

  34. Corina says:

    Love and light, my friend. Deep love, and blinding light.

  35. Janine says:

    You are a terrific mom.

  36. Kami says:

    You’re an amazing mama.

  37. What amazing children. What an amazing mother. You are all so lucky.

  38. […] laughed loudly in the little room around me.  I would never have thought that I could do this when I began writing my last post a few days ago – or when I was too pooped to write last week – or when I had a bad reaction to new […]

  39. My heart breaks for him and for you, and for all your friends and family that you are forced to ask and answer the tough questions, particularly those about “the list.”

    My heart warms at this: “The children lean sleepily on us while we listen to the homily, and we all pray the Lord’s Prayer out loud together. The kids know how to make the sign of the cross and to walk nicely up for communion with their Daddy and me.”

    Yes, this. I love this part, too.

    We are here. I am praying.

  40. Colleen says:

    Oh God, hear my prayer. Susan. I know you know you are fantastic and how lovely and beautiful and amazing you and your lovely boys and wonderful husband are. I just want to tell you again and again and again that I see it. And that I am so grateful to know you. I cherish the minutes we can share as our little ones play. Much love, and many prayers for you.

  41. NOR says:

    He’s getting older and he’s smart, and sensitive. All of which are good things. And you always handle it well.

  42. Melissa says:

    This post really struck a chord within me. I could have written parts of this myself. I’ve been undergoing treatment for ovarian cancer this summer, and we tried so hard to keep things normal, but as you know, it’s just not always possible. I have a 4 and 8 year old, and my 8 year old so many times has picked up on the slightest changes. We’ve spent countless weeks at home this summer because I couldn’t get out. Beautifully written.

  43. You’re such an amazing mom! Was strucked when I read this!

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