Remember

It is past his bedtime. He is snuggled on his tummy, tucked in tight under his baby blanket that just barely covers his tippy toes. I lay next to him on my stomach, facing him so that we are nearly nose to nose. I slowly and gently stroke his hair as I sing “You are my sunshine” quietly. All is still and we slowly come down from the day together, relaxing into the darkness of the evening. Slowly, so slowly I hear a sound start to rise from him. It is a soft keening, building in his throat and before I know what has happened there are giant tears slipping down his cheeks. And the keening rises to a wail of anguish and suddenly he is sobbing and choking out the words,

“I don’t want you to die.”

“I love you so much.”

“Please mommy, please don’t die.”

I press closer to him so that his tears spill onto my face and I rub his back and murmur to him that I am not going to die, that I am going to be with him for a long, long time. And he clings to me and sobs and his hot breath warms my face and my heart aches with all the love I have for him.

And he cries himself dry. And exhausted, he sleeps.

I pray that when I look back at this time of Beckett’s life, I remember. More than just wild and silly and terrible threes, I pray I remember his heart. His giant capacity to love. I want to remember that when Kate is sad he tries to make her laugh. That when I am frustrated he always, with wide blue eyes worried, asks if I’m mad at him. That he wants me to smell his breath after he eats. That he loves dinosaurs.That his favorite color is blue. That he cries if I walk up the stairs too fast for him to keep up. That any time I put on a dress, or make-up, he tells me I am beautiful. That he still asks me if I’m sad that Pops is gone. That he gives the best hugs. That his hair curls when he gets sweaty. That he is the most animated child in his class during chapel, and that he sings with his whole body. That he, in all honesty, wants to live with me forever. That he cried this morning because Kate will move away some day when she “grows up.” That he loves apples so much he eats two or three a day. More if I would let him. I want to remember the way his hair smells after a bath. The sound of his giggle. How much he loves babies. And that the thing he fears most in the dark of night is that I would someday go away and not come back.

Please, God.

Help me remember.

In my skin

I was cleaning out my blog drafts, a little housekeeping this morning, when I came across this post from last fall. It was written sometime in October, shortly after Dad was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. It was an important read for me today. A reminder that there is still so much good in our lives. And while I miss Dad terribly and feel the loss of him so strongly during this season, I can still find contentment in our blessed life. And that is where my hope comes from.

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October 2013Life is not perfect. You only have to read my Facebook or check past blog posts to know that there is a lot of pain and struggle and worry right now. Which makes what I’m about to say seem so wild and crazy to me.

I am content.

We had a speaker at my Moms group the other day. She was there to talk about raising children who are not entitled, but something she said at the beginning of her talk really resonated with me on a totally different level. “Teach your children to value contentment above happiness. Happiness is situational, but contentment is unchanging.” She elaborated, sharing that although you could wake up completely happy, your feelings could change immediately. Say, after your son smears peanut butter all over the dog. See? No matter what your station in life, your personal fulfillment or your strength of faith, there is a pretty good chance you are NO LONGER HAPPY. But, you can still be CONTENT.

Hm. That gave me pause. I am certain I am not happy at this time in my life. But am I content?

I was walking out of the gym this week when the answer came to me. I had just had a great workout, one that makes you feel strong, and capable and invincible. It was cool, the kind of weather that promised fall leaves and fires and warm blankets, and snuggling. And I was walking to my car and it hit me like it was a direct message from heaven. And I remember thinking, “I am content. I hope that years from now I can remember this season in our lives and remember this feeling of contentment. Right here, right now.”

But can I? Can I be content even when my father is fighting for his life? When cancer has crept like a thief in the night to wreck and ravage one of the people I hold most dear?

The answer, surprisingly, is YES.

The answer is yes. And I don’t think is dishonors my father to say that. Am I happy. Oh my, NO. No, my heart hurts and my soul cries out for God to hear our prayers. But I am content. And I would think that should comfort my father more than anything else could. Because I know he loves me. He wants the best for me. And I am finally at a place in my life where I can say, Yes, father. I am okay. I am content. I am at peace.

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Lights in my darkness

I have always known that I am loved and valued. But my goodness, I have never, not once in my life, felt as comforted, supported, cared for and RAISED UP as I do at this time in my life. While I would never suggest getting (or a loved one getting) a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad disease could be a GOOD thing, there are actually positive moments in the darkness. A realization that although we live in this sometimes harsh and hard world, humanity is still very, VERY good. That our friends, and families, and neighbors, and communities, and churches and sometimes even strangers can become our every-day angels. Saying just the right thing at the right moment. Reminding you of their prayers. Bringing you a meal. Buying you a drink. Listening. Checking in. Making you laugh. Making you talk. Comforting. Giving hugs. Sending encouragement. Helping you forget. How amazing these acts of friendship, love and support are when you are suffering. How wonderfully made we are, indeed.

To all those angels, in MY life, I can never say thank you enough. But know that you have made a difference. You have been a light in this darkness.

As for Dad, his condition is fairly unchanged at this point, although it is getting harder and harder for him to eat anything, leading to weight loss and a loss of energy. Two weeks ago we traveled down to Houston to meet with Doctors at MD Anderson and were told that radiation and surgery were not an option at this point. Next week Dad will begin an approximate six months of chemotherapy. He will also be participating in a clinical trial.

All I can ask for now are (more) prayers. That Dad handles the chemo as well as possible. That the side effects aren’t too unbearable. That the treatment shrinks his tumors significantly. That he can begin to eat again. That he gets the actual drug for the clinical trial and not the placebo. That we all remain positive. That the doctors at MD Anderson give him the best care possible.

That he doesn’t give up.

No matter how hard it gets.

Amen.

Get busy livin’

The day I found out that it was in fact cancer, and how advanced it was, Ben was out of town. I got the news during my kid’s quiet time, and spent the hour crying and texting a few people that knew I was waiting for the results of the biopsy. Despite kind offers from sweet friends to take the kids while I got myself together, I couldn’t, for some crazy reason, ask for that help. Once they woke, I took the kids to a playground so I could sit on a bench and cry behind my sunglasses without them noticing. I bought a movie, let them watch several hours of TV. They got pizza for dinner. I ate my version of comfort food, the junk I never let in my house, potato chips with ranch dip and cookie dough. I drank some wine. I basically checked out.

And then I got busy. I scheduled family photos so that we could have some good ones of my dad and the kids before he started to physically show how sick he is. I pulled my camera out every time Dad was near the children, frantically capturing memories. I made a list of things to do to help make sure the kids wouldn’t forget him. When he was gone. I thought about getting videos of him reading books so the kids could watch them. Record him talking about some of his past history, the stories he has told me a million times that I forgot because, until he is no longer there to tell them, they didn’t seem that important to remember. I’m ashamed to say it, but I started preparing for his death.

A few days ago, Ben casually walks up to me in the kitchen and mentions something he would like to get my dad. Something for him to enjoy during chemo. I literally froze. I stared up into my husband’s face and was reminded why I was so deeply blessed to have him in my life. While I was talking the talk of getting my dad the finest treatment available, while I was urging him to see doctors and be proactive, I certainly was not walking the walk of the faithful. How could God receive my prayers for healing when I was so clearly preparing for those prayers not to be heard, or answered? And how could my father fight the good fight when part of his support team wasn’t truly FIGHTING but had already thrown in the towel?

That day, Ben changed how I was going to cope with this tragedy. I quit living like I was waiting for the end. We began conspiring. Things for Dad’s treatment. Fun surprises. No more moping. I started planning meals and cooking for the family again instead of letting them survive on junk food and sandwiches. I showered. Stopped canceling on friends who wanted to see me. I rejoined the land of the living with a new purpose. Focus on life. On the right here and right now. On the FIGHT.

Dad has an appointment to see a team of doctors at MD Anderson in Houston next week. One of the best cancer hospitals in the country. Dad is ready for the fight.

And now, so am I.

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Happy Birthday B

Two years ago today, Beckett was born, and he changed us all.

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He made Kate a big sister.

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He made us a family of four.

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He made us laugh.

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He created new love for us all.

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And he continues to touch our hearts in new ways, each and every day.

Beckett,

You make our family complete. My favorite sound is your laugh, the deep belly one that you reserve for when Kate delights you. Only her. Your love for your sister, and her love for you is one of the greatest gifts I have ever known.

You bless us. You have taught me a new patience. You have evened out my rough edges with your big hugs, your kisses and your unwavering love. I am learning big lessons from you daily little man. And while I will make it my life’s work to raise you to be a good, and thoughtful, and loving man, please know that you have already impacted the world around you.

I love you. I will pray for you daily for the rest of my life. May God bless you this year, the year after that and for a lifetime. Remember to look to Him and you will be on a path to greatness.

Happy birthday my son. My little B.

Mommy loves you.

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