October is breast cancer awareness month. I received the sad news that a childhood friend from the neighborhood where I grew up died yesterday of breast cancer. She would have turned 39 in 11 days. This young woman had a loving husband and two adorable children – a 3 year old son and a 2 year old daughter. As I looked at photos of her with her family, it crushed me to look at her children and know that they will not get to be raised by their mom and will have few, if any memories of her. I tend to not allow many fears to get past my “protective bubble.” I find most fear to be needless worry and anxiety. As a result, I have learned to not give attention to them when they arrive on my mental doorstep. But one fear that seems to sometimes find a way past my protective bubble is the fear of dying young and leaving my children motherless. When I was little I remember worrying that my mom would die early and leave me. While I have just as much chance of that happening as anyone, I also realize it is a pointless worry. There are two things that I do that to me act as insurance policies against that fear.
First, I have kept a notebook for each of my children since the day they were born where I write letters to them about things that they did or said or how I felt about them on a particular day. I initially began it so that they could read the letters years in the future and get to learn about stories that they were too young to remember. But now, I realize that it also gives them hand-written evidence of just how much I love them and how committed I have been to being their mom. It is the single most important honor of my life. Having these records gives me comfort that if the same tragedy befell me, they would at least have that lasting gift from me. That knowledge and comfort helps to usher the fear out when it arrives.
The second “insurance policy” that I “pay into” is that I work tirelessly to be the best parent I can be. I have always said that I want to live my life with no regrets. Over time, there have been a very few choices I have made that caused regret, but for the most part, this mindset serves me well. In thinking about it last night (and thanks to several very special mentors, guides and other inspirational people) I realized that I am probably 95% of the parent I wish to be. This realization felt pretty good last night, especially when I was feeling so sad. While there is always room for improvement, I feel like I am mostly doing things that help to strengthen and deepen my relationships with each of my kids. And that above all else, pushes that fear right out the door. If I died tomorrow, I would leave this earth happy with where my relationships with my kids are (as well as other loved ones). I hope my friend felt the same way before she died.
As for cancer, it sucks. I wish it never existed. I know that there is not much I can do about that. For myself, I can eat well, exercise, get good sleep, manage my stress level, microwave food in something other than plastic, etc. but I know that I am not the person who is going to cure cancer.
So what else can I do?
I can and will live my life in honor of my friend Tori and all the beautiful souls who lost their lives to breast cancer and any kind of cancer. They may no longer be on this earth, but I am, and I will continue to try to make this world a better place for all of us who are blessed enough to live in it. Imagine all their souls smiling down on us if we were to each make that a priority in our lives….
I did not tell my kids last night about the news that I had learned. But I awoke on this school morning to my 9 year old daughter and my 7 year old son already being dressed, having taken their vitamins, and set out all the breakfast items that I normally use. They were both so eager and happy to create this surprise for me this morning, and it was such a warm, loving, and comforting gesture from these two little people who had no idea about the sadness that was in their mama’s heart. Those “sunset moments” (as Rachel Macy Stafford refers to them) are the sweetest ones that will carry you through the more difficult, challenging or sad ones. It is so vitally important to slow down long enough to recognize those beautiful moments when they occur and to fully appreciate them.
That is what keeps us going.
I am wishing a sunset moment for you today.