Look, Mom

We took a trip to Lake Erie this weekend, squeezing the last drops out of our fleeting summer. My kids were older now and invited friends along for the trip. They took a break from the water to build in the sand. I watched them from my beach chair, working together to dig a deep hole and build a moat around it. Their structures were more sophisticated these days. My daughter was nearing 13 and I was surprised that she readily joined in building with her brother and their friends. She didn’t enjoy doing much other than hanging out in her room these days.

“Look, Mom, …” my daughter said happily waving to get my attention and then pointing to the wall she built. I smiled and told her it looked great and commended them all on their awesome  job. I looked at my daughter. That familiar quiet smile momentarily flashed across her face, the one that made her eyes light up; then she looked away, but not so quickly that I missed it … Continue reading “Look, Mom”

Yep

The clouds were thick and heavy when I went outside to go for a walk, but I chose to go ahead. The rainy, dreary day matched my mood, and misery loves company, right? I considered staying close to the house, just in case those clouds dumped out all the rain they were holding inside, like the emotions I was holding in my heart. Still, I chose my usual walk through the neighborhood. Looking up at the swirling gray ceiling above me, I sent a quick text to my husband.

“If it starts pouring, can you come get me?”

In less than a minute, I got a reply,

“Yep”

Continue reading “Yep”

Dear Dad, …

My flesh and my heart may fail,

but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

(Psalm 73:26)

 

Dear Dad,

I don’t come here often. It is a pretty peaceful place; but, honestly, I don’t like it here. I don’t believe you are here. I don’t have to come here to visit you. I feel you all around me, all the time.  I know you are in heaven. Coming here makes me sad. Coming here brings back memories I tucked away and don’t want to revisit. I remember that frigid day in February, when I shivered next to that gaping hole in the earth that was as dark and empty as the one in my heart. As I sat there, still and quiet, my heart broken, my soul crushed; I wanted to yell and scream and make it all stop. I wanted to wake up.

But it was real, Dad. You were gone.

Continue reading “Dear Dad, …”

Along the Way

My husband knew I loved sunsets.  I would pull over on the side of the road, or drive a few miles out of my way to find the perfect spot to view God’s daily grand finale. I had so many pictures saved on my phone but still didn’t want to miss the opportunity to stop and capture the moment. My husband was a man of few words, but he showed me how much he loved me all the time, in a million little ways.  Last week, he was out of town for work for a few days. One night while he was gone, he pulled over to take this picture of a beautiful sunset over the water and then sent it to me. No words, no text.  Just the picture. It made my heart smile.

Continue reading “Along the Way”

What’s Left Behind

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In the middle of the night, I heard the low rumble grow into a deafening blast that shook the whole house.  Seconds later, the wind whipped into the windows, demanding to gain entrance.  A wall of rain edged closer, like a 1000-man infantry marching into town. As the storm blew through, I pulled the covers tighter.  I enjoyed thunderstorms, but this one was a powerful one; and I felt every flash, every roar, every gust, every drop. Then, almost as quickly as that storm blew in, all grew quiet as the nighttime darkness gave way to the morning light.

Hesitantly, I rolled out of bed and stumbled in the dim morning light, walking downstairs to the front window.  The flowers, beaten by the pelting raindrops, sulked as they leaned over the edges of the pots on the porch.  Small branches and leaves littered the front yard.  Water puddled in the driveway.  The decorative flag twisted around the lamppost.  The sun glimpsed from behind the retreating clouds, but the collateral damage left over from the storm was evident.

I walked into the kitchen and my nose met with the sweet smell of cinnamon and chocolate.  The night before, I baked cinnamon bread and a batch of chocolate chip cookies.  Although it had been hours since the sticky batter transformed into gooey goodness, the scent of butter and sugar and love still lingered in the air.

The thunder and the cinnamon bread.  The wind and the chocolate chips.

Both but memories … still seen and still felt.

Both left an imprint.

One left damage.  One left sweet memories.

Throughout the day, that thought weighed heavily on my mind.

We had the power to be the storm, or the chocolate chip cookies. 

We had the power to leave behind damage, or a lingering scent of love and memories. 

We had the power to leave an imprint of destruction, or peace. 

I watched a man help an elderly woman load her groceries into the car.

Chocolate chip cookies. 

I watched a woman scold the young cashier for being too slow.

The storm. 

I received a card with a sweet note from a dear old friend.

Chocolate chip cookies.

I was cut off by an aggressive driver on the highway.

The storm. 

I witnessed and experienced the real life collateral damage of the storm and the pleasant scent of chocolate chip cookies, over and over again that day.  Then, I thought about the imprint I made, what I left behind …

Was I the chocolate chip cookies, or was I the storm?

Did I leave behind damage, or peace?

My daughter was playing around this morning getting ready for school.  I was impatient.

I was the storm.  

My friend called, upset about a family matter. I listened and encouraged her.

I was the chocolate chip cookies. 

My husband forgot to do that thing I asked him to do. I made a comment.

I was the storm. 

My son struggled with a school assignment. I explained it and helped him complete it.

I was the chocolate chip cookies. 

Whatever we did, wherever we went, we left an imprint.  We crossed each other’s paths and we left something behind. We broke off tree branches and left deep puddles. We filled hearts and souls with love and peace.

When I came home at the end of the day, I noticed that the flowers perked up, no longer drooping over the sides of the pots. The puddles in the driveway were gone. I walked through the yard and picked up the branches, and untwisted the flag hanging on the lamppost.

There.

The damage had been done, but with a little time and a little effort, it was good as new. When I walked into the kitchen, I could no longer smell the cinnamon and chocolate. That delicious aroma no longer tickled my nose, but the memories of the melted chocolate chips and the cinnamon sugar still lingered inside my heart.

It made me think about how storms rolled into our lives.  We were left vulnerable.  We were left broken.  We suffered damage; and then, the storms passed.  With a little time, most of the damage could be repaired.  We fixed what was broken and dealt with the rest.

In this life, the sun shined too.  We enjoyed the cinnamon bread, the chocolate chip cookies, and the lingering feelings of love and hope and peace. Although we couldn’t count on those sweet times to last forever, we could store those memories in the depths of our hearts.  We could feel that love deep in our soul, long after the sun set on those delicious memories.

Yes, we had the power to be the storm.

Yes, we had the power to be the chocolate chip cookies.

But we also had the power to overcome, and we had the power to sustain.

We had the power, and we had a choice.

Whether we were the storm or the chocolate chip cookies, …

in the end, we determined what was left behind.

 

 

 

 

 

Grow Old With Me

 

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He handed me the gifts that he lovingly, yet haphazardly, wrapped in pretty tissue paper. As I tore one open, I saw a wooden picture frame decorated with a burlap bow.  Inside the frame was a picture of me and my husband, taken soon after I was diagnosed with cancer the second time.  It was one of my favorite pictures.  Then, I noticed the words written across the bottom of the frame.

Grow old with me

A sting of sadness fell upon my heart. It was a simple statement and something couples talked about when they made a commitment and said ‘I do’. They imagined the fairy tale that we all expected.  But for me, that simple statement, those 4 words, made my heart hurt when I read them.  I remembered walking down the aisle in that white dress. I remembered sitting on the beach on our honeymoon talking about plans for the future. We talked about buying a house we would make a home, where we would raise our children, and enjoy those quiet times together swinging our later years away on our  wraparound porch.

They were big dreams. Sweet dreams. Some of them came true.  We bought a house.  We made it a home.  We had 2 children, a girl and a boy.  We didn’t have a wraparound porch, or a swing; but we dreamed of buying a beach house with a porch and a swing one day. We had our ups and downs but all was right in our world.

And then it wasn’t.

It was a gorgeous August day when I found out I had breast cancer.  That was the first day those visions of me and my husband taking walks on the beach or enjoying an early dinner at a local diner slipped out of focus. Although it was a difficult time, we held on tight and we got through it.  Chemo, bald head, surgery …  all of it.  We made it to the other side, stronger than ever.  We put it behind us. We put the pieces back together.  I was okay and that vision of the porch swing was clear as day again.

And then it wasn’t.

Almost three years later, on a beautiful October day, we found out that my breast cancer returned to my bones and my lungs.  I had metastatic breast cancer and it was terminal.  My treatment was no longer an attempt to cure me, but to keep me stable and preserve my quality of life for as long as they could, for the time I had left.  According to statistics, that was about 33 months.

Wait. 33 months? What about all those plans we made? What about that porch?

Those visions of swinging away our lazy afternoons on the porch began to fade. It was a dark time. We were unsure and fearful of our future. How long did I have? How would my husband raise the kids on his own?  Would he be okay when I was gone? We had no idea what to expect. Along with more radiation and injections and medications, there was fear and heartache and desperation.

And then there wasn’t.

The medication was working. The scans were clear. The statistics were crushed.

The medication that was supposed to give me about a year of progression-free survival was still going strong. It was now 35 months later.  I was on my 31st cycle of those medications and my scans were still clear.  I was living a fairly normal life. I was happy. Aside from fatigue, aches and pains, and some stomach issues; I was doing great.

But we both knew that one day, that wouldn’t be the case.

One day, my symptoms would worsen.  My scans would show progression.  My health would fail.  Those visions of that porch would completely disappear.

So, this picture frame, inscribed with those 4 words.

Grow old with me

It wasn’t a simple sentiment. It was a hope, a dream, a prayer.

It was pleading. It was desperation.

Grow old with me 

Please.

As I held that picture frame in my hands, I realized something.  There was no question mark after those words. There was no punctuation at all. I was able to read those four words any way I wanted.

So, I chose to read them as a request.

Grow old with me

My husband didn’t like to talk about me being sick. He cared so much, so deeply, that he couldn’t imagine a future without me in it.  For him, even though he knew the statistics and my prognosis, that vision of us on the porch swing never blurred or slipped out of his focus.  Call it faith. Call it denial. It didn’t matter. To him, the dream of the two of us growing old together was as real on that day as it was on our honeymoon, almost 20 years ago.

Grow old with me

I found the perfect spot for that picture frame, next to one of our wedding photos.  I looked at that much younger couple smiling back at me.  Over the years, we celebrated with joy and we grieved with sadness, and we felt every emotion in between. We had good years and bad, but I wanted more.

I read those words again…

Grow old with me

I closed my eyes and said a little prayer. I let go of the fear and uncertainty that had settled into my heart.  I didn’t know how much time we had left, but I wanted those dreams, not fear, to reclaim my heart.  I wanted to be like my husband. I wanted to look ahead to our future, expecting all of our dreams to come true. As I took a deep breath, and cleansed my soul, that fuzzy picture once again came into view.

I saw the water. I saw the porch. I saw my husband sitting next to me.

“Grow old with me?” he asked.

“I would love nothing more.”

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Note:

This post was written based on the monthly theme from H&L Writes, a new monthly membership program specifically for writers by Holl & Lane Magazine.