When I was in school, I used to get anxious when the teacher took attendance and I would have to raise my hand and call out “Here!”. I absolutely hated that. I was painfully shy and waiting for the teacher to call my name filled me with dread. The last thing I wanted to do was call attention to myself. I felt uncomfortable announcing my presence, I guess. Back then, I would have preferred crawling under a desk to talking in front of the class. It is funny how some things change and some things stay the same.
On Monday night, my daughter had a “Shoot Out” for her basketball league. The girls had one minute to get as many baskets as they could. My daughter, Kalea, was very nervous. She told me that she didn’t care if she won but she wanted to get at least one basket so she wasn’t embarrassed. Kalea is a pretty good shot so I didn’t think one would be a problem but I could tell that her stomach was in knots and she was unsure of herself. During practice before the event, Kalea did really well. She was making most of her baskets but she still was not feeling confident. Finally, it was her turn. Kalea got up and waited for the bell. She shot the first basket from the “2 point line” and it went right in. She stumbled a few times but once she caught her rhythm, she ended up with 11 points! When she was done, she wore a very ‘quiet smile’. I could tell though if you could turn that smile inside out and see what was going on inside of her, it would have been a very ‘loud smile’. She kept her cool though. She ended up placing third in her grade for the most baskets and got an extra medal for placing in the competition. She was beaming (quietly, of course). When we got in the car, we had just shut the doors and that smile erupted into squeals and screams of, “Mom, I got third. I got third. I got third”. I was so happy for her and I was grateful I was there.
The next day was Tuesday and it was also St. Patrick’s Day. I planned a scavenger hunt for the kids. They had 8 clues that led them around the house until they found their ‘pot of gold’ which was some green cupcakes, gold chocolate coins and some other holiday trinkets and treats. The kids enjoyed it. They liked finding the clues and discovering their ‘treasure’ but most of all, they enjoyed the tradition we started a few years back. I typically planned activities like these around all the holidays, even the silly ones. After I took pictures of the kids wearing their leprechaun beards and holding some of their ‘loot’, it was time to get my son ready for karate. Today was the day that he was going to get his yellow belt. My son, Kade, was very shy, a lot like me when I was younger. He didn’t have a lot of confidence in himself. My husband signed him up for karate in an effort to boost that confidence. So far, it had been working.
In class, he was a bundle of nerves waiting to get his yellow belt and certificate. As part of the ceremony, Kade was told to turn around and take off his white belt and fold it properly. This was something that he did without a problem every day when he came home from class. Today, though, he fumbled with the belt and he couldn’t seem to get it just right. A perfectionist like his mother, he worked at it until he did what he was supposed to do. He turned around and when his turn came, Kade stepped in front of his teacher. The yellow belt was placed around his waist, the certificate was passed off with a handshake and Kade’s smile slowly crept across his face. He had that very same smile that Kalea wore the night before, the one that if you turned it inside out, it would have lit up the room. He was glowing from the inside out. I was so happy for him and I was so grateful I was there.
As I took my seat to watch the rest of the class, I was overcome with emotion. It was a happy moment but it took me back to a difficult time. When I was sick, I used to sit on the side of the kids’ beds, watching them sleep and praying to God that He would allow me to be their mother for a while longer. They were only 5 and 6 years old. They shouldn’t have to grow up without a mother. They needed me to be there for them. They needed me to wrap my arms around them and tell them I loved them. They needed me to kiss away their boo boos. They needed me to make everything better, like only a Mom can do. I remember staring at them, stroking their hair and regretting every moment that I missed, every moment that I rushed through, every milestone I couldn’t wait for them to reach. I was bargaining with God. I would do anything, give anything…if He would just spare me for now, give me a little more time. I wanted nothing more than to have the honor of raising my little boy and my little girl. I wasn’t scared of dying but I was terrified of leaving my children.
As I sat along the wall after the ceremony, watching my son finish his class, wearing his new yellow belt and his deceptively ‘quiet’ smile and hearing echoes of Kalea’s excited squeals from the night before, my heart was bursting with love for my children and gratitude for all of life’s blessings. I promised myself and God that if I was going to be okay, I would not take one moment for granted. See, these are the moments I was afraid I would miss. I had the privilege of watching my baby girl shoot hoops all season and then earn a medal at the “Shoot Out” at the end of the year. I had the privilege of watching my little man work on forms and kicks and then earn a yellow belt after all his hard work. I had the privilege to plan a fun surprise for my children after school on St. Patrick’s Day. I had the privilege of making memories. I had the privilege of being their Mom. I had the privilege of being present, right here, right now. I used to be one of those people, one of those Moms, who rushed through life, who didn’t always take the time to celebrate all the little moments that make up that life. When I was sick and my life was uncertain, those little moments were all I wanted. I wasn’t going to take any of those moments for granted anymore, not when they could have so easily been taken away.
Celebrating special days (and ordinary days) with my children and family was now a priority. Back then, I sat at my children’s bedside, tears running down my face as I pictured my children at school functions and sporting events, looking out into the crowd… and seeing an empty seat. These days, I sat in the crowd, tears running down my face, watching my children do amazing things, thanking God for allowing me to be present. Watching Kalea walk up to receive her medal, watching Kade accept his yellow belt and certificate, watching them both run through the house to find the next clue for our scavenger hunt…I was there for all of those moments. We made a lot of memories, just in the last few days. Imagine the memories we can make in a lifetime.
It brings me back to my school days. Back then, I sat at my desk and nervously answered the teacher, afraid to announce my presence, preferring to stay quiet and remain unnoticed. Today, I excitedly raise my hand up to God, say a prayer of gratitude and shout to the heavens, “Here!”.