Sunday, May 12, 2013

She is here

Friday after work, I walked to North Station instead of South Station. It was a beautiful night, despite that it was supposed to have been raining, and as I walked along Congress Street, I remembered back to exactly one year ago when I walked that very same route to catch the very same train.

I take the train from North Station only once a year -- the Friday before Mother's Day. That's when I head north out of Boston to Winchester Center instead of south to Canton Junction. My Mom picks me up a mile or so from the hospital and we drive up to New Hampshire for our one-night Mother's Day getaway. For the past five years, I have looked forward to that trip like I look forward to Christmas and this year's excited anticipation was no different.

In fact, in most respects, this year's Mother's Day trip wasn't different at all. My Mom and I talked almost all of the way up I-95; we caught up about family and work and anything random that popped into my head. We munched on some snacks, listened to music between topics of conversation, and sat in traffic completely unbothered by it.

My Mom and I chose to explore a different spot this year and we stayed at a beautiful hotel in New Castle, next door to Portsmouth. Our dinner was delicious and we fell asleep early on feathery white pillows, so comfortable and so content. The next morning, after enjoying one of the tastiest breakfast buffets we have ever had, we explored the shops in Portsmouth for hours, just before the rain set in. It was perfect; another little slice of Heaven.

* * * 

Although I never felt like bringing it up as I blabbed away to my Mom on Friday night, the train ride from North Station earlier that evening had not been an easy one. As I sat there for the 18-minute journey, I thought back to same ride exactly one year ago. I was surprised that I could remember what I had read and even what I had been wearing. But then, without being able to reign in my wandering mind, I thought about next year. Would I be on that train again? Will all of this treatment have worked? Will my Mom be OK if it hasn't? And then I started to feel completely overwhelmed, kind of like I felt on my birthday. I realized that despite how far I've come, the future can still be a really scary thing for a cancer patient.

As I felt that fear start to suffocate me, I fought to find peace. Eventually, I did, thanks to friends out there who had absolutely no idea that I was thinking of them; thanks to brave men and women who had no clue that they were rescuing me.

* * * 

I have four friends and several former students who have bravely suffered through the tragic loss of their mother. Of those tragedies, I know very little. Sure, I may know the disease or the circumstances that brought their beloved mothers to an early passing, but I have no idea how my friends felt as they grieved, or how they feel as they continue to try to cope and to heal. All I know is that I have seen men and women continue on, several to raise their own beautiful families with strength and courage and grace, just like I'm certain their moms raised them.

I recently wrote about how angry I get when people abuse what I so desperately want to hold onto -- health, family, time. On Friday's train ride, after I wallowed in my own fear and misery for a few minutes, I realized a huge irony in the way I was behaving. There I was, on my way to New Hampshire with my Mom, and I was letting my fear ruin it. I was letting my fear of next year damage the joy of this year. And right after I had written a blog about living in the moment?!? I felt like such a fraud, and a total spoiled brat for mistreating something that I knew my friends would give almost anything for.

I admit, the scariest thought of the weekend also popped up on that train ride and a few times thereafter. It was the thought that Mother's Day could one day be painful for my children; that they could feel the loss and the grief that my friends may feel while people (like me) spend time with their mom. In those terrible moments, my brave friends once again saved me. I thought of their children and the happiness that those children bring them. Yes, Mother's Day must hurt, but I know they don't let that hurt suffocate other deep joys. And so I shouldn't (and didn't), either.

* * * 

Once I picked myself up from my depths on that train ride, I had almost reached my destination. What to do with a few extra minutes? Check Facebook, obviously. When I did, I came across a photo that my friend, Lauren, had recently posted. It was of a Mother's Day gift that her son had made her at school -- one of those fill-in-the-blank worksheets where the kids had to answer a few questions about their mother and then color all around the text before they cut it into the shape of a flower. My Mom is _____. She likes to ____. Her favorite food is ____. 

The last fill-in-the-blank brought tears to my eyes. The best thing about my Mom is _____. Lauren's little boy had answered: That she is here.

I swear, little kids often find the words that I couldn't find if I sat for hours in search of them. I couldn't stop thinking about that answer. Even as I turned the light off that night, I was still smiling at the clarity that this little boy had brought to me -- that the best thing about my Mom is also that she is here. 

I hope that decades from now my kids can say the same -- that their mother is here. If, however, they can't, I hope they can somehow do what I've watched my inspiring friends do -- miss their mom with grace and courage and never with a weight that holds them back, and lead their lives as if their mother is there. Because she is. And she always will be.

Teddy got just what he wanted for Mother's Day ... a game of baseball in Southie with Daddy, Papa, and Uncle Greg. (Annabel and I sat nearby and read books.) 
Then I got exactly what I wanted ... my exhausted baby girl snuggled with me for almost 10 full minutes. Pure Heaven. 

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