I’ve been the strong one stroking the belly of a loved one filled with cancer. The cancer so advanced that I could feel it under his thin skin as I promised him that it was okay to die that day, and reassured him that we would carry on. I stood there in the room hours later as the last breath escaped his body relieved that his pain was over and ours had begun.
I’ve been the weak one weeping opening when the news came that mom needed open heart surgery. I’ve been the adult, feeling like the little child trying to be brave, as they wheeled my mother down the hallway to uncertain survival. Our shoulders heaved as our legs barely held us up in the hospital hallway, all too reminiscent of days gone by.
I’ve been the one weeping while witnessing the pain of a mother who lost her son all too early and so suddenly. He wasn’t mine, but I ached completely for her loss. I’ve come to pray with a mother, I barely knew, as she signed the papers to turn off the life support for the daughter that I did know. I’ve kissed the warm hand of a brain dead friend and said goodbye knowing the warmth was only from the machines and that when the machines stopped humming that the cold would fill her body. I’ve stood by a friend in their valley and been stood by in mine.
I’ve been through joyous times filled with celebration, hope and brightness. And I’ve wept into the tiny holes of the phone to my mother when loss was so common and constant that even the kitten died. I’ve walked open armed into friendships and I’ve walked away from a future that would have destroyed me. I’ve said goodbye when my heart wanted to stay and I’ve run away when the warning bells rang all around me. I have been truant from the knowledge of old friend’s tragedy and at other times the news has caught up to me and stolen my breathe away.
I’ve been guilty of causing heartbreak that I can’t undo. And I’ve forgiven those who have never asked. I’ve looked back and given my sins away and I’ve walked forward knowing that I’ve already been forgiven. I’ve had the honor of being present at the first and at the last breathe of life. I’ve lived this life completely for having been through it all.
And sometimes when the phone rings and my father’s voice is on the other end, my heart skipped a beat for years. I remember the day he called, when I greeted him in German and he answered in English, to tell me that mom had had a heart attack. So began the journey that led us to the hospital hallways yet again. My mother’s survival from Hodgkin’s disease came at a price of radiation damage for a lifetime. And yet there is no bitterness for the damages because the days of her survival had been so sweet.
Life is like that, filled with abundance and valleys, yet so sweet that the bitterness that could consume isn’t as tempting as a life lived filled with hope. Do you agree?