When I thought I was going to die, grief blinded me. The grief wasn’t really for myself. I’ve had a pretty good run.
Reflecting on my life, it’s easy for me to see that my stroll into adulthood was leisurely. Even though my earliest years were fraught with trauma from which I thought I’d never recover, somehow, miraculously, I’ve managed to live a happy, peaceful life.
In college, I studied literature — a luxurious indulgence. Even as a naive 20-year-old, I understood the extravagance of being able to sit under a tree and read, albeit in sweltering Missouri heat. I studied the world’s literary masterpieces while sweat trickled down my back, mosquitoes nipped at hard-to-reach places, and the MBA students on campus wondered what I was doing. But those books! How they kept me company. I had stacks of them and expert professors to guide me through their meaning.
After college, I traveled. With $300 in my pocket, I headed to the United Kingdom, got a job as a waitress, and unfolded another series of adventures.
Eventually, I met the love of my life. And against all odds, he loved me back. At one point, flying with him in a small airplane, I thought we were going down. As I watched the canopy of redwoods below us get closer to the underbelly of that Piper 180, I heard the pilot screaming, “Mayday!” into the radio. But oddly, I felt no sense of panic. In those few large minutes, I realized I’ve lived a good life, asked for and extended forgiveness, and was sharing space with the man I love most in the world. From my spot in that backseat, I thought to myself, “I am at peace. I can go now.”
But years later, when a doctor told me my cancer was triple negative, advanced, and spread, my reaction was different. “Unless you can get chemo fast,” that oncologist told me, “you’ll be gone in three months.” Obamacare had just kicked in, and it mysteriously caused a three-digit code to be tacked onto my health insurance policy number. That code meant that my policy was invalid, and no doctor or hospital would take me. Believe me, we called them all. The only reason I was able to secure that one bleak oncologist appointment was that I agreed to pay for it in cash.
I say I was blinded by grief because, in almost a literal sense, I was. All I could see was my motherless child, my 10-year-old peach-cheeked beauty navigating her life without the rudder I could provide. It broke my heart. I could see, feel, hear, and taste nothing else.
Eventually, miraculously, I got treatment. At that time, my doctor said my chances of survival were 40 percent, an improvement over the three-month prognosis, but discouraging. I had to get peace around my situation, and I spent a lot of time in contemplative prayer.
During one of those prayers, the truth came over me: Though she’s very young, my daughter has her own spiritual path, as does my husband and everyone else I love. My job is to live my own journey, enshrined as it is in its fragile human skin, and to surrender the rest. I need to let God do the work that is God’s.
In that realization, I felt peace. I gave my beautiful daughter back to the Source. Of course, I begged that Source to bathe her in strength and peace and light and every other blessing a mother could confer on her beloved child. And then, I let go.
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