“Mom, you’ve got to tell Daddy to quit crying every time he looks at me,” I complained. “I’m not going to die and he needs to quit planning my funeral and get over this and move on. He’s driving me crazy.”
I regretted those words almost the moment that they came out of my mouth. They weren’t malicious. The truth is that I don’t want my Mom and Dad to hurt. I don’t want to look at them and see their sorrow and sadness because I have cancer. I hate knowing that I’m the cause of their hurt – I, I, I. Do you see a theme here? While not uttered maliciously, the words were selfish. Their journey makes me uncomfortable but honestly, who am I to tell them how to walk their journey? Who am I to criticize them for how they feel about their walk? I regret my words. I regret I didn’t support them on their journey.
Yes, I have cancer. Yes, it sucks. Yes, it is a hard journey. But (and I mean this quite sincerely), life is GOOD despite this diagnosis. I am doing amazingly well. I’ve chosen life and I don’t just mean to beat this cancer and live physically. I also mean to LIVE every moment as fully and completely as I can of this wonderful journey despite little bumps in the road called MS and now cancer. When I say live, I mean physical life and an abundant life. It is not always easy to do this. In fact, some days, it’s quite hard. But, this is my journey and more importantly, life is my choice.
Make no mistake that I had other options available and considered them. But, again, I chose life – I choose to live! Even when I was still in the dark places after the initial diagnosis, even when I was still so angry with God that He probably withdrew so as to avoid flying dishes, I knew that for me there was no other choice to be made but life. It’s brought me peace and a certainty that somehow, somewhere, I’ll find what I need to complete this journey and enjoy the view from the mountain when I reach the other side. I view this as simply a little slice of negative space and it’s that negative space that highlights the beauty of life and makes it sweeter.
I made my choice and have asked – no demanded – that others respect it and let me walk this journey on my terms. How simply audacious then that I would deny someone else the respect – and freedom – to walk their journey on whatever terms they see fit. How dare I belittle the validity of their journey? The truth is that just because my journey may be hard, doesn’t mean that theirs is any less difficult or less important. To them (and I suspect this is true), their journey may be much, much more difficult than mine.
I’m reminded of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Can you imagine what it must have been like to watch your child – your firstborn – as he’s betrayed by someone near and dear to him, beaten within an inch of his life, publically humiliated and ridiculed, and then sentenced to die in the absolutely most horrific and barbaric way possible to the then known world? Imagine, after all this, following your child to the executioner’s “chamber” at Golgotha, watching them drive nails in his hands and feet and feeling every blow in your soul as if it were your hands, your feet, and then watching as he hung on the cross dying.
I doubt Mary thought much about Jesus being the son of God or savior of humanity in those moments. I suspect she was gripped in a vise of bone-deep grief that only those who’ve lost a child can begin to fathom. As she watched the events play out, her focus must have simply been on giving Jesus the only thing she could –her presence as she watched him die and willed every ounce of love she had into her face hoping he could see the love in her eyes despite her tears. There’s no doubt the journey Jesus walked was horrific. But, that doesn’t alter the fact that Mary’s walk – for her – was also horrific.
I pray that I never understand Mom and Dad’s journey from an experiential perspective. Frankly, if it were my daughter, I’d be broken. I don’t know if I could bear it. I’d be on my knees begging, pleading and playing any game of Let’s-Make-a-Deal I could with God, making best friends with Dr. Google, and beating down the doors of any doctor I could find who’d listen and offer hope to “fix” my “baby.” I’d do anything – give anything – I could to change my daughter’s journey. I suspect the same is true for Mom and Dad.
The truth is that everyone has their own journey to travel in life. Sometimes, our family, friends and other loved ones can walk with us. Other times, we walk alone. Like Mary, all we can do is watch their journey from afar, helpless to do anything except send them all the love we have in our hearts. Such is the journey now for all of us. Who’s to say whether one journey is harder than another? Not me. The journey before us now is neither good nor bad – it simply is what it is. Each journey has validity and is important. Each of us deserves the right to travel our journey in the way that seems good and right to us without judgment from others regarding our thoughts, actions and reactions on the journey. Next time, I’ll remember that while different, their journey is as important as mine.
“Live life so that at the end you’ll have no regrets for the things left undone. Live long, live well, live happy. The most important thing is to LIVE!” Mary Kyle
© 2013 Mary Kyle. All rights reserved.