When Jane died from Leukemia, I was feeling like she was one in a million. I felt alone and like no one would understand. I admit selfishly I felt like I was the only mom who has ever lost a child.
Maybe, it's because by nature I am naive, maybe it's because no matter how hard I try to fight it I am a "glass is half full" woman, maybe it's because I am just growing up and seeing the world through my "big girl glasses". The list could go on and on. But, the truth of it is that I am not alone and there are so many kids dying and too many dying of cancer everyday.
The sad reality is that there are so many parents that have to watch the beast slowly steal their once vibrant, healthy child. And, like everything else in life - until you are exposed to a situation, I don't think one truly is open to seeing how common things like childhood cancer and childhood death are.
The first month after Jane died, I was numb - completely numb! I would summarize those weeks as one where my mind was protecting my body by not letting me truly grasp the intensity of the loss. The brain is an amazing thing, and mine knew that there was no way I could have survived if I would have felt all that pain right away.
The second month, as the numbness wore off the exhaustion took hold. I was so tired I slept all the time. I would get up with the girls, get them ready for school, go to work, come home, enjoy supper with my Angels on earth, do homework, give baths, have a bedtime snack and then I would fall asleep next to them at 8 pm. In the past, I had a couple more hours in me - now, the heaviness of the world has grabbed on with both hands and I just wanted to sleep.
The third month has been my reality check. For me, I feel like the "realness" of Jane's death has hit me like a ton of bricks. The intense waves of grief, the constant reminders that Jane isn't going to be walking in the door any minute and the gallons of tears that have flowed out of my body are all things that I deal with daily. This has truly been the hardest time in my life. The intensity of the pain is unimaginable. It's so strong it can take you at a moment's notice and cripple you to your knees. I find myself so weak that sitting on the floor and sobbing is the only thing I know how to do. And, in those moments I feel like the only one in pain and so very alone.
But the reality of it is that I am not alone. I have many friends and family that are there for me. And, I am not alone because there are so many people that, like me, in one way or another are grieving a loss. Maybe it's something that comes with age or maybe it's the right of passage when you become an unwilling member of "the club" no one wants to be a part of - whatever the reason, I am amazed at the sheer number of people grieving this holiday season. I am appalled at the reality of how many moms and dads have lost a child - through cancer, illness, miscarriage or accident. My heart goes out to each one of you.
And as I read of more and more moms losing their child to cancer, or having those "private room" conversations learning that the reminding number of days in their precious child's life is to be measured in hours, days or weeks - instead of years and decades like they deserve, I have come to notice a common theme. That despite the odds against them, these kids still share their beautiful smiles with the world. And despite the world crumbling around them, the moms in their darkest hours are able to see those bright smiles and treasure them as the gold nugget they are.
Kids are amazing! Kids with cancer are phenomenal. These kids somehow have the amazing ability that even in their illness and death they can share the gift of their love through a smile.
My office is full of photos of kids smiling. I am lucky to see smiles everywhere I turn. My wish to you this Christmas season is that you can take one moment to smile and another to see the smiles around you.
This holiday season I challenge you to be more Jane-like and share the treasure that lights up the world - your smile. And when you find it hard to smile, please think about the kids who are sick and dying and yet somehow keep smiling. If they can do it, so can we.
Smiles are contagious - share one today.