I want to show you a smile.
Look at that beautiful smile!
It’s the smile of a little boy who has five more weeks to live.
His mom, Oana, doesn’t know it yet. For another few weeks, she’ll hope for happy news. For years more of his beautiful smiles.
And then, then she’ll be told he has just a few days to live.
She’ll ache through her precious moments left with him.
And she’ll be devastated when she says goodbye on July 5, 2014.
I’ve followed Oana’s remembering on Instagram.
July 4, 2015, is the one-year anniversary of Oana’s last day with her little boy.
My mom taught me love, hope and forgiveness.
She also taught me perseverance: going on when you don’t feel you can go on anymore, which was how she felt almost every day of her life.
She was candid that she would have killed herself if she thought she could do so and still be reassured my siblings and I would be safe. Because those reassurances did not exist, she hung on, trying to find enough light to keep going.
She was mentally ill in her later life. I didn’t understand how bad her illness had gotten until months after my youngest sister moved in with our godmother.
The day my youngest sister moved out was the day my mom snapped completely.
It was the day my mom no longer had to keep trying to keep it together for us.
She was free. And then, when she died of cancer, that freedom became total.
It was beautiful and brutal. I wished–and will always wish–such kinder freedoms for her.
For me, reading this is a new kind of freedom: knowing there is someone not my sibling who understands. Who could have loved my mom for everything she was: broken, ferocious, tenacious, beautiful, and forever–in her yearning, her striving, her candor–the most inspiring woman I will ever know.
Her striving paid, in part, for my independence.
I am sobbing, and I am thankful.
Originally posted on Behind the White Coat:
“Have you been taking your meds?”
“What have your blood sugars been running?”
“Yeah, I haven’t been checking them.”
I paused for a moment to regroup. She was 8 months overdue for her office visit. Still, better late than never, right?
“Doc, I decided that I needed to start taking my health more seriously. I promise I am going to do better. My baby mamma… well I call her that… died last night. She had lupus, had been really sick. She has a teenage daughter…”
“Wait. What’s her name?”
She told me.
She was gone.
It was over, then.
Over two years I had watched her pain grow, her eyesight fade, horrible wounds opening up, infections, blood clots… suffering upon suffering upon suffering.
We knew it was going to happen, she and I. She wanted to die except that it would leave her daughter alone…
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“Rara gets out of prison in a few weeks!” I reminded my husband last night.
He pondered this briefly. “That means I should write her now, huh? So you can send my letter with yours?”
He sat down at my computer to write.
I putted about as he wrote.
Several hours later, he asked me to peek at his letter and confirm its appropriateness.
I read the first page and laughed. Read more…
6,100 people follow this blog. My stats page tells me so.
My stats page also tells me that only a few dozen people read my posts regularly.
My most visited posts this quarter was “Rara sends her love,” which got lots of visits through no magic of my own.
Am I a successful blogger? I could drive myself crazy trying to answer that based on the numbers. So today I asked myself during my seemingly eternal commute: What was the moment you felt most successful blogging?
I could answer that immediately, with two equally important moments:
- When a reader told me I had the insight of a funeral director, and
- When a grieving mother from whom I’d learned about grief shared one of my blogs and called my words perfect.
To me, both these comments said: You are listening, and you are listening well. You are learning how to hear people even when they can’t find the right words.
Their comments told me so much more about whether I’m “successful” than a bunch of numbers sitting idle upon a screen.
I suspect my blog is too melancholy for day-to-day reading by most.
That it’s best read in times of loneliness or heartbreak.
You know what?
I don’t need to be read by everyone, everywhere, every day.
If I am read by one person whose grief seems insurmountable, and that person finds the briefest glimmer of hope from my words
(as I have found hope, connection, and respite from theirs),
then I have been successful beyond my wildest dreams,
no matter what any number seems to imply.
How do you measure your success?
You might know me as a married mom of two.
You might know me as a marriage equality advocate.
You might not know that I once co-founded a club called YAMS, or “Youth Against Marital Situations,” that my choice to marry didn’t reflect an ounce of general enthusiasm for the institution of marriage, or that many days I still can’t believe I consciously, conscientiously chose marriage.
I chose it for a million reasons outside the scope of this post. I chose it for myself, not for my children.
When I said “I do,” I did so believing that there are as many right ways to parent as there are to be.
Regardless of my rationale, my mom would’ve been thrilled to know I married my sweet man.
Rachel Platten sings that “a single word can make a heart open.”
I’ve harnessed and witnessed the power of words countless times in my life. Only last week, I read a few sentences that will have changed my whole life before long.
Words are powerful generally, but sometimes, a few words can change entire lives and history all at once.
I read such words today, and remembered why I ever wanted to be an attorney.
I wanted to be like my mom’s attorney, Bill. It’s easy to remember that.
Another large part, a part forgotten until some external circumstance jogs loose a distant sense of longing, was wanting to work the kind of word-magic that could change lives for the better. I wanted to wield my pen for a better world, for better, safer lives, for joy and for happiness. I envisioned being a lawyer as like being a superhero whose superpower was words.
Today I read the text of the U.S. Supreme Court decision on OBERGEFELL ET AL. v. HODGES, DIRECTOR, OHIO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, ET AL.
I felt like I was witnessing a superhero at work, not in the end decision but in the actual steps leading up to it. Read more…
Tomorrow my son graduates from kindergarten.
So what? shouts the contingency who snap and share photos of their every restaurant meal. It’s not like there won’t be another half-dozen graduations in his future!
To them I say: It’s not like you won’t eat another couple of meals out tomorrow and share all those pics then, without pride of agency. You share that which you obtained only by money. I share that which I’ve helped shape by love, sweat, tears, pain, focus and dedication, day in and day out. How is it less acceptable for me to proudly–frequently–reflect on the vast and beautiful changes in this little boy who’s been my heart outside my body for most of six years?
Tomorrow, my big-little boy will don a little blue robe, and I will weep. It won’t matter how anyone else feels about the merits of kindergarten graduation. Read more…