It was 1994 on New Year’s Eve. I had just learned that my father who had gone in for routine bypass surgery was not going to be coming home. He had passed away in the operating room from a blood clot that caused a stroke. And at ten years old I learned a very hard, but important lesson that day. Just how much we don’t have control over, how quickly life can change, and how the time we have here is never a guarantee. And I had hoped that I would never lose sight of that lesson. As life-changing as it was, I figured that was pretty much a guarantee. But 27 years is a long time and we get comfortable as time goes on. The years help to bury the hurt and the shock. And we slowly forget how raw and real a lesson like that is. And while you never come back from something like that – you learn to live with an altered heart – and you find yourself back in the daily motions of it all.
I would learn this lesson again in my teenage years. Junior year of high school and we discovered that my gall bladder needed to be removed. Following surgery and once I was back at home, I was struggling to breathe. Upon being admitted to the ER, the doctors informed us that I had developed blood clots. They said it was a result of the surgery – one large one behind my knee and several on my lungs. We were told if blood thinners were not started and if I was not put on bed rest immediately that I could die (the exact words from the doctor who, looking back, had zero bedside manner or tact). So there I was. Sixteen years old, in the hospital dealing with the same thing that killed my father. For two weeks I was poked and prodded, had every bowel movement monitored, and was unable to communicate something so real to friends of mine. So I closed myself off and my entire life was upended. This time, the lesson would hit different as my once-invincible teenage facade broke away.
And then 2021. Repeat lessons. Through the years of family life there have been seasons of struggle, but throughout it all, I have always found myself able to quickly get perspective. And that is that no matter how hard things seemed, all of my children were healthy and happy. Anytime I would come across a family who was going through the unthinkable with a child, it would affect me in a very real way. And I think when you have lived the worst of something, when you truly know how bad things can be, you feel things differently. You have a wider perspective of it all. When you experience death or the possibility of it, it changes you completely. Not to mention, I am a complete empath and that is both a blessing and a curse. Can I get an amen on that one? As a mother, I have absolutely carried that worry and that gratitude simultaneously throughout my years. The worry of something happening to one of my children as well as being brought to tears that they have their health.
This past summer. Blair wakes up in the middle of the night in pain, looking pale, falling in and out of sleep, and all of those years start to erode. It seems with every passing moment it was more and more dirt being cleared away for this lesson that I learned multiple times as a kid to be brought right back to the surface. As everyone in that triage room held their breath when we saw that Blair’s blood was pink (a sign of leukemia), literally a shade of pink, I found myself internally losing grip on everything. My world was crashing all around me as I faced the very real possibility of losing my child as we learned how severe the situation was. And as she continued slipping in and out of sleep, sirens blared from the ambulance outside that was going to transport her to the ICU, it was all I could do to stay standing on my feet.
Now, fast forward and you probably know that she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, hypothyroidism, and celiac disease (you can read more about that story here). And while she left that hospital with the kitchen sink of diagnosis and completely different life, the fact is that she left that hospital. She got to come home. We get to live with this diagnosis. We get to. It’s amazing that I have been brought to a space of being grateful for something like Type 1 and all that it robbed us of, but here’s the thing –
I know the other possible ending. I have lived that other ending. I know what could have been. I know how these things go sometimes and I will take this outcome day after day after day. In that ICU room and waiting for answers from the doctors, I found myself learning all over again just how much we don’t have control. Just how quickly life can change. And how the time we have here is never a guarantee. I could have lost my daughter. And learning this lesson yet again, but as a mother this time has been a completely different experience.
After walking through these past six months and all they have brought, one thing is for certain. I am a completely different person than I was a year ago. Completely different in every way. It has strengthened me. It has hardened me in a good way as odd as that sounds. And simultaneously it has softened me. It has brought me to a place of extreme clarity between what is important and what isn’t. And goodness gracious, I was worried about a lot of unimportant things. Spending my time worrying about things down the road when I have had life to live right in front of me. Tomorrow is never guaranteed so why the hell do we spend so much time worrying about it? Why do we hold back from anything when we have breath in our lungs to go after it right now?
And yes, I know. Real-life circumstances and scenarios, but really. If we are honest with ourselves, how much of that is self-imposed, and how much is truly a roadblock? I think when we are willing to be honest with ourselves, a lot of the things we think are out of our control are from our own limiting beliefs and action. Whether it be lack of courage, lack of confidence, or the latter – excess fear.
With every new year, while I have stopped making a list of resolutions, I do choose a word to focus on. My word for this year is: fortitude.
That is what is on my mind as I step into this new year. Having courage in all things as we go after big things we have written on our hearts. And going after those dreams with no apologies. No longer holding back because of fear of judgment. Saying what I mean. Loving harder and speaking softer. Being unapologetically happy and joyful because, goodness gracious, couldn’t we all use more of that right now?
And always being grateful for the adversity. Because it is through adversity that I have found my strength.