Every New Years Day we go to the beach and pick a rock. We each write one word on the rock, our word for the year that we will try to live by. My word this year took all year to come up with. Let me explain.
I felt like I was dying as 2019 came to a close.
I wasn’t up to writing a year end review, as I felt my life was closer to ending than I hoped. Rashes, throat tight and in panic mouth issues, hands and feet peeling and in pain, feeling like every step i took I was walking on glass, worrying how I would be able to work through this treatment….
But then the ball dropped, the year changed, and today…
I woke up.
That’s half the battle right there.
2019 was hard… hard as it seemed for many.
I had great dreams to hit remission against all odds again this past year.
The cancer exploded all over the bones, into the spine and the hips, as well innumerable lesions all over the liver.
I had to have a liver biopsy.
In September I ended up in the hospital emergency room, gasping for breath, saying all the things to rob you say when you think you are dying, with my dad, my friend Mary Maki, my brother rob, and my brother in law Jake all coming to be with us while the rest of my family was with my mom who had just had a procedure and was stuck at home, unable to be with her daughter who was afraid she was dying that day.
I lost friends… lifelines… sisters in this cancer arena.
Lisa, who was one of the first friends to be firm with on me how I’m going to do this, because she did it, and had all of these tips. She went quiet on Facebook for a while, as some do. We didn’t know her cancer had come back, so when I got the text she was gone from my friend candy, I was in shock. I had to watch the summer camp talent show with Maddie and hold in my grief until I got to the car. Mourning her was easier, and harder, because I had lived with her. I shared friends and space with her. I mourned with others.
Leila, who had this spark of light every time we wrote to each other. She had told me it was getting to where she didn’t recognize herself in the mirror, but we were waiting on a new drug to be approved for her. She had been on my mind while we were dropping off madison at leadership camp, so I checked on her and saw she passed the day before. I cried all the way home. Her mom started to send me gifts Leila left for me, and letters. She has Leila’s phone and continues to follow my life, and her aunt follows me as well. Leila’s people are my people too, and I love them. I wear her key around my neck every day.
Alycia also left this world. Her mom alayne showed such grace and dignity and kept us all informed. She asked us to write to Alycia and read her all of our love letters. We had hoped to meet at the annie Appleseed conference but she was too ill to come. While at the conference, I received a text from her that she couldn’t wait to see me and hug me there, then another saying she couldn’t come. Even in her twilight moments, when time and space were unclear to her, she still thought of me and the hug we never got to share. I was chaperoning a trip in NYC when Paula texted me that Alycia had passed. The group I was chaperoning came with me to saint patricks cathedral and waited as I took my three minutes to pray and cry in my special spot, and one of the young men gave me a hug as I came out. I got hope for our future from his hug and humanity.
I’m still losing friends in this arena all the time. It’s like I’ve been placed at this shore by the sea of grief, and sometimes the waves crash over me and threaten to pull me in, and other times I’m able to sit and look at the calm flat water, and see the beauty in having loved and known them.
2019 was hard, people.
But it was also beautiful.
I became a yoga teacher and was certified. I took class and learned from beautiful souls, and was surrounded by beautiful souls. I did it with one of my best friends and learned from one of my best friends. I breathed.
I was able to watch my children continue to grow. I think the thing I am most proud of in my life is them. My hope is that when I leave this earth, my heart and spirit stays with them and they continue to be the lights of kindness and goodness that they have shown to be.
Madison learned to drive a car, performed in a play “A Chorus Line”, and will be in “Les Miserables” this spring. She was the top cadet of her platoon at leadership academy, and it seems as if every week we are getting letters from colleges about her running or academics, inviting her to visit and represent riverhead at different camps.
Morgan’s hair is growing back, which shows she is doing well. She also worked on a play, but behind the scenes. She has gotten a best friend, and I love seeing her giggle with her. She also grew about a foot this year, and is changing into a young lady. She may be even more driven than Maddie academically. She knows what she likes and wants and does it. Morgan found herself this year.
Quinn continues to be a love bug. He made the transition to the new school beautifully. He also has started to work hard in school to follow his sisters lead. I struggle with the amount of time he is on video games, but he has a headset where he talks to other friends, so in a way it’s a play date and they are all working together to accomplish tasks, without me having to clean my house. This year he found a new family in Troop 161, and the men and women who lead the troop are some of the best people I’ve ever met in my life. He will be an Eagle Scout some day. Scouting has given him confidence he needed. He also continues to play tennis and love golf.
I’m continued to blessed with a strong marriage and an amazing husband. Rob keeps me moving forward with hope. He does it all, and has become an even better father and husband through it all. We are a team. I know how lucky I am. When we got married, we had a saying, “No matter what”. We’ve stuck to that saying, and no matter what happens, we love each other harder through it.
I left my church this year. I miss so many faces there. Every Sunday I think of my friends who hugged me and prayed for me. It was the easiest and hardest decision I’ve ever made. But my faith is not based on a church. It’s based on a man. Jesus. I went to the church we were married in last week and the priest spoke of how the church is the well of water from which we drink each week, which helps us fill our heart and spirit to go forth and live like Jesus.
That’s how I know my word for 2020 is the right word.
That word has been hijacked and people think of crazies when they see that. Megachurches with rich leaders, crazy people who judge others.
That’s not what it is supposed to be.
It’s supposed to be that you go out and be the light.
Not look for the light.
Not tell others about the light.
Not tell others how they are wrong and won’t get to see the light.
But BE the light.
Others see the light and step into it.
We live in a world of judgement. Everyone judges everyone and has an opinion and whips up a frenzy. It reminds me of when the adulteress was going to be stoned, and Jesus walked up to them and asked who among the stone throwers was without sin? Let that person cast the first stone.
They all dropped their stones and walked away.
How many of you are holding stones? Ready to pounce and throw and sneer and throw side eye?
Drop your stone and hold out your hand.
Your life will be better for it.
I’ve been blessed with people praying for me for years now. Do you know what it feels like to know strangers are whispering your name in churches around the world as they light candles? It’s beautiful.
Being filled with faith doesn’t mean you are tied to a church. It means you are tied to a man, a man who came to us as a baby, walked among us, showed love to the unloveable. He didn’t come for the perfect people. He came for the sinners, the same people some churches refuse to serve communion. He came for you.
He came for me.
It’s written by one of his disciples that if he would have catalogued all of the miracles Jesus performed, there wouldn’t be enough libraries to hold all of the books filled with the stories. If a man could perform all of that back then, I have to believe He is possible to perform them still.
So goodbye 2019. You were hard, full of pain and sorrow, disappointment and devastating losses. But you also were full of laughter and love and prayer and friends and family and forgiveness.
I’m not naive to think 2020 will be perfect all of the time.
I simple pray it brings more of the good.
May 2020 bring more healing than pain, more faith than fear, more life than death, more forgiveness than judgement, more hugs than pointing fingers, more love than anger, and more time for us all.
That’s the word of the year.
Inside the word is the word “angel.”
Be like an angel of God, and be the light of the world.
God knows we need more light.
In Jesus’s name, amen.