Growing up is hard. It is hard when you are a little kid and that stupid shoelace doesn’t make any sense at all. It is hard when you get a little older and simple childhood friendships become complicated by hormones and competition. It is hard as you step into your own life as an adult and possibilities are supplanted by realities. Later on, as the invitations to weddings and baby showers decrease and the Caring Bridge notifications increase, the high price of aging really hits home.
This week I have had the pleasure and horror of being with my mom and her husband, Rae, at their home in Colorado. It has been pleasurable because I don’t see them near as often as we’d all like, and it is nice to be here and be a part of their lives. It is horrible because my mom is in her second week of recovering from a mastectomy, and despite the fact she is doing fabulously the whole cancer ordeal is ugly. In fact, because she is doing so fabulously I am in the position of having to follow her around and insist she sit down once in awhile and stop hauling out heavy pans to cook in. I am prepared to tell her that if she starts to mow the lawn, I am leaving. Rae has been experiencing a variety of vision problems and while he isn’t totally blind, that wouldn’t be a far leap. So far this week we have had to talk about emergency contacts and financial issues and the kinds of things that raise the specter of (please, Lord) far distant conversations about assisted living and ultimately, funeral arrangements. These thoughts turn back onto me; I am not sure we have an updated will.
There is a lot of living left to be done, but we really no longer have the luxury of ignoring the business of dying. This is hard. This particular growth spurt has brought growing pains just as real as the ones of childhood and adolescence. But like learning to tie shoes, to cultivate lifetime friendships and to make the most of life’s realities, learning to prepare for the inevitable brings rewards. There is comfort in having addressed the kinds of things you have control over, and acknowledging the things you can’t control takes a little of their power away. This time of frank discussion brings the opportunity both for tears and for an increased appreciation of the time and gifts we have right now. Love is constant, but we keep changing, and will do so until that final day our own growing is done.
(P.S. I had to use this lame title so I could post and get up to stop my mother from folding laundry. Otherwise, I am sure I could have come up with something much cooler.)
I woke this morning to the sound of air raid sirens, which slowly resolved into the high whine of a jet flying overhead. As my confusion ebbed and I started to consider going back to sleep, I heard gunshots in the distance. Someone getting ready for goose or deer season, I assumed, since there were no sirens forthcoming. This violent first few minutes of wakefulness followed a horrible night’s rest. One of my dreams involved a harrowing bus trip with impossible hills, descents and breakneck turns. The unsettling dreams were interspersed with wakeful intermissions within which I wrestled pointlessly with worries. Was my mom getting a good night’s rest before her mastectomy? Had we sisters planned well for helping her out during recovery? Would my mammogram on Tuesday be clear? Have I done what I can to get my kids ready for school? What have I forgotten, what have I missed? Nothing constructive came of this. The morning was a mess of trying to keep moving, keep doing, staying focused so I couldn’t watch the clock, staying as positive and grateful as possible.
Worry is weakness and worse, a thief of energy and clarity. Nothing is accomplished better under the cloud of fear and anxiety than it is with clear eyed thoughtfulness and rational optimism. Many of Jesus’ best quotes have to do with casting off fear, and that is one of the reasons I am such a big fan. Still, like most of what Jesus stands for, I have a long way to go before I truly live the Word. (Don’t be me. Be better.) Aside from the fact that my mom was having a surgery to remove cancer from her body and I spent a lot of time wavering between functioning human being and a waste of space, it was a good day. No cancer in lymph nodes! Satisfied surgeons! A living, breathing post-surgical mom! A lot of people were praying for her. Did prayers bring her a better outcome than worries? I can’t prove that, either way, but I know for sure that that same lot of people faced the day with strength and hope beyond what faith in modern medicine provides. It isn’t magic. It isn’t even easy to be faithful or hopeful in difficulty. But it is effective, important, and life-changing. Every moment I remembered to put aside fear and embrace faith, I turned inside out, like a pocket being emptied of old Kleenex and last week’s shopping list. Tomorrow will bring its own troubles. Hopefully, they won’t be near as dramatic as today’s were, but how much better would my life be, would I be, if I faced even the everyday tiny worries with the same intentional faith that helped me get through today?