All my life I’ve prepared myself to walk alone. Depending on people was a weakness I never wanted to have. Through this cancer thing, it’s something I’ve struggled with, but am grateful that I can do. During chemo weeks, my kids alternate staying between my mom and my mother in law’s house. I’m not well enough to cater to them because I’m so out of it. I’ve had to learn to be okay with turning down field trips and letting my mom go in my place. I’ve had to learn to watch from a chair as they get bathed and ready for bed. I’ve had to wait at home for my mom to bring them over after school so that they could hug me, even if it’s just for ten minutes before they leave again. During chemo weeks after school my five year old opens the door and smiles at me when he hugs me and asks, “How are you feeling today? Are you better?” and every day I smile back and say “I’m feeling okay. Almost better.” Every day, after I wave goodbye and close the door behind them, I feel another little part of me shatter.
The pain that pulses through my bones is excruciating, but not being able to do motherly things hurts more. I’m the kind of person who only lets her children out of her sight when I absolutely need to. I let them stay the night at their grandma’s when my husband and I need a date night. I leave them for the weekend when we need to do something important, but when it comes to every day life, I’m there. To me, bath time and bedtime routines are sacred. It’s what I do.
Soon they’ll be home all the time again and I’ll be complaining about the days being too long and wishing it was bedtime already. But for now the only thing I want to do is rewind time and slap myself for complaining about those things. I want to scream at myself for screaming at them about the mess they made or asking for water five times in a row when they were supposed to be sleeping three hours ago. In this life, it’s easy to get lost in the moment. It’s easier to forget what really matters, especially when you have your own adult things to worry about. It’s easy to forget that we too were once that age and we too made that mess. It’s easy to forget that the reason we asked for water five times wasn’t because we wanted to annoy our mom, but because we wanted to spend a little more time with her, maybe get one more kiss out of her before we shut our eyes for good. These are things I contemplate on when I’m alone for hours on end. I guess it’s probably similar to what I’ll think when I’m on my deathbed someday. “Was it all worth it? Did I tell them I loved them enough?” At the end of the day, those will be the things that will matter.
All my life, I prepared myself to walk alone because I didn’t know what it truly meant to walk beside someone. My children don’t let me wonder, though, they hold my hand wherever we go. I never understood that depending on others doesn’t make you weak. It makes you human. My loved ones don’t argue with me about it anymore, they just keep doing things for me and I have no choice but to feel loved, not weak. Every day I remind myself that it’s okay to ask for help, and when my kids take me by the hand as we walk to the living room and ask me if they can get me something, I let them.
I spend a lot of time thinking about women who don’t have husbands like mine, who fight for them when they don’t want to fight for themselves. Or children like mine, who tell me I’m beautiful even when I feel less than. Or friends like mine, who do so many thoughtful things for me constantly. Every day before I go to sleep I think about all of these things. I think about how much I have and when I close my eyes I think of those women, the ones who don’t have these things, and I pray they find something positive to hold on to. I wish I could reach out and hold their hands and tell them how beautiful and strong they are as they go through this so they know they’re not alone.
All my life I’ve prepared myself to walk alone, and today I’m glad I don’t have to. Today I’m happy I finally learned that leaning on somebody isn’t a sign of weakness, but a sign of courage, because when we fully lean on one another, we dare to hope.