Saturday, September 5, 2009

It's Aria's Birthday!!!

October 26, 2008
Subject: It is Aria’s Birthday!

Today, Friday October 24, 2008 is Aria's 5th birthday. We are so thrilled and excited to be celebrating this day. This morning Aria is enjoying a movie and some quiet time. Later, we're going to the elementary school so Aria can have her school picture taken, which she missed a few weeks ago when she was in the hospital. After that, we are heading to the Oncology Clinic. Aria does not have an appointment but I have made a harvest cake for Dr. Trobaugh and all the staff there in celebration of them. Today, I am keenly aware that it is because of them that we have Aria still with us to celebrate. The depth of gratitude I feel is so immense that I can hardly breathe. I have been tearful since yesterday reflecting on my joy being able to celebrate Aria's birthday with her at the same time being profoundly sorrowful thinking of mothers and fathers all over the globe who no longer have their children with whom to celebrate. I have described it to several people now that it is a punch in the gut, suck the air from my lungs, and knock me to my knees kind of joy and sorrow. Thinking of people and the loss of their loved ones gently forces me to look deeply at what I still have and that process has been transformative in many respects. To say that I have 'a greater appreciation' is a gross over-simplification of what I feel and what I sense. Although it is true, it only scratches the surface of what I now embrace.

I had two very tearful conversations yesterday trying to explain what I was thinking and feeling. I called my sister, Sue, and poured the very contents of my soul and my heart out to her. I felt utterly conflicted; on the one hand wanting only to be happy and celebrate the moment with Aria; to know that she is alive and well and getting better every day. I kept asking myself, "Why are you inviting this sorrow? Why can't you just be positive and thankful for what you have?" I realize that because I know this sorrow on a very superficial almost imaginative level it is nevertheless what drives my appreciation to such a magnitude. I can imagine this loss on some level. I don't want to but I can and every time I go through my front door, I still walk through the vapored presence of death. I feel so deeply for those who have had a child die and yesterday it felt so wrenching to me that I found myself breathless more than once. Sue allowed me to share that emotion and that vulnerability. I'm sure it was tempting to say things like, "No, no don't cry. Aria is fine. Just think about how happy she is and what a wonderful birthday she is going to have." It may have been tempting, but Sue never said anything like that, which very unintentionally would have been dismissive. It also would have fed my sense of insecurity and that part of me that berates me for not always looking on the bright side. She was fully present and extraordinarily open to me in my moment of conflict. I could feel her words literally soothing away my anguish at the same time I felt enveloped by her loving arms. Thank you Susie! I love you so very much!

Shortly after my conversation with her, my dear friend and neighbor, Tata, (aka Laura) called. By this time I thought I had collected myself enough to be able to have a conversation without a flood of tears. I was mistaken. The moment I heard Tata's voice I burst into tears again. Tata has an uncanny ability to balance me. She and I are so alike in many ways and we're also complete opposites in as many ways. How we gel so beautifully is sometimes a mystery but I swear to you it is a holy mystery. Tata was instantly present to my woe and was quick to stoke the fire of my jubilance. She got me on solid ground with the present moment, the joyful moment, the thankful moment, and the loving moment. She got me laughing and playing so much so that it carried me through the rest of the day despite a few hard moments. This is something she does so well and I am utterly indebted to her! Thank you Tata! I love you so very much!

I think it is worth saying that the emotion of yesterday hit me by complete surprise. I hadn't been thinking about Aria in this way with any great depth. I hadn't been thinking about life and death per se so my thoughts of yesterday hit hard knocking the wind out of me. It was strange and unexpected.

When I picked up Aria from school we decided to go to a new Fair Trade store that recently opened in Spokane. I wanted to buy a few trinkets to put in her goody bags for her party on Saturday. While we were in the store, I noticed 2 women shopping and at one point we were all standing around the cash register area. I made a comment about how short their hair was to encourage Aria that many girls purposely have hair-cuts that are similar to boys. One of the women remarked that all her hair came out after being treated for cancer. This perked Aria up. It was then that this woman looked familiar to me. It turns out I took her gardening class about 9 years ago. We had a wonderful little exchange and she said to me that now that her treatment is done that she feels so thankful and grateful for having had the experience. She has gained an entirely new community of people that have so positively affected her life. She talked about how this experience has truly been a gift for her. I felt my eyes welling and I said to her, "I am so happy for you! I refer to your perspective as one coming from 'the other side.' "

I was gentle in my tone and sincere. She acknowledged my comment with a smile and a whispered, "yes." I then went on to say, "I'm in a place right now where Aria's cancer is not a gift." I was in tears at this point and I continued, "I've met some incredible people for whom I'm eternally grateful and thankful but the experience right now is still very difficult. I hope to have your perspective one of these days but I don't share it right now." She and her friend looked at me with such compassion and grace. She came over to me and hugged me and said, " You will someday...." "Someday" she whispered and then she left. I had turned my back to Aria and Rianna to spare them my emotion in the moment. I was, however, in full view of the poor woman behind the cash register who didn't know what to say. I apologized to her saying that I hope the exchange she had just witnessed didn't make her feel too awkward. I didn't know what to say and for some reason thought she needed to be spared this bit of reality. She looked at me and smiled. "Please don't apologize," she began, "I have no idea what you must be going through. I-I-I" she stammered, "I don't know what to say." It was my turn to smile and I did. I thanked her for the lovely store and for what she has brought to Spokane. The energy was much lighter after only a minute or two and all my sorrow vanished instantly when she said, "Would you like a chocolate? Would that help?" I burst out laughing! What a wonderful gift. I nibbled on some chocolate as I paid for my purchase and just stood there for a moment feeling like the shawl of Mystery was around me. Again, this overwhelming sense of gratitude for the goodness and grace of people became real to me.

We spent the rest of the day playing. I put down large pieces of paper for the kids to paint on. I took off their clothes and poured puddles of paint on the paper and let them have at. I didn't even bother with brushes. In no time they had painted themselves from head to toe. It was so delightful and resonated so purely with the joy that consumed me. Aria also received a wonderful horse puppet from my sister Sue that is the perfect companion to another puppet she has. Needless to say, we had a magical afternoon.

After school today, we are going to a movie store to rent a movie. This store also has a wonderful gumball machine that Aria loves. She has said for a year now that when she is 5 she will be able to chew gum. So we're planning to hit that movie store, get some movies and buy her her very first gumball! Talk about a party!!! We'll finish the day with a pizza party. Tomorrow we've invited several friends to come over and carve pumpkins, jump in a huge pile of leaves, ride around the pasture in our beater pick-up truck and have cake and ice cream. This should be a heap of fun.

Aria has wished to ride a pony, which is what she always wishes for. Aria's life, every single life, is sacred and worth more than anything my words could ever attempt to convey. As I close the curtain to this particular window, the tsunami of emotion I've had for the last few days has ended and has fortunately left no destruction in its path. Instead, what I see are glistening pools of hope, glorious avenues of promise, new paths toward love, reflections of sorrow mixed with gratitude, growth and one more step toward Mystery. So, I go. ~j

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