Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Aria's loose tooth

April 11, 2009
Subject: Aria’s loose tooth
Just the other night I was helping Aria brush her teeth. We have to be very careful and diligent with her dental care because the chemotherapy can have some pretty adverse effects if we're not on top it. She is seeing a dentist every 3 months and so far things are going well. The other night, however, I was brushing her lower teeth and she uttered suddenly, "Ouch!" pulling her body from me. "You hurt my tooth Mama!" she scolded. I thought this was weird because I didn't do anything unusual, so I took a look, thinking maybe she was beginning to develop a little sore. It never occurred to me that it would be something as normal as a loose tooth! But I noticed that one of her teeth was bent backward ever so slightly and so I wiggled it! Oh, that magical breath-taking moment! "Aria! You have a loose tooth!" I exclaimed. "I do? I have a loose tooth? The tooth fairy is gonna come? I have a loose tooth! I have a loose tooth! I have a loose tooth!" She sang over and over while doing a little twirlie dance!

You know, this very ordinary thing, a kid about to lose a tooth, has become quite extraordinary to me. It makes me think about the sentiment, "This kind of thing sure does make you appreciate the little things in life." or often said another way, "It makes you grateful for every day." The 'it' and the 'thing' to which I think people are referring are ideas that include the fragility of life, the uncertainty, the idea that we all get to live to old age as being nothing more than an illusion, the realization that we are all destined to die one day and we really don't know when that day will come. The appreciation and the gratitude one feels for these simple things are rather self-explanatory and yet somewhat vague because few bother to identify what the simple thing is, and why its meaning has become so powerful.

For us, Aria gets to have a loose tooth. She has survived a devastating diagnosis long enough to have a loose tooth. The next step will be when it finally falls out and we'll celebrate that too. For me, this little thing is enormous. It has become something sacred because I know there are families all over the world who are grieving that their child won't be able to experience this kind of simple thing that most kids experience and I know there are many others who are celebrating in a similar way as we are.

This is how the vagueness of that sentiment that we all know and understand has become real and tangible for me. It is a thought that transcends things like, race, religion and politics that constantly attempt to divide us as human beings and crush the sacredness defining our humanity. It's sad that it has taken me such a personal and life-altering experience to really grasp this idea but perhaps that's the point. Perhaps that's the lesson embedded in popular ideas encouraging simplicity, living in the moment and enjoying and cherishing those simple little things of life. I think everyone, everywhere, has hardship in which to contend. Some may view it as a matter of degree. I find those labels less and less helpful because the point is how one chooses to address the hardship, which is a calling to awaken to what's important and to banish what isn't.

Aria has a loose tooth, a simple little thing that has become profoundly meaningful in the scope of something much bigger. ~j

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