Fall is, by far, my favorite season. It is those classic cliches that I love the most: the crisp air, the turning leaves, the bonfires begging you to gaze into them. All that and more makes Fall my favorite. Makes me love it more every single year. For about one fourth of my life now Izzy has been around to share my favorite season with. Most Falls we have spent jumping into leaf piles and sitting around fires. Most Falls but not all.
The picture was taken four years ago. Izzy was three months into aggressive treatment, with 15 more ahead. At this point in our journey I was completely lost. I had been ripped away from my family and friends and was stuck in a hospital room almost constantly. Two hours away from everyone I knew, I was alone and afraid. In spite of it all, I still had one very fragile thing in this picture: hope. There was a thirty percent chance that this horrific treatment (of which the worst was still to come) would provide a cure. That somehow between the chemotherapy, the radiation and the stem cell transplant – somehow between her unfathomable suffering and the equally unfathomable grace of God – this nasty disease would be eradicated forever. But as life would have it, that was not to be.
One day the disease would come back and one day the doctors would look at me and say that there was no longer hope for a cure. They would tell me that all we could do was delay the inevitable. Our new goal became to give Izzy as many years as we could and to try to make them as painless and joy-filled as possible. You can imagine how that moment changed everything. How in that single moment in time life crumbled, never to be the same again.
So often we talk about how our life experiences create a ‘lense’ through which we ‘see ‘ the world. Over the past few years I have learned that what our life experiences do is actually so much more complex than that. I believe that we choose whether to let them mature us or destroy us. We choose to let them shape us or define us. But I have also learned to believe that our life experiences actually create the ‘skin’ around our heart through which we ‘feel’ the world. And on that day last spring when they told me hope was gone the skin around my heart grew thick and dark, rapidly covering the brilliant root of my soul.
This isn’t what my life was supposed to be like, you know. Haven’t you ever thought that before? Haven’t you ever thought that the thing that happened yesterday shouldn’t have happened or should have happened differently? That the end result should have left you in a different place?
Most of us think along those lines. When the life we wanted doesn’t line up with the life we actually have we tend to think that something is wrong. And it is. But not with the life we have. What is wrong is actually found in the life we thought we were going to get. That life, the one we wanted, is a fairy tale and our fixation on it can prevent us from fully experiencing the life that isn’t. We have to let go of our fairy tale before we will ever find peace in our reality.
Izzy has been fighting a cold for a week or so. That combined with two rounds of chemotherapy and she’s just wiped out. The past few days she has continued to spike fevers requiring us to take her to the Emergency Room. Today was Pajama Day at school and she cried that she couldn’t go. “I feel fine,” she cried, tears streaming down her cheeks, her temperature 103. I knew I couldn’t send her and it broke my heart. She slept most of the day and woke up this afternoon in a panic about gymnastics tonight – it was the first night, “Please, Mama, please let me go to gymnastics tonight. I promise I will feel good” She has been waiting for months to go. She lay her head on my lap and we sat in a ball together, both of us crying. She looked up at me when she heard the shudder between my sobs. “Why are you crying, Mama,” she asked, the whites of her eyes stained red. I took a few breaths and thought about how to respond.
“I’m crying for the same reason you are. I’m crying because you’re sick and I’m crying because I can’t make you better.”
“It’s okay, Mama. It’s not your fault I’m sick,” she said, coming up from my lap and wrapping her arm around me. “It’s nobody’s fault.”
I let her go to gymnastics tonight. I let her go for the same reason I am letting her participate against the recommendation of her medical team: because she’s a kid. Because this disease has already stolen too much. Because I’m her mother and I am her greatest advocate on this earth.
I don’t know how many more Falls I will have with my Izzy. Don’t know how many more times we’ll lay in the leaves together and look up at the sky. That alone makes me want this one to last forever. I want these days, these ones from that life I didn’t want at all, I want them to be never ending. But as we know, nothing lasts forever and here’s the thing I love about Fall the most: the elegant way it teaches us that. It is during this one time of year that the earth shows us the beauty that comes from letting go. The leaves turn their colors and drop from the sky, creating a wondrous canvas upon on the ground. The branches of the trees stand empty and alone. They stand in a long and glorious pause – waiting, teaching – because even though it seems hopeless there is still more to come.
I encourage you to join me this Fall in letting go of the life you didn’t get and enjoying the one you did.
Blessings on you today and LIFE for Izzy.