Yesterday, I announced that the October topic of my HERE Year is Friendship and I'm thrilled to bring you words from a friend today. I met Debi in the fall of 2012 when our daughters, Big Girl and S, started kindergarten together. This year our younger two, her son P and my Middle Girl, are in kindergarten as our older kids settle in second grade. Though our friendship is still relatively new, Debi and I have a deep and interesting relationship. Our lunches and coffees, though sometimes sporadic due to nutty schedules, are packed with humor and real conversation - about life, love and happiness - fittingly, the very things that Debi writes so beautifully about below. Debi, who has guest posted once before on this blog, has been through something tremendously hard, something I'm hearing about far too often. The bottom line: I'm honored to know Debi, to count her as a friend, and I'm incredibly moved that she has chosen to share her wonderful and wise words here. Grab your tissues, call forth your gratitude, and read on.
Live, Love & Be Happy
by Debi Memmolo
At pickup last week, just after my friend Aidan wrote her beautiful words in response to Charlotte Kitley’s last blog post, she asked if I had read it. Reading it for me would not be the same as it was for most of the other readers. Reading it for me would no doubt stir up emotions about what may have been, how different this simple scene of gathering two small children from school could have played out.
Four years ago this week, I lay in a hospital bed, struggling to get well. Struggling to get to the next chemotherapy treatment. The treatment that was killing the cancer that was taking over my breast. In a desperate attempt to knock items off of my mommy bucket list in what could conceivably have been my last 18 months with my then 1 and 3 year old children I took them to Disney World in-between treatments. That trip would prove to be the end of my treatment. My body had had enough and it responded with a violent infection that nearly took me down. But I fought on.
In June of 2010, when my youngest was 15 months old and his big sister approached her fourth birthday I was dealt a devastating blow, a diagnosis of stage IIIB breast cancer. A tumor so large it was deemed inoperable without chemotherapy to shrink its size. A tumor so large it consumed most of my breast. But it was not the tumor I was focused on. It was my life, where I was. This is an old lady's disease. Hadn't my own mother just beaten it? What would this mean for my babies?
I too wrote words, words I would thankfully never have to share. I was not a writer. Am not a writer. Just a mom who was devastated by the thought that my children might grow up not knowing me. Devastated by the thought that their only knowledge of me would be through other persons' accounts - not their own. The only audience for my voice would have been my children. I still did not even know who either of them would become. Too young to have actualized any part of themselves, yet full of possibility. Back then I wrote to S.
My dear S, my first born. The one that made the magic. Made me a mommy. Changed this life forever. You taught me to love beyond the moment to love beyond myself, to live for you. You consumed every part of my being. A largely fragmented life until then, I knew the second you were placed in my arms what the purpose of life was. I wanted so much to guide you through a life that was different from mine. A life with the opportunity that I was without. Along that path, I hoped to shower you with the love and support I found at home and through my extended family. Without such support I would have been lost, rather than embraced in the world I strove to become a part of.
I want you to understand what it is like to be a child of an immigrant, the child of people who had to choose between food and an education. You were blessed. You were born to over-educated parents who had surpassed the challenges of prior generations. Do not squander that. I beg you, make it matter. Do not let losing me define you. Allow it to become a source of strength. Be warmed by the blanket of love I leave for you whenever you are in need and even when you are not.
I lament leaving you and your brother. It is my greatest failure, my deepest regret. Honor me, I beg. Be the person I would have been tickled to see you become. Live life - do not run from it. Get an education - recognize it is a gift. Figure out what makes you happy - hold it tight. Oh and, love your brother. He will not remember me. He would have been tied very close to me. Do me a favor; love him as much as you can even when he drives you crazy.
The perfect childhood is reserved for Fairy Tales. Losing me will have guaranteed yours is not even close. Find strength in that blow. Seek happiness and joy in all that you do. Know that it is fleeting whether you are given 3 or 8 decades. Nothing can prepare you for the end unless you live every day as though it could be the last. Rest in the fact that you were created from love - a love that was meant to last much longer than this short lifetime. I love you my baby girl. You are my greatest accomplishment. Live, love and be happy.
My words for her were not quick in coming. I spent hours struggling with what it was I wanted to leave for her when I was gone. Were there really pearls of wisdom I could pass on to her? Did I know something that life would not eventually teach her? Was I wise beyond my 38 years? I struggled, and hard, for that impactful line or story that she would hold tight to.
After reading Charlotte’s piece and Aidan’s response I reflected on my own words. Words that bring me back to that place, where the emotions are still raw, probably always will be. Words that I am not sure I would have written if I had not been given the gift of the last four years.
Just last week I heard a poignant address by Jennifer Senior on modern parenting described as all joy and no fun. NO FUN! And I think, she is so right. I think, I almost died. I fought like hell for all of this joy absent fun. And what did I want for my kids? Was it the same today as four years ago?
While I am saddened by these words on these papers, I am much more saddened by the words that will never be written. Today I reflect on the gift of the last four years. The gift of being there when no one but mom would do. The gift of glimpses into the adults my children will become.
So, yes, please, please enjoy life. Do not wait for something to grab you and shake you. Hear these words, see these examples.
Thank you Aidan for sharing your words. Occasionally I lose sight of my course and need to be redirected. While heart wrenchingly painful, Charlotte’s words and your words in response to her words were a reminder for me.