We’re all going to die. We know that. We don’t know when or how or where but it is certain to happen. To all of us.
But when you’re a kid you’re not thinking about that. Not unless you’re forced to. I was forced to learn at a young age about death when my mother was diagnosed with cancer. Melanoma. The chances of survival were minimal. So, from the time I was little I worried about losing my mom.
I still do.
But for my daughter, she has only seen healthy, vibrant, physically strong and fit people around her. The thought that any of us could go just doesn’t come into her mind. And it shouldn’t. Why walk around with that fear? Why even be aware of it? Children just got on this earth. They’re not thinking about anyone they love leaving it.
But, a dear friend of ours was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Just last year he was at our Christmas party with his beautiful wife and kids taking pictures, pouring drinks for people, running around, hanging ornaments. The epitome of health.
And then… his leg started giving him trouble.
Now he is in a wheelchair with full-time help, unable to move any part of his body, unable to be with us Christmas because of all the stairs to our house. His mind is full of light and love and wisdom. His children massage his legs, hold him, kiss and love on him. His wife… she carries them all on her shoulders. She is truly amazing.
They spent Thanksgiving with us this year and it was by far the most special Thanksgiving we’ve ever had. We played charades, as we always do, and his children acted out his thoughts when it was his turn. They were his body. We loved on each other and made sure to make the hugs and words mean something. Something real.
And late at night when seemingly out of nowhere a ladybug hovered over him in a ceiling light and we were all baffled how it got in the house, he told us that just the day before a ladybug appeared and sat on his hand and didn’t leave. He looked up what the sign of a ladybug meant.
The ladybug was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is spiritual. It appears in life as a message — telling us to let go, let the spirit in, release fear.
For two days a ladybug followed our friend. Whatever that means… I like it.
Seeing our friends on Thanksgiving stayed with my daughter. But I didn’t know how much until recently. I was having some physical pain and struggling with it. My daughter kept telling me to see a doctor.
Mama, promise me, promise me you’ll go to the doctor.
She knows I have a tendency to power through pain. But, at her request, I made an appointment.
I went to the doctor while my daughter was at school. As I sat there waiting the fear crept in. What if…? Perhaps this is why I hate going to doctors. The fear of what if.
I am beyond happy to report that what I have is not serious and with time and some medicine it will be gone. I went to work and went on with my day. And then my phone rang. It was my daughter. She had just gotten out of school.
Mama, what did the doctor say?
She was breathless. Anxious. A voice I had never heard. I told her what it was and that I was going to be okay. I heard a huge sigh of relief on the other line followed by,
Oh, thank god. I was so afraid you had cancer. I was so afraid. All day in school I couldn’t focus. I just kept thinking, please let my mom be okay, please.
I had no idea how scared my daughter was. I had no idea her pushing me to go to the doctor was based on a true fear that she was going to find out her mom was dying of something. I had no idea mortality had entered her world.
When I came home from work that night my daughter hugged me in a way she never has. It was somehow different. I recognized it. It was the hug of life. Of gratitude. Of prayers answered. The I’m-never-taking-another-hug-for-granted-ever-again hug.
I’m okay, baby.
Things are back to normal. I’m on the mend and homework and work and lunches and laundry and baths and bedtime are all in their usual routine. And that’s good. Because we can’t and shouldn’t live in fear of death. Of losing the people we love. We need to simply be with them today. Be with the people you love today.
And maybe remember to open a window… and let the ladybug in.
(This column was originally posted December 2013)