Yesterday I had one of those idyllic days that you want to bottle up and sprinkle on your less than stellar sucky days that sometimes seem to overtake us. Those are the worst, but yesterday was the best.
About 4:30 in the afternoon, as my two boys were napping in the back seat after a very full day for each of them, having just gotten off the phone, I was struck with the lush green that surrounded me. Green leaves above me, green grass next to me — the green stretched out before me and it had that spring green quality, which is kind of like a summer green, but in technicolor. It’s the kind of green that hasn’t yet gotten ravaged by the August sun — a fresh green, a new green, a spring green.
Spring green is beautiful.
And as I sat there in my car, my two boys audibly snoozing behind me, I got to thinking about the amazing day I had just had and how that amazing day was a series of amazing moments strung together. Beautiful moments, rich in color and texture, and vibrant. The bubbles in my soda were fizzier and the sparkle on my freshly washed car was sparklier. Vibrant moments.
Most days are a combination of good and bad, but so often, we dwell on the bad, or the bad somehow overshadows the good. It’s human nature.
After dropping the boy off at school, Mary Tyler Baby and I met a friend for a walk at the Chicago Botanic Gardens. These gardens are one of my happy places. I love it best in the spring and autumn, but there is beauty in it year round. Yesterday it was glorious. We spotted a blue heron that my friend thought was a statue, but then it flew across the water, which is something statues don’t do.
After our walk, my friend and I sat and talked about what was happening in her life, what was happening in my life. We are both on the cusp of some changes that are daunting for us, but there we were talking about hope and rose colored glasses. I think it is no coincidence that we both live in Cancerville.
If there is one thing living in the presence of cancer has taught me is that nothing is promised to us. Not a thing. Not a damn thing is ours in this world. Nothing.
Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
My four year old daughter, my Donna, dying of cancer has and will continue to shape me in profound ways. I still don’t fully grasp what I had and what I lost. The years of Donna’s life are a conflicting combination of vivid snapshots of joy and life and beauty and a blur of fear and burden and sadness. But what my deep loss has done is given me a capacity to see the moments of my life, sometimes as if in slow motion.
Some friends and family mock me about the iPhone that seems surgically attached to my hand. For me, that phone is a tool, a recording device of those moments that are most precious. It is futile to try to record them accurately, those perfect moments in my day, but I try. And later I look back, swiping my finger across the tiny screen, seeing the moments come and go before me. I don’t photograph the sad moments, the defeated moments, the scared moments. I photograph the joy, the beauty, the things I find hopeful, the moments I want to remember, the moments that give me a lift on a sad day.
There are just a few from the past couple of weeks . . .
It’s hard to imagine that it is cancer that made these moments possible for me, but in some way, I think that is true. And even if “possible” is the wrong characterization, the presence of cancer in my life has allowed me to see these moments before they are lost in the haze of the day. I always loved lilacs and laughing with my sister is nothing new, but there is an appreciation now, of the fleeting nature of it all, that didn’t exist before. And with that appreciation of how life comes and goes, the need to capture it, to cherish those moments, grows, too.
Some may experience that as a disconnect, a futile attempt to capture what is uncapturable. I see it is an openness to all that is beautiful around me, all that brings joy and wonder. These are images of how hope exists in my day-to-day. Small things like coins on a nightstand and sugar crystallizing on a donut and a demolished home that still welcomes people through its front door.
Life is a series of moments, folks. Some good, some bad. Some potent with life and beauty, others heavy with tears and rage. Cancer has allowed me to see them, to feel them, to be open to them. All of them, big and small, good and bad. Children have this capacity naturally. It makes being around them lovely and frustrating all at once, because they always want you to see, to notice what they do. It can be exhausting, but oh so eye opening, too, and wondrous.
Open your eyes and see what is to be seen. See those moments that make up our days. There is so much beauty there.