Tuesday, March 22, 2011

When hate is ok

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I remember watching an episode of Oprah maybe 10 years ago where a young mother, who had been diagnosed with a terminal cancer, was recording hours and hours of video of herself giving her daughter advice and telling her stories about her own childhood. I remember thinking it was all so sad that she wouldn't be there for those moments, and how painful even making those recordings (and trying to be upbeat) must have been.

It's every mother's nightmare - to die before your children are raised.

When my own baby was just a few weeks old, I read on a message board about a woman who nursed her 6-week-old baby for the last time before she handed the baby over and went back into the hospital to die of the cancer that had spread throughout her body during pregnancy.

How do you hand your child over? How do you accept that you won't be there for the birthdays and the dating angst and when someone hurts their feelings? How can you say goodbye to the love of your life?

I know it happens. My aunt died when she was just 42 years old, leaving behind 5 children. I was 13, and that's when I was struck with the reality that bad things happen to nice people. Cruel things happen to wonderful families. Miraculously, all five of those children are functioning, happy, compassionate adults. They have 18 kids between them. My aunt's legacy lives on.

But it is still tragic.

This is the conclusion I've come to: I hate cancer. Hate it. HATE.

I try to encourage my children not to use the word hate. Donovan will tell you he "doesn't care for (food item/toy/person)" and Ainsleigh will say, "I'm not in the mood for (food item/toy/person)." I think hate is a really strong word. A heavy word. An evil-rooted aggressive word.

But I'm ok with using it in the same sentence as cancer.

It's not that I don't care for it or that I'm not in the mood for it, it's that I absolutely entirely wholeheartedly HATE that a mother sits writing birthday cards for her small children for the next 15 years of their lives. That she has to consider which milestone birthdays she wants to finish first, in case she can't get to them all. Each card takes her a couple hours to complete, as her ravaged body has trouble maintaining the energy it needs to stay awake. Her brother sits at her side, helping her write, just as decades ago, she sat at his side teaching him how to write.

As cancer wages its final battle through the body of a beloved family member, I consider the enormity of being asked to help write her obituary. I am humbled, honored, and devastated at this prospect. I already know it won't measure up. She is a small woman, but a giant in faith, determination, patience, devotion, intelligence, selflessness, endurance, and love.

Cancer has no right to take up residence in her body.

I hate it.