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today i am excited about everything.

Cancer, Part II

Mama

We walk side-by-side across the hot pavement, and the doors in front of us slide open. Cool, stale air comes rushing across our faces, our bare skin prickles from the temperature change. I look into my Mama’s face, and I see:

She is tired.
She is strong.

These things lie inside her, intertwined, as we meet and greet. She knows what to do now, half way through radiation. It’s old hat to find her room, to shed clothes and wrap into a robe, to make her way to the room where they will lift her body up, up, and away. Where some mystery of science will push heat into her, and that heat will (God willing) (God, please) burn away the evil parts of this world. Disease.

Her head is heavy, but I see in her shoulders the bracing- the readiness- to face just one more day of this. Well, 16. 16 more days.

It is a strength that comes from our Great Unfathomable Mystery. It is a strength beyond what we can muster. It is a picture of My Help Comes From The Lord, The Maker Of Heaven And Earth.

I smile and nod as everyone tells me with bright eyes “Your Mom! She’s the bright spot in our day! What fun! What joy!” because of course, of course she is. Of course they love her, of course they respond to the energy she seeps into the world just being her.

They tell us we’re the lucky ones, and I nod again, stiffly. My brain tells me they’re right, that we had early detection, that we had surgery surgeries available, that we had radiation only. That we had a scare, but we didn’t risk it all. That in the big, grand scheme-of-it-all, we really were…. lucky.

But from the 90s inspired dark green & floral walls of a waiting room, it doesn’t feel very lucky.

I guess maybe those that call this lucky can’t see the fresh gash on our family tree, where sap bleeds out, the mark that shows “Cancer”. There is a before, and there is an after, and we won’t be the same.

And that’s okay, because not being the same, finding a different way, is okay. Is… life. I know she can do it, will do it. Her shoulders, held strong in the grip of her great faith show me that.

But lucky? No. No. Not lucky. Not this time.

(As of today? 13 days and counting. You can do it, Mama!).

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Cancer, Part I

Dear Young Target Employee,

Thank you.

I wish I would have said it out loud to you, that day. The day that I stood in the back of an-impossibly-long-line (read: probably 3 people), shuffling my feet, taking deep breaths, staring at the clock on my phone. I know, I know: I looked like a jerk. And you, with sweet kindness, tapped me on the shoulder, sending me on to a newly opened lane, smiling with a graciousness I certainly didn’t deserve. I know I looked like what would- on any normal day- be filed somewhere on the internet under “First World Problems”. But that day? That day was different.

Because sometimes it’s the day that you find out your Mom has cancer.

And life- in its cruelness- goes on anyway. And you have to buy something stupid, like paper towels or stamps or nail polish remover, and it forces you to go to the store. And while on any other day, the shifting feet would be about keeping to an impossible schedule full of things that barely matter, on THIS day, it’s taking everything you have to stand in that unending line. Fibers of your being vibrate inside you, and you feel your insides begin to melt away.

On this day, you are fighting to keep it together, every breath a labor. All moments marching towards The Moment You Will Lose It.

But you, sweet Target girl- you rescued me with your kindness. You gave me the time to get to my car. To exhale the breath I’d been accidentally holding. To dissolve on my own terms.

And maybe more: you gave me a win on a day when I just, just really needed a win.

It was nothing to you, I would guess. But to me? It was pretty big.

So, thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Heart,
Ann

(Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. Unknown.)

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Band of Kinfolk

Just this moment:

Image

Months ago now, I sat in a dark auditorium and watched as two people that I’m related to through my small shoe size and last name prepared to create, together, one of the truest gifts on this side of The Hope That Is To Come- music.

There were words exchanged that mean something only to those who can bear the years of college as a Music Major. Words wrapped in equal shares of frustration and laughter and joy.

They raggedly stopped and started, carefully crafting their (shared) life work.

For a few moments, in a simple duet, I listened concretely to the legacy of my family.

Things have not always been so beautiful in our relationships. There have been flashes when it seemed like what was severed just-maybe-might be irreparable. But somehow, around and around we have navigated through this life together on our common strands- Faith. Family.

I’m holding this moment in my heart today, knowing that we are all aging our way out of this lifespan and these moments won’t be forever. They are fragile- made more precious in their delicate nature.

We are unique, this band of kinfolk who fiercely love the tuba and bassoon and singing and kids and our Creator and sometimes even: each other.

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Family

Honestly, I love the church.

I know that’s probably obvious. I’ve attended (mostly) from my exit from the womb, and have amazing memories and experiences tied into living alongside of a community of people who love Jesus. And, uh, I give them my time and energy (read: life calling), and they give me money to eat ice cream and buy shoes. So, that’s pretty awesome.

And honestly, I love the commitment the church has made to family.

But. But as an upper-20-something-single-female, can I say something?

I have a family, too.

And I don’t just mean the one that was given to me through my Blue Eyes and Last Name, although that family is pretty sweet. I mean the one my life has formed. Built. Created.

All over this country, every place I’ve lived, there are humans I’ve lived life alongside of. Who I’ve stood beside in uncomfortable shoes during wedding ceremonies, and beside later as I brushed gently the soft heads of babies that were truly hours old. Who I’ve sat with and mourned the bitterness of death, and sat with at Happy Hour after long workdays. Humans who I’ve lived with through inconvenience, through 3 am airport pickups, lugging boxes for a move, through   sitting in the hospital awaiting an answer.

People I have deeply known and deeply loved.

People who have deeply known and deeply loved me.

 

These people are my family.

And while I love that we commit to families growing together, and leading together, and loving together, let’s not forget: Not everyone’s family is the same.

My family may look a little bit different, may be spread among miles and miles, but that doesn’t make them any less of a family. We may belong to each other through memories, and not through blood, but that doesn’t make the commitment any less.

Commitment. Living together despite brokenness. Baring both spirit and mistakes.

And gratefulness. To live among family, whether it fits the traditional definition, or just my own.

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