I prayed that she would call-she did. I wanted a second chance-I got one. 2 months ago I wrote about a very special meeting between strangers. 2 months ago I was in the right place at the right time. Some people might call it fate, or destiny, or a strange coincidence. I don’t believe in any of those things, I believe in purpose.
You can look back at the meeting I am referring to in greater detail, but here are a few “Cliff’s notes” for those who are feeling a little lazy. In my second week as a Bloomington resident I met a mom at the children’s museum. The minute I saw her, I thought “she needs one of my baby carriers.” In one hand she held a very young baby, holding her other hand was a 3 year old little girl with very fine hair and an incision scar on the back of her head. This little girl was receiving proton therapy for her brain cancer here in Bloomington. She was 5 hours from home, and calling Bloomington her “home” for the next 2.5 months. The mom noticed a carrier I was wearing and we struck up a conversation, I gave the mom my number and waited. She called, we talked, we played phone tag, time passed, and we talked some more. She was very interested in trying out a particular carrier I make. Before a conversation involving cost and payment arose, I told her something I had wanted to say for weeks as I waited for the right time to say it. I said, “I just want you to know that I am making you a carrier as a gift. I don’t want you to feel weird, but the minute I saw you I felt like it was the right thing to do. I saw you had a little baby and a little girl with a scar on the back of her head, and I imagined that meant you were experiencing something huge. I cannot even begin to imagine all you are going through, but I can make baby carriers, and if I can do this small thing for you that can at least provide you some help and relief and freedom, then it is what I should do. I know we barely know each other, but we are both moms who love our children and we have that in common.” This warrior of a mom thanked me, and we set up a meeting just 3 short days before she would return home to Chicago.
I loaded up my special carrier, probably the most significant carrier I have pieced together, along with Miss Congeniality otherwise known as my sweet 3 year old, Aislynn. There was a time she would have won the Miss UN-Congeniality award. I never would have dreamed a year and a half ago when an autism diagnosis was a possibility, that this little girl would become one of the most congenial children I know. If you look at my previous posts about Aislynn you will see what I mean. With great enthusiasm, Aislynn accompanied me to “play with a new friend with fun toys,” in her words. We met at Jill’s House, a place where many families stay while receiving treatment. The little girl and her dad slowly walked down out to greet us. Immediate perspective punched me in the face. I wanted to burst into tears, but realized this family did not need my tears or pity; they needed empathy, listening ears, and a genuine heart. I sucked it up and said a warm hello. As we greeted one another, and walked inside, I followed behind Aislynn, noticing my own little girl’s long hair swaying back and forth with bows on the back of her head, walking next to a sweet little girl, her same age with very fine hair and a large incision scar on the back of her head. Cancer on its own is not acceptable. Cancer in a child is absolutely and completely unacceptable.
It was love at first carry. We put baby brother in his new cozy carrier while the girls played their version of go fish, completed synchronized puzzles, and shared chocolate milk. We visited and talked. I listened and tried to encourage, empathize, and get a few smiles and laughs in there. It’s a fine line to walk between genuine care and concern and prying; between not acknowledging the obvious and becoming fixated on the obvious. I have come to believe there is no ultimate right answer for how to interact with someone experiencing something huge. I do know listening, sensitivity and intuition help. For the finale of our little meet up, the girls took turns riding the tricycle down the long dormitory hallway. We said goodbye and planned on meeting the next night for our little friend’s going away party.
On the drive home I tried to process what a reality that involved fighting your own child’s cancer would feel like. My heart ached as I imagined that reality. I attempted to wrap my mind around a child enduring a hardship, a battle to live, that most people will never know. I replayed the evening in my mind and felt amazingly peaceful and passionate about my involvement with this family. I felt love, compassion and empathy for this little girl. I felt purpose.
We returned for the going away party the next night. We greeted the guest of honor as Aislynn announced, “I’m so happy to see you!” I felt proud and regretful all at once; proud that my little girl showed such genuine joy, regretful that I had not done more. I started thinking, “If only I would have called her more…if only I would have asked them to come over to play sooner…I should have brought them dinner…” I found my thoughts quickly interrupted as a balled up piece of gift wrap landed on my arm. A spunky little boy shyly apologized at the immediate scolding from his mother. I looked at this energetic little boy and noticed the band around his arm. I looked over at his slightly embarrassed mom and noticed the weariness. The regret I was feeling immediately vanished as I felt a new purpose.
I started to piece this situation together and asked this new mom flat out, “Are you staying at Jill’s House?” The response was as I expected. We continued our conversation, and I learned the little boy full of life and energy, attempting to break dance, was being treated for brain cancer. She would stay in Bloomington with her son while he received 22 treatments. The rest of her family, were back home in Tennessee. I then learned we were both married, we both had children the exact same age too. She had a little boy the same age as my Isla at home, and the little boy in front of me shared the same birthday week as Aislynn. My purpose was to be a friend to this new mom as I said goodbye to another mom where my purpose had been filled. I am learning about action. Making a difference, being a friend, doing something real and meaningful requires action. When someone is drowning, a good lifeguard doesn’t wait for the person drowning to swim to shore to be saved; the lifeguard dives into the water and carries them out. I by no means am "saving" anyone, I am just trying to be available and aware. As we became better acquainted, I volunteered my digits to my new found friend, which she quickly accepted.
The celebration continued full of pizza, presents, bean bag dancing, and swing set time. After Aislynn was thoroughly exhausted (although she would never admit it), we had to say our goodbyes filled with meaningful hugs. I felt an extreme mix of emotions, it was indeed bittersweet. Before we got in our car, the little guest of honor turned to her dad and asked, “Daddy, when we get back to Chicago can we come back and see Aislynn?” He quickly responded, “Of course.” As I shut my car door I immediately said a pleading prayer to God that we would see our little friend again, and that she would enjoy many, many more years of life supported by a family so clearly bursting with love for one another.
Once again, I started to process. I felt aware, where I was once unaware. It is impossible to un-see something once you have seen it. For me, I could not un-see this reality that these families faced. Filled with emotion, sadness, fear, passion, questions-I realized my new found friends lived these emotions multiplied times 100 every single day as they fought for the lives of their children. I thought about these moms. As I meet more and more amazing moms, I continue to conclude that mothers are amazing warriors. These moms fought passionately for their children to experience childhood and more. I am not done processing; I am not done gaining perspective. I feel passionate about the days to come with my new friend. Aislynn has already determined that she will play pirates with her new friend when he comes over to our house. I would not be honest if I did not tell you that I am a little scared. I But fear can’t get in the way of purpose.
There are so many factors about this situation that make it intriguing to me: The fact that I met two moms each with a child my own daughter’s age, both in need of a true friend. The fact that I on a whim, I took my girls to the museum 2 and a half months ago and met a stranger. The fact that the first mom, led me to the second mom. I could make a very long list of factors that you might find interesting. Some people might call it fate, or destiny, or a strange coincidence. But I don’t believe in any of those things, I believe in purpose.