Meet Dr. Snuggles

20170710_123805Six weeks ago, it began.

A slight obsession on the part of my boy to take me to Build-A-Bear for my 40th birthday.

There were reminder notes and caveats to bedtime prayers and even a scribbled add-on to our Summer Bucket list.

Now I would like to say I paid attention. Or that I asked him why. Or that I had mama intuition out the yin-yang.

But that would a big fat lie.

Instead, I discounted and pushed off and set aside and ignored. I was busy. I was tired. I was whatever I was at the moment.

And life just seemed bigger than my boy’s slight obsession.

Until one night when my eldest girl came into my bedroom, snuggled up to me and said, “Mom, do you know why he wants you to go to Build-A-Bear? He knows another surgery is coming up and he doesn’t want you to be alone at the hospital. He thought a bear with our kisses inside it would help you to be brave.”

My heart fell and my eyes filled with tears as I half-whispered, “Really???”

She nodded back and said, “I just thought you should know.”

So I brushed my tears away to resolution, one that was determined to find the greatest of bears so my boy knew I was cared for and loved while out of his reach.

The next day, he held my hand tightly as we entered the store, letting go only to grab the perfect bear and carry it around from station to station with his sisters in tow.

From kissing hearts to settling on an outfit to choosing a name, they went. All leading up to the moment he would say, “Meet Dr. Snuggles.”

It was not long after this introduction and our walk back to the car, I realized I was braver somehow.

Braver because a little boy had seen my hard and had determined to walk me through it. Braver even though I had discounted and pushed off and set aside and ignored. Braver because his love broke through the noise of a busy life—leaving me to remember that bravery is not a thing that comes from your own strength.

Bravery instead comes from the love that walks with you.

Be it from a Father who will carry you on the days you cannot carry yourself. Or a friend who shows up ready to join you in the messiest messes. Or a little boy whose heart only knows that a bear had once made him feel brave.

Love will shout and scribble and show up. If only to walk us all the way to the hard places we must go. Knowing that in the end, we will all be a little bit braver somehow.

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Love and Daffodils

 

“Mama! The flowers are here!!!!!! The flowers are heeeeeere!!!”

My lips drew into a smile as I peeked around the corner to see daffodils. Bright, yellow and unapologetically bold. Taking me back to the day he came to the door with them in hand.

It was my first Mother’s Day with a baby in my arms.  And I recall looking skeptically at him and asking, “What am I supposed to do with those, Daddy?”

He chuckled and answered, “Well, plant them, of course!”

I sighed a sigh I wish now that I hadn’t and continued with a “But really, Dad? Flowers have never been my thing. Dried out and dead will forever be my plant MO.”

And yet he kept insisting, “But these come back. Every year, they will come back to remind you of your very first Mother’s Day.” So I laughed in disbelief and watched while he went to work.

How I wish I could have frozen that moment in time.

The dirt beneath his fingernails. The sweat he wiped away with a white handkerchief. The sweet way his glasses would slip down to the tip of his nose.

How. I. Wish.

But time passed, the flowers came and went again and again and again and then in a blink, he was gone.

I had almost forgotten about them until a few days before my first birthday without him.

The sun was scorching and the kids were bored so I wrangled our very lame sprinkler to the backyard in hopes it would stop the whines and woes of nothing to do. Frankly, I would have been psyched at a mere 30 minutes of happiness if only for the chance to go to the bathroom uninterrupted. Because sweet heavens, the struggle is just so very real.

But as I walked back to the front yard, something yellow caught my eye…

My daddy’s daffodils.

Bright, beautiful and so unapologetically bold that I could do nothing but sob uncontrollably. It was as though in all the madness and the tangled emotions of my first birthday and Father’s Day without him, he was saying, “I’m here, Sara Bear. I’m here.”

It was there, sobbing on my doorstep, that my heart realized something it already knew. My parent’s anniversary was on my birthday.  These flowers were meant for someone else entirely.

My mama.

So  I watered and watched and made sure that when the 14th came, the daffodils were arranged and cut in a vase my daddy had given me, topped off with a card that said, “Flowers from your love.”

And every year since, they’ve bloomed just in time.

We all watch and wait and wonder together until the day when someone comes running in the front door and shouts, “Mama!!! The flowers are here, mama!! The flowers are heeeeeere!!!”

I still clip and cut and arrange them in the same sweet vase so that on the 14th of June we can show up at mama’s door with flowers from my dad.

But this year, I saw her in a way I hadn’t before.

I watched as her eyes lit up when she opened the door and saw her yellow daffodils. I noted the careful way she smelled each bloom. And I smiled at the absolute delight in her voice as she exclaimed, “When you said you were coming, I was hoping this is what you’d bring!”

Maybe that is the gift of turning 40.

You see love differently. You marvel at its simplicity. You give more of who you are in every day.

So that when you are gone, your love can stay.

It may be quiet. It may be unexpected. Or it may be unapologetically bold. But no matter how it comes, such a rooted thing cannot help but reach through the madness of life and say…

“I’m here, my love. I’m here.”

Chasing Time

Her little hand held mine.

Tight, clenching and unrelenting, as if the stronger she held would be enough to champion the virus she fought.

And so I stayed.

Wrapped in her embrace, time be had, knowing that nothing would take me away from the chance to be her comfort.

I was hers. She was mine. And that was that.

With her chest falling up and down in a rhythm that matched my own, I began the journey to this place, this grasping of something that I now can put into words.

We mamas are time chasers.

Time to go. Time to leave. Time to get up. Time for breakfast. Time for school. Time for bed. Time to study. Time to clean up. Time to throw away.

Time to. Time for. Time to. Time for.

We wrestle and tangle and fuss with it as if we can create more in all the effort.

And yet it passes.

Moving from tiny hands to little ones to those that fill our own and we find ourselves wishing we had more…

Time.

To hug. To read. To squish. To play. To sing. To laugh.

To hold each little thing that makes them spectacular in a place that no one else will ever know. To watch them in all their wonder over all the things we didn’t see then but we do now. To know in the depth of our hearts that there will never be enough time.

Writhing, wriggling, struggling to give up the chase so that we may keep the years asked of us.

Knowing that while a day of flowers and cards can be lovely, it can also leave us with hands wide open to the thing we wish we had the most.

More. Time.

To be kind. To be gracious. To forgive. To hold hands. To kiss faces. To say, “I love you.”

To do whatever it takes for us to stop checking the list and start embracing the hope that in every moment, every second, every day we get it wrong, there is grace enough to cover it.

Because the truth is we were never meant to chase time, we are simply keeping it for awhile.

Holding it all in our hearts. Carrying the highs and lows of a little life lived. So that when the time comes…

We have the strength to let go.

To Our Teachers…

I know, I know.

This is the time of year when sentiment abounds.

We write you notes, we give you flowers, we pass out gift cards like there is no tomorrow.

Because let’s be honest you really deserve an all-expense paid vacation to the Bahamas.

EVERY BLESSED ONE OF YOU.

So that twitch in your eye?

The one that says, “Farts, boogers and ill-advised hygiene I can handle. But if I have to answer one more question that starts with, ‘My name, My name, My name, My name, My name…’ I’m gonna need a Valium?”

We feel you.

It’s the same one we’ll all have when we send them back to you in the fall.

But it’s May.

The time of year where we say thank you, along with giving you every blessed thing we can think of under the sun. Because what we are really saying is this…

Thank you.

Thank you for all the days you looked passed the bad breath and the farts and the nose-picking and saw our kids as something worth your time. Thank you for loving their quirks and weird obsessions with Batman and Shopkins and Taylor Swift. Thank you for reminding us that those weird obsessions could someday give way to dreams.

No, seriously. Thank you.

Thank you for listening to 30 recorders AT A TIME and not promptly leaving for Tahiti. Thank you for teaching them Picasso and Monet and for accepting books with weird stains and rips that we promise we tried to prevent. Thank you for all the skinned knees and wild games and gym brawls you met with a smile.

Just really, thank you.

Thank you for loving our kids on their hard days, their easy days, their loud days and if they had them, their quiet days. Thank you for holding their hands, their backpacks and the weird thing they wanted to show you for the eighteenth time. Thank you for accepting all the scrap pieces of paper and weeds and things out of the toy bin that suddenly turned into a gift you had to have.

Now you know where they get it from.

Because just like our nose-picking darlings, we see something remarkable in you.

Someone who will walk into our stories, no matter the twists and turns taken and love us just as we are but also inspire us to become something more.

So just in case you didn’t hear us the first time, “Your name, your name, your name, your name, your name…”

Thank you for the way you inspire and grow and value the people we love most. You carried their hearts for a little while but now we’ll carry a piece of yours. And know that when we say thank you a million times over?

We really mean we love you a whole hoot of a lot.

I’m Gonna Be

This week was a week.

An unexpected rocking, roller coaster of a week.

It may have best been summed up in the words of my newest surgeon for my newest medical adventure, “You seem like a lovely woman, Mrs. Cormany. I really don’t want to kill you.”

I know, I know.

Who says that, right? And during Holy week? I tell you.

Bless my heart and apparently everything else.

But really—and I mean really— this man who I kind of already adore was just telling me the truth I already knew. He looked at all the hard, broken things about my disease and weighed the risks and simply told the blessed truth.

Even now as I sit here under the weight of those words, I am inclined to follow his lead. I have tried and failed so many times to write this week. To speak of the things connected to this day and the jumble of emotions that come so quietly with it.

But tonight, as the quiet begins to settle in, I can only hear two words, “Be real.”

And so I will be.

This was not a week of quiet reflection and beautiful words. It was week of poop on the floor and Sharpie on the wall.  It was a week where we were “those people” at Target and Walmart and Price Chopper.

We wailed, we dropped things, we lost our minds. We could not hold it together if our lives had depended on it. We were so incredibly messy it hurt.

And then this morning came.

The kids were piling out of the van covered in powdered sugar from our donut “brunch.” (Yes, I know.) And bless it, I just needed a moment.

So I shut the sliding doors, turned to this grown-up song and closed my eyes.

Just for a moment…

But then her little voice came from the back seat, “You okay, mama?”

It was only then I realized I was sobbing uncontrollably. Sobbing even as I tried to answer back in a slightly sincere, “No, I’m not, baby but I’m gonna be.” Sobbing because in that strange little moment of peace, my smelly, messy minivan had become my Gethsemane.

I knew in my heart the hard that was coming. I knew the risks. I knew the what-ifs.

I knew.

And my heart felt lost and broken and beat up under the weight of it. But as I sat there reminded that He chose suffering so that I would never be alone in mine, I could feel my heart letting go of it all.

The anger. The frustration. The weight.

So instead I scraped and clawed to hold on to the truth that today, He chose me.

He chose my hard and my messy and my broken. He chose it knowing I would doubt and wrestle and flail. He chose it all so death would be done and love, won.

And this?

This wrecks my very soul.

Because it was more than nails and a Cross, more than the sword, more than the blood spilt. It was the choice to trade whole for broken. It was His chance to see me for exactly who I am and love me completely so I could have a chance at forever.

This is where I sob.

This is where I end.

Because this is where I can say even in the middle of my wrecked up, broken, real kind of week, “It may not be okay but I know I’m gonna be.”

Of Ashes and Soot

 

I sit by her bedside in the dark.

I hold her hand. I watch her breathe. I memorize every beautiful line on her face.

It is here that something deep wells up in my heart.

One part sadness. One part relief. One part hope.

A mess of the things I know live in this place.

Here amongst the sights and sounds of life interrupted. Here among the things she calls, “Just life itself.” Here in the ashy ground where beauty will undoubtedly and painfully grow.

This.

This is the moment that replays in my mind.

The one I carry tightly with me as I seek to love her well.

It is a sacred hard we share.

The kind that comes when a little bit of you is left behind as soon as the word stroke is uttered, a word that seems to fade into the thousand that come after it as you are moved hurriedly into all the things.

The evals. The therapy. The blasted uncertainty.

The triumph and relief. The tears and disappointment.

The. Grief.

Over the person you used to be, the person who has been replaced by someone altogether foreign and strange.

Never would I have chosen this place for the sweet and fiery woman who I have called Mimi for nearly 40 years. I would have rather it been me, the girl who knows the drill, who has already lived in the hilarity and the hard of limitation.

But it is here that I am learning something of ashes, something of the beauty that grows in it. And in the season of Lent, it is this something that makes me wonder if this is the place He begs us to go.

To the beauty of ashes and soot.

A beauty that comes not from the leaving behind or the giving up but rather in the jumping in—free-falling back into the places that hurt so you can reach out to another freshly out of the fire.

Bending toward the flames of illness and loss and pain and struggle, instead of away from it. Choosing to face another’s hard tear-stained and mud-streaked. Willing to walk through all the things again for the sake of love.

A love that has allowed such gentle beauty to come into my life—the sound of a rainbow baby’s cry, the joy of battles won, the peace of new things ahead. Like green against the gray.

Just as they have come for her.

In walls covered with great-grands’ artwork. In first steps met with a good dose of hooping and hollering. In words that melt your heart with a, “You are getting out this rehab joint and going home to your love of 60 years.”

These are the gifts that come only from the raging fire of brokenness.

Grown so deeply in ash that when we reach the Cross, we grasp a little more the purpose in it and the love it took to choose its pain.

It is why this year, I choose tear-stained soot instead of polished dresses and fancy hats.

I choose it for her. I choose it for Him. I choose it for always.

Not to be made more but to be made less.

All because their love first chose me.

 

 

 

I Love You More Than Chocolate

2 (2)We have an unexpected love, you and I.

Weathered by time. Mended in grace. Surprising me even still.

It is not counted in cards or flowers or chocolate.

(Okay, maybe a little bit of chocolate.)

It is counted in dirty diapers and leaky roofs and a whole hoot of could-you-stop-at-the-grocery-store-for-milk kind of texts.

Our love is fully us just as it is fully Him.

Our hard. Our happy. Our everything in-between.

It was this love that found me last week in a way even Hallmark cannot describe.

My day had been long, filled with life and a kid with pink eye and another kid who announced that she *might* have had some really strange poop.

Bless and eew.

It seemed only logical, if not also sanitary that I would ask you to take a little bag of love to the hospital for our sweet Mimi.

And of course, you said yes.

It was just about the time I finally snuggled down into bed that I heard the garage door open and I knew you were home and would be climbing the stairs and walking through our bedroom door.

A door that would gently close behind you as you said, I’m sorry that I’m so late but I tucked her into bed, brushed her hair, put on chapstick. Then we got her into her fuzzy socks and I rearranged her pillows and blankets so she was comfortable. And of course, I made sure her ice water was fresh…

To this I eked out a small and unimpressive, Thank you so much, honey.

But what you don’t know is that not long after you left to go back downstairs for something, I sat in the quiet of your absence trying to fight back tears.

You had loved her well because you love me well.

In all the little mundane ways He has asked you to love me.

Putting on socks and shoes when I can’t do it on my own. Brushing my hair and applying chapstick in every hospital room I’ve ever been in. Rearranging my pillows and blankets every night. Bringing ice water or chocolate or anything else that I want so that I can save steps. Gently sliding my glasses off when I have fallen asleep during a movie for the millionth time.

This. This is you and I. This is our love.

A steady and sweet something that has shown up for so long it doesn’t seem so very extraordinary.

Until it is.

Standing in front of me. Weathered by time. Mended by grace. Surprising me still.

Reminding me that there is something better than flowers and cards and chocolate.

(Yes, even chocolate.)

Because every day, you love me.