When I learned I had breast cancer I prayed long and hard for my life to be spared. I was a new mom. My son was only 21 months old. There were still all these ‘firsts’ I wanted and needed to bear witness to – his exit from babyhood into toddler – into pre-schooler – to his first day of kindergarten. I wanted to see him grow and blossom into the sweet boy I knew he would be. I didn’t want to miss a single giggle, smile, tear, or tantrum – okay maybe I could miss out on the tantrums! The point being, is that I was terrified that my life would be taken from me just as my son’s life was beginning.
I was lucky. I was very, very lucky in an unlucky situation, which does bring it’s own warped sense of fear; and unfortunately cancer and fear are very deeply connected. Living with that fear is a daily lesson for me. One that challenges me and sometimes toys with me. But fear isn’t really what I want to write about, and even cancer is taking a backseat today. Today, I want to rejoice in the realization that I was here to bear witness to a big first!
Today my little guy started Nursery School. Just a couple mornings a week, but enough time to allow him some independence, and to learn to cope without Mommy; and enough time to give Mommy some much needed rest, and to learn to cope without him. It’s a lesson for both of us. It’s a milestone we both must achieve. It’s a big first!
You see, one challenge in particular, which has been hard for me to overcome, is letting go. I clung to my son as my support-line throughout my cancer journey. I kept him close. I was reluctant to be away from him for long. I was scared to let go because of the vulnerability I felt. I needed him as my distraction from the disease. I needed him so that I could feel a sense of happiness. I needed him so that I could feel safe. But that hasn’t been fair for my child. I had to let go. He needed me to let go.
Cancer is a big fear – a huge fear – but life is full of fear. And often, it is the unknown that is the scariest of fears. Any ‘first’ that you achieve is an unknown. Nursery School, for our household, was an unknown. And Nursery School is an exciting and scary venture. It’s a big financial commitment. It’s a big time commitment. It’s a brand new routine. It’s a step toward letting go of baby… even though, at 3 years of age, my son is no longer a baby, it’s still letting go. That is never easy to do, and as mentioned, even harder for me with all the issues surrounding “letting go”. And then you worry. Have I been a good parent? While dealing with my cancer (surgery, treatments, appointments, etc.) did I, in any way, neglect my child’s needs to aide him in this transition? Will he use his manners? Will he listen to his teachers? Will he be good? Will his teachers be kind to him? Will he make friends? Will he blossom? You worry. You worry about it all. And what a glorious feeling it is, for me, to be able to have these worries, to be here, to be alive, and to worry about my son.
Letting go was hard, and the loneliness I immediately felt, and still kinda feel, is difficult to adjust to. However, I know the decision to let go was the best one for my son, and inevitably for me. And, at the end of his school day, I was able to scoop him up into my arms to give him big hugs and kisses. It was nothing but heartwarming. It was pure happiness. It was a “moment”. I got to be there today. I bore witness to his first day of school. And that was what I fought for. That was what I prayed for. That is what makes this life worth living. Moments. Firsts. Hugs. Kisses. And the words “I love you”, which today were whispered to me by my beautiful little boy – my son.
I feel blessed and I am forever thankful.
Hello Loneliness. Published by Crystal Joy Hall