Friday, June 19, 2009

Life's Little Lessons Sometimes Harsh Lessons

Yesterday my teenage daughter's best friend's Mom passed away. L's primary cancer was cervical, it is a cancer no woman should ever die of. It is one of the most curable cancers there is, but for whatever reason L is gone because of it.

My heart broke for S (16), her sisters (18, 13 & 11) and her Dad, not to mention the rest of the family and friends. I know how hard it was to lose my Mom when I was 35, I can't imagine losing a Mother at such a tender age.

I do know, however, how an illness such as this can force you to grow up a whole lot faster than was ever intended. I was ten when my Mom fought her first battle with brain cancer, fortunately she survived, but it left scars on us still. Just knowing that there is a chance that your Mom could die forces a child to come to many scary realizations. I had horrible, recurring nightmares during this dark time (interestingly the same nightmares plagued me in my adult years the next two times my Mom battled this disease, even though I was grown up with children of my own), and the fears were debilitating. I sit here with a heavy heart and can only imagine what L's daughters must be feeling, their fears; the feelings of a loss too big for words.

S, the 16 y/o and K her younger sister who is 11 both hang around with my daughters. The girls spend much time between the 2 homes. My oldest daughter spent countless hours at the hospital with S and her family, visiting with L and offering emotional support to her friend. Yesterday my daughter phoned me at work to say that S had called and L had passed away; she was calm and composed. When I asked her if she was ok (she had been quite close to L) she said she was, she reminded me that this had been expected. I smiled inwardly at her adult take on the situation.

I am proud of my daughters, they have a healthy outlook, they realize people die and it's a part of life, a sad part, but one we must all come to accept at some point. I once worked in a position where I did first removals (when people passed on I picked them up and took them to the funeral home) as well as a paramedic so my kids were exposed to many a story, usually with the intent to show how fragile life is. They have lost family members and childhood friends. Perhaps they've been exposed to death more than the average child, but I view that as a positive rather than a negative. It has given them strength. Strength that they can draw on to be there for others in their times of need. Strength to help them deal with whatever curve ball life may throw their way.

Last night was the final soccer game for my youngest. While there we talked a bit about the loss of L, and I asked her how K was. She said she didn't know. When I suggested she call K she said, "Mom I don't want to." I was taken aback, I wondered aloud why would she not want to call her friend. She told me that she didn't know what to say. How often do we as adults avoid the same type of situations for the same reasons?

I put my arm around her and looked her in the eye and told her, there is no "right" thing to say, there is nothing you can say that will take the pain of this day away, BUT you can be her friend, and right now that's all she needs... to know that her friend is there for her. You don't even have to talk, just listen... sit in companionable silence... but just be there.

She understood and felt better about not knowing what to say.

It would be nice if kids didn't have to know these sorts of things, it would be nice if we could live a Utopian existence where it was always sunshine and smiles, but reality is what it is and we can't. We can only do our best to ensure our children are as equipped as possible to handle the world.

I urge all my female readers to please PLEASE ensure you get your yearly check-up. If something doesn't feel right, get a check-up. If you think your doctor is wrong push harder for answers, get second opinions. We must look out for our best interests.

RIP L .... you will be dearly missed.


Debra W said...

Wow, Jenn, this post touched my spirit on so many levels. I am so sorry about your loss. I pray that L's family will find a way to gain strength from her memory.

I know that it is hard for your daughter in knowing what to say, but you gave her the very best advice that you could. You are a wise mother.

This post also reminded me that I must go in for a check-up. It has been almost two years and now I am beginning to worry. When my brother died, 17 months ago, I sort of checked out. I didn't do all of the yearly things that I was supposed to do and I feel bad about it now. I guess I was very depressed and somewhat numb. After spending an hour and a half getting my teeth cleaned, a couple of weeks ago(I missed a cleaning.), and finding out that I have to go back in three months instead of six next time, reality hit hard. I realized how neglectful I have been in terms of my own care during the past year and a half. As soon as I am finished writing this, I will call to make my gyn appt. Thank you for the nudge.

Take good care.


Debra W said...

Hi Jenn,

I have been thinking about you and hoping that everything is okay. It has been a while since I have heard from you and I worry.

I am sure that you are just very busy! Please take good care.