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Anne’s Story

“When I learned that I had cancer, I was shocked.  When I was told that I would need a mastectomy, I was frightened.  When Dr. K, the oncologist to whom I had been referred by my surgeon, announced that I would need chemotherapy, I was terrified.

I knew all about chemotherapy.  I had experienced it vicariously through figure skater Scott Hamilton and cyclist Lance Armstrong.  I had read of their months of weakness and nausea—how they spent some days hung over a toilet.  I remembered that they could hardly force themselves to appear for their next treatment because they knew what lay ahead.  Further proof of the horrors of chemotherapy was a young man in our church who reputedly vomited so hard after each of his treatments that the blood vessels in his eyes broke leaving the whites of his eyes crimson.  I knew that chemotherapy was something I didn’t want to have anything to do with.

My experience at Dr. K’s office that Thursday in April when he delivered the news was a nightmare.  Dr. K introduced himself to Richard and me as he entered the exam room, shook hands with each of us, and attempted to make us feel at ease by asking us what we did professionally. He asked about my general state of health, reviewed what we had learned from surgery about my cancer, then dropped the bomb.  I would need eight treatments spaced at three week intervals.  The first four treatments would inject two drugs, Adriamycin and Cytoxan, and the last four would be a third drug called Taxol.

Dr. K continued.  ‘These are the things you’ll need to do to get ready for chemotherapy.  You’ll need to have your surgeon implant a port in your chest through which the drugs will be administered.  The nurse will tell you more about that.  You’ll need a chest x-ray, a muga-scan to make sure your heart is in good shape, and blood work.  I’ll write up orders for these.  Any questions?’

Yes!  So many questions I don’t know where to start. . . Wait!   My first question is would it be possible for you to say that you’re sorry I have cancer and must have these awful treatments?

I said I didn’t have any questions.  The doctor again shook our hands and promised that the nurse would be in shortly.

Soon Melody was there with a folder brimming with pamphlets and mimeographed papers.  She began removing them from her lap and placing them on mine, commenting briefly on one before flipping to the next.

‘This tells about Adriamycin and its side effects.  This tells about Cytoxan and its side effects.  This is a picture of the port that your surgeon will be installing.  This lists the things you need to do prior to each treatment to minimize side effects.’  The stack seemed endless.  Finally, she asked if I had any questions.

I wanted to know if it were possible for her to say that she was sorry that I had cancer and would have to be going through chemotherapy.  I wanted to ask her if she would be gentle when she poked me and if she would hold my hand when I got scared.  I badly wanted to know if she had any sense of the terror I was feeling at that moment and whether she cared.  But I didn’t ask her any of these questions.  I asked if I could see the place where I would be getting my treatments.image

The treatment room was just down the hall.  Treatment was in progress for three or four patients sitting in their Lazy-boys with drugs dripping into their wrists or chest from plastic bags suspended beside them.  They were watching television but did cast their glances my way when I said, ‘I guess I’ll be joining your club.’  There were no smiles or words of sympathy.

At least I saved my tears until we got outside.  They were the first of many shed over the next several weeks as I had time to think about what lay ahead.”

cancer-effect-front-cover-1Speaking of “The Cancer Effect” Anne shared, “When I heard of your book, I immediately ordered a copy through Amazon and as I read it, I so identified with the trauma of someone who really knew how it was.  Thank you for taking time to record your journey.  I think it will be of comfort to other cancer survivors as well as interesting to the general public.”

 

Enter, the Cancer Demon

For those of you fortunate enough to have never met the Cancer Demon, let me introduce you.  He (I assume it’s a “he”), lies silently in wait until another victim is diagnosed with cancer.  This shrewd character tip toes in without a sound and takes up permanent residence. That’s right.  Once in the neighborhood, he doesn’t leave although multiple efforts are made to kick him out.

The Cancer Demon stakes his claim as soon as it is mentioned to an individual that cancer is a possibility.  All it takes is a suggestion.  An ultrasound is needed, perhaps a biopsy, or an appointment with a surgeon.  For me, it was all three.  All at once.  He cleverly begins his haunt in your darkest hours.  He’s your constant companion through the resulting days of chemo and radiation, getting fat on your fear and discouragement.

Finally, the day comes when he receives a foreclosure notice and you prepare to thrust him from his cozy dwelling.  Treatments have ended and it’s time to move on.  Excited to get rid of the nuisance who has haunted you for the past year, you prepare to bulldoze his dwelling. Confident you have succeeded, you press forward, finally free of his mocking.

Months, sometimes years pass and a new symptom appears.  The doctor orders more tests, additional imaging.  And then, unexpectedly out of nowhere enters the Cancer Demon.  Wait.  Didn’t you banish him forever?  It is then that you realize he was never gone, just hiding out, waiting for a new opportunity to stick his annoying head out the front window and laugh.  He knows if he waits long enough, another opportunity will arise where he can taunt, create fear, and do his victory dance.

Overcoming the influence of the Cancer Demon is paramount in moving forward after cancer.  I wish I had the perfect solution for all, but it’s an individual matter.  Some succeed in ignoring him, confining him to the basement.  A few of us face him head on, using all our strength to eliminate him, enjoying moments of success until the next cancer scare.  It is a battle for two, and faith and trust must be established to quiet his teasing.  The sooner that is accomplished, the sooner life begins after cancer.  The Cancer Demon hasn’t been exterminated, but you have accomplished the great feat of not letting him win.

A New Approach to Eating the Elephant

I’m avoiding the traditional formality of making New Year’s resolutions.  I’m done with that. Trying to come up with an improvement plan for an entire year doesn’t work for me.  The best part is I’ve finally come to terms with it and there is no guilt.  It took me long enough.

As far back as I can remember I would sit down and set goals as soon as the Christmas clutter was cleared.   My children couldn’t escape my obsession with this ceremony and after the composing was complete, copies were carefully slid into individual Christmas stockings.  It was anything but joyful to pull out our stowed away stockings a year later only to be reminded that we hadn’t accomplished a thing.   Not easily discouraged, I would repeat this ritual, finally noticing how each year’s list was basically a duplication of the year before.  One item showed up on my list consistently, written with renewed hope; “Catch up on the baby books”.  (For those of you who are not old enough to know what a baby book is, it’s an old-fashioned way of keeping memories, generally replaced today by digital photo books.) Just for the record, I never did catch up.  Six babies and not one completed book.  That should have been the first clue that making resolutions was hopeless.

Still, with a determined heart, I would sit down and think of all the ways I would like to improve each year.  Lose weight, study more, exercise, improve a talent, serve better, develop patience.  The list was endless.  And impossible.  When something hasn’t worked for fifty years, maybe it’s time to change the plan.

So, this year I am making resolutions, one day at a time.  “Just for today I will, or will not . . . “, gradually nibbling instead of stuffing my mouth and choking.  I can keep track of daily goals.  They are easily measured, and if not accomplished, well, there is tomorrow.

Lessons From Gingerbread

Gingerbread houses.  I tried to get out of making them this year, however forty-three years of tradition is not easily tossed aside.  Amidst the protests, I succumbed and began gathering molasses, flour, sugar, and spices. What was I thinking?  Did I really believe I could quietly skip the ritual that had been part of the holidays since my oldest could remember, and was now embedded in my grandchildren?  Little did I realize the impact of memories created by brown cookie houses held together by gobs of white icing, generously garnished with red and green candy.

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My gingerbread house obsession began the first Christmas I was married. Wanting to begin our own traditions, Randy and I decided to decorate a house and then give it away.  Each year found our houses becoming more elaborate as our creative juices flowed, adding icicles, stained glass windows, and a surrounding landscape.   As our family grew, the children joined in, eventually having their own smaller versions to decorate as they wished.  It was easy to make four, five, eventually six houses, but I never saw it coming.  We are now up to twenty-nine houses when all the families are together.  One has to think carefully before beginning family traditions.

 

One year I decided to take a short cut and make the houses out of graham crackers.  I never heard the end of it.  From then on, it was genuine gingerbread, with all the spices.  The older designers could tell if I skimped on the ginger and cinnamon, although I never figured out how they knew since the houses were rarely consumed.

 

As my oldest daughter reassured me of the importance of keeping this tradition alive, I decided to view it differently. Instead of the burden of baking a community of gingerbread houses, I viewed my task as building a community of love.  When I constructed each house using royal icing that dried like mortar, I realized I was creating memories that cemented family relationships.  And, as I watched my family take twenty minutes or less to adorn their houses, I ceased lamenting the four hours it took to prepare for the long-anticipated event.

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Another year of gingerbread houses has come and gone, but I can still smell the soothing aroma of gingerbread in the oven, hear the giggles of children with mouths full of candy, and see joyful faces that are the result of creating original masterpieces. Yes, traditions are work, but they bring generations together and hearts back home.

A Dozen Christmas Roses From My Dad

I guess you could say I’m a kid at heart, especially when it comes to Christmas.  I’m the first to put up the decorations, and the last to take them down.  I partly blame my dad for my obsession with Christmas.  He brought magic to the season throughout my youth.  I have fond memories of hanging glittery painted balls on the tree between the bubble lights and handmade ornaments.  I remember the dreadful worry of Santa not making it into our living room because Dad teased he would keep the fire alive in the chimney all night.  Each Christmas morning I woke up to find hard candy in zigzag shapes in my stocking, and always an orange stuffed in the toe.

The best surprises of all awaited me under the tree and I was never disappointed.  Besides presents from Santa, Dad always personally contributed to the bounty.  He carefully handpicked each gift, displaying his sensitivity to my personality.  I always received my fair share of dolls and the typical girlie treasures, but Dad was responsible for the telescope, a red Schwinn bike, and a chemistry set which was the source of many creative concoctions.  When I turned twelve, he gave me a tiny transistor radio which was the rage that year, and the envy of my friends.  I don’t know where he got all his grand ideas, but one thing was certain.  The gift would be straight from his heart and a complete surprise.

The magic of the season flowed through my veins and I kept it alive as I grew, left home, and began a family of my own.  My dad continued to be an integral part of each season’s celebrations.  It was one of the things most endearing about him.  That’s why I’ll never understand why he left us, just ten days before Christmas that year.

I remember the day well.  I was Christmas shopping when I received the call.  My dad, always healthy and vibrant, had just suffered a stroke.  I almost didn’t take it seriously.  He would be alright.  You grow up believing that dads will always be there.  One can imagine my shock when I arrived at the hospital and he wasn’t conscious.  Within hours he quietly passed from this life into the next without even a chance to say good-bye . . . and only ten days before our favorite day of the year.

Anyone who has experienced the loss of a loved one knows what the next few days are like.  Everything is a blur. Somehow one gets through the planning, the guests, the necessary meals, the funeral.  Somehow.  It’s the days that follow that are actually the hardest to bear when everyone else goes back to life as they know it.

Christmas still had to happen.  My dad would want it that way, so we pressed on, going through the motions.  If nothing else, I had to have a real Christmas tree.  There had never been a Christmas in my home without the fragrant smell of pine, and this year it was more important than ever.  Being only a few days before the twenty-fifth made this a bit tricky, but my husband humored me and drove literally miles to find one.  Satisfied to have a tree, I couldn’t bring myself to decorate it.  I saved that for a different day.  We would get through this Christmas the best we could without Dad.  Somehow.

The Sunday before Christmas was especially lonely.  I came home early from church and walked into my living room where the tree stood barren, patiently waiting to be adorned.  Like the tree without lights and tinsel, I lacked holiday cheer.  As my mind drifted to happier scenes of Christmases past, my gaze left the tree, slowly focusing on a lone rose bush in the backyard; the rose bush my dad had given me for Mother’s Day several years before.

Squinting, I shifted my angle by the window to reduce the glare.  I blinked several times, not believing what I saw.  The scraggly, unkempt bush was bearing a solitary white rose in full bloom with a blush of pink brushing the edge of each petal.  I rushed outside for a closer look, only to see not just one rose, but eleven other buds in varying stages of development.  I counted twice to be sure, but there were exactly one dozen roses on the bush.  Twelve roses that individually unfolded their tender petals, revealing life and hope throughout the entire Christmas season.  My dad hadn’t forgotten me that Christmas.  He managed to give one last perfect gift, a dozen Christmas roses–an assurance of his love and presence during our favorite time of year.

 

 

 

 

A Faux Thanksgiving

A Tempting Proposal

It all began with good intentions.  Randy knew I worked hard on Thanksgiving day (not to mention the weeks leading up to it) and he wanted me to relax and enjoy the holiday.  I taught school at the time, and the four-day vacation surrounding Thanksgiving was not a break from my hectic schedule.

“Let’s go out to eat this Thanksgiving,” he blurted unexpectedly a few weeks before the big day.  “We can skip the preliminary planning, the shopping, and the full day of cooking.  And we won’t have to figure out how to get the leftovers in the fridge.”  He shouldn’t have mentioned the leftovers.  That’s my favorite part.

Randy was clever with his timing.  His proposal came on a day when I was exhausted and cranky from dealing with second-graders.  His suggestion gradually transitioned from absurd to enticing as the holiday approached.  One week before Thanksgiving, I embraced the offer, grateful I didn’t have to purchase a turkey or a pomegranate, two items I buy only once a year.

No Favorite Pie?

The fourth Thursday of November came without fanfare or stress.  After watching the Macy’s Day parade (for the first time sitting), the family climbed into the car with varying amounts of enthusiasm.  It was uncharacteristically silent as we drove to an all you can eat buffet.  Promising a movie to follow our meal made little difference in the existing mood and I sensed disaster in my hasty decision to change years of tradition.

The Thanksgiving buffet offered many choices but didn’t come close to the savory, homemade delicacies that took hours to prepare.  Feeling physically rested didn’t compensate for the joy I missed serving my family.  Unlike past Thanksgivings, I didn’t rise early to dress the turkey or bake eight different pies to cover everyone’s favorite.  Instead of a morning filled with the laughter of family working together in the kitchen, we all sat in a cold restaurant filling our stomachs, void of conversation or smiles.  I was surprised how much I missed the mounds of dirty dishes and the football game blaring in the background.

More Than a Feast

Why did I feel hungry sitting in the crowded theater watching a newly released Christmas movie?  Pondering the day’s events, I discovered the reason for my emptiness.  Thanksgiving is more than a meal with all the right foods.  Thanksgiving is a day to demonstrate gratitude and loving service.  It is when time is spent together, cooking, playing, and talking.   It is the season we give thanks for a year of prosperity and blessings, the reasons behind the First Thanksgiving.

As we entered our home late that evening, absent were the smells of sage dressing and pumpkin pie.  Gone was the need to browse through my recipe box of twenty different ways to fix leftover turkey.  Missing were the anticipated meals of turkey sandwiches on day-old rolls.  The fridge was void of fruit salad with brown bananas and gooey marshmallow-topped yams.  We might as well have slept through Thanksgiving, and even though my feet weren’t throbbing, and the kitchen sparkled, I vowed we would never skip it again.

Because of Lisa

Four days after publishing The Cancer Effect, I heard the news that no one wants to hear.  Lisa, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer only months before I received the same news, passed away.  It couldn’t be.  I didn’t hear right.  Lisa, who had endured six rounds of chemo, lost and grew back her hair, and selflessly returned to raising her family, had lost the battle.  Lisa.  After being cancer free for several years, she bravely faced more treatments when cancer traveled to her bones, then the liver.  Five years, cancer free.   Then it crept back, uninvited, unexpected, unwanted.

Like lightening, cancer strikes where it wants.  Sometimes there is a warning, such as sounding thunder in the distance, or light drops of rain.  What are the chances?  Even less that it will strike twice in the same place.  But it happens, and when it does, it isn’t kind.

Because of Lisa, I stopped in the middle of my day and cried.

Because of Lisa, I pondered once again the miracle of each day as I watched the evening’s sunset.

Because of Lisa, I paid attention to the changing leaves and cool breeze, remembering it is her favorite time of year.

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Because of Lisa, I vowed I would make my life worth living every extra day I have been given.

Because of Lisa, I added to the dedication in my book, “. . .and to those who valiantly fought, but lost.”

A Page from “The Cancer Effect”

As each day went by after my first chemotherapy, I felt increasingly worse.  I received my treatment on Wednesday and true to prediction,  had reached a low point on Saturday and Sunday.  Nausea was managed by taking the prescribed medicine every four hours before it reached the point of being out of control.  I tried to drink plenty of liquids but found it difficult. The oncology nurses, along with instructions in the chemo notebook, stressed the importance of drinking 64 ounces of liquid per day.  Plain water brought on nausea so I tried flavored waters and Gatorade.  I couldn’t tolerate cold liquids, so I drank them at room temperature. Trying my best, I was only able to get down about half of each day’s requirement.  The worse I felt, the less I was able to drink.

Eating presented additional concerns for my husband as he visibly noted my declining energy.  When I needed to be gaining strength from food, my appetite waned.  It was similar to how I felt the first trimester of my pregnancies.  If something sounded appealing, it shifted to disgusting by the time it was prepared.  Randy tried to tease my appetite by offering my favorite foods.

“How about shrimp or salmon tacos?  I’ll run get some for you.”

“No thanks.  That doesn’t sound good right now.”  Under normal conditions, I never turn down Mexican food.

He was confident I wouldn’t pass up his next offer.  “I can bring you a bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream!”   I’m sure he was thinking that at least it was a dairy product.  Those who know me are aware of my love for ice cream, especially mint chocolate chip.  Unfortunately, my stomach wouldn’t tolerate ice cream, or anything sweet, during all the months I received chemo.

“I can make you a scrambled egg sandwich.”

“Now I’m really going to throw up.”  He knows I don’t like eggs, even under the best circumstances.

“Tuna sandwich?”

“Are you kidding?”  Unfortunately, my husband doesn’t have a very long list of food he is comfortable making.

“What about grilled cheese?”

“Ok. I’ll try that.”

Looking at the nicely grilled sandwich Randy brought, I sighed, “Maybe a bowl of cereal would taste better.”  After eating two bites of cereal, Randy, who never likes to waste food, reluctantly threw the rest out.  I might sound a little spoiled, but in reality, I had no interest in eating and what I did eat during my worst days after chemo was only due to the insistence of my patient husband.

On Monday evening, I changed locations from my bed to the couch and tried to watch a little TV.  I began feeling strange, so started back towards my bedroom.  By the time I got there, I had broken out in a cold sweat.  Having a sudden urge to vomit, I rushed into the bathroom.  When the feeling passed, I shuffled towards the bed only to be hit by a burst of dizziness, causing me to collapse.

Landing on my bed, I didn’t move, willing the spinning in my head to cease.  Brittany looked up from her homework and ran to get her dad.  When Randy arrived and saw how pale and listless I was, he helped me under the covers and tried to get me to drink.  I agreed to the water if he also brought my nausea medicine.  Placing both on the nightstand I attempted to go to sleep if only to escape how badly I was feeling.

As tired as I was, sleep didn’t come easily.  Thoughts of the last few days rolled around in my head, adding to my restlessness.  I was warned that chemotherapy could be difficult and I tried to patiently endure, but I was beginning to question my ability to do this five more times.  I wasn’t even close to feeling good enough to teach school the day after tomorrow.  Would it be possible to teach at all?  Being sick was hard enough without the guilt I felt for not fulfilling my obligations.

Morning brought no relief from the sickness that wracked my body.  It had been a long night with little sleep.  I felt like I had a bad case of the flu.  Randy brought more fluids and encouraged me to drink.  He also brought some toast for breakfast, then reluctantly went to work.  I looked deathly sick to him and if it weren’t for patients depending on him, he wouldn’t have left.  Years later he shared with me his frightening thought, “Cancer isn’t going to kill her, chemo is.”

With Brittany in school, I was left alone to wait out the day, hoping to feel better soon.  It took great effort to get out of bed and use the bathroom but diarrhea necessitated frequent trips.  It felt like someone had zapped all the energy out of my body and I didn’t care about anything.  I didn’t even have enough energy to worry about school and my inability to teach the next day.

About mid-morning, my cell phone rang.  The caller ID showed “Private Call” and I almost didn’t answer.  It was a good thing I did because it was Dr. Dinsdale, my primary care doctor.  In a concerned voice, he explained that the results of the previous day’s blood work had been mistakenly sent to his office and it didn’t look good.  He needed to know my oncologist’s name so he could fax it over to his attention.  Despite the Neulasta shot I had received, my white blood cell count was zero.

“How are the fluids?  Are you drinking plenty of water?”

“I’m trying to,” I answered feebly, “but drinking makes me nauseated.”

“About how much have you kept down this morning?”

“Maybe four ounces.”

“Claudia, that is not enough. You will end up in the hospital if you don’t increase your fluid intake.”  Right then I didn’t care.  I just wanted to be left alone.

Within the hour, a nurse from the oncology office called.  She explained I needed to come in right away for a Neupogen shot to increase my white blood cell count.  I was to plan on receiving this shot for two additional days.  I told her I didn’t feel like coming in.  She firmly made it clear I had no choice, the Neupogen shot was essential, and they would see me at three o’clock.

As I hung up from this conversation, I wondered how I was going to get out of bed and make the trip to the oncology office.  I obviously shouldn’t drive, but with one call I found Monica willing to drop everything and take me.  Making a meager attempt to get dressed, I waited in bed for her to arrive, trying to obediently drink as much as possible.  Dr. Dinsdale’s warning had finally concerned me and I didn’t want to be hospitalized.  That would require too much energy.

Lighten Up, Mrs. Bretzing

As another school year nears an end, I recall the feelings I experienced as a teacher during those final weeks in May. The students are restless, the teachers are tired, and we can almost taste the sweetness of summer vacation beckoning with teasing fingers.  Concentration is difficult, classroom management has slackened, and everyone knows exactly how many days are remaining.

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I’ll never forget one sluggish morning in May a few years ago. It was 10:15 and the allotted time for second-grade recess.  Even though it was a hot day, the children were anxious to escape the classroom and play.  Grabbing their recess snacks from backpacks, they practically ran outside.  I understood.  I was as anxious for a break as they were.

There was a popular recess snack among second graders that spring.  It started with a couple of students and escalated to become the snack of choice.  It came in a sealed package and was intended to be cooked on the stove.  The children ate it raw.  The fad?  Ramen.

Breaking up the noodles presented a problem which we addressed on a number of occasions.  It made a mess on the blacktop, inviting pigeons anxious for a morning snack as well.  Ramen would be allowed, as long as we didn’t see evidence of it.

Upon completion of morning recess, I went out as usual to pick up my students.  I was greeted with two wiggly lines and a flock of pigeons eating what looked like an entire package of broken Ramen noodles scattered on the ground.  Reading the exasperated expression on my face, the students quieted and became subdued as I exclaimed, “Who is responsible for this?”pigeon-1315474_640

Sometimes adults ask ridiculous questions.  Did I really think a hand would go up with a confession?  Of course not.  Going quickly into lecture mode, I continued, “You may think you got away with this.  However, there is always one person who knows.  Who is that person?”

Having many previous discussions on integrity, the answer I was looking for was, “YOU”.  You always know when you have made a bad choice.  Finally, a single hand raised timidly in answer to my question.  It was Sydney, one of the more mature girls in the class.  As the others looked on solemnly, I flashed an encouraging smile, repeating the question to add emphasis.  “Yes, Sydney, who is it that always knows when we have made a bad choice?”  She gave me a one-word answer, but it wasn’t the word I was expecting.  With all innocence she confidently proclaimed, “Santa”.

Instantly the tension dispelled as I broke into resigned laughter. “Yes, Sydney.  It is Santa.”  With that, I led the class back to the room, leaving the pigeons to enjoy their feast.christmas-1091178_640

A Mother’s Heartbeat

“Call your mother.  Tell her you love her.  Remember, you’re the only person who knows what her heart sounds like from the inside.”   Rachel Wolchin

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Artist:  Trilea Minson

A mother’s heartbeat is first heard by the fetus at approximately 18 weeks.  By the time we are born, we have listened to our mother’s heartbeat an average of 17,740,800 times.  This steady, rhythmic sound is part of what we know.  Always constant, we are safe and protected.

As soon as we enter this world and are placed in our mother’s arms, we instantly bond because of the beat.

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As an infant, we become calm when pressed to our mother’s bosom.  We can hear that familiar sound, although in a different way now.  It competes with all the other outside noises.  We no longer hear it constantly, but it is there, and we feel it.

 

 

Growing up, the beat continues, but now it shouts encouragement.  “You did it!  I knew you could!”  A few beats are skipped when our mother watches us do things for the first time;  school, a soccer game, dance recital, the first date.image

We recognize that tender, selfless beat when our mother gives up her piece of pie, convincing us she’s on a diet anyway.  Or buys the perfect prom dress when she hasn’t had any new clothes for a very long time.

The beat is relentless, even when she hands us wings to fly.  Although her heart is breaking, she wouldn’t have it any other way.  It makes her heart sing to see our own beat affect the lives of others.image

 

When our mother’s heart stops beating, it can still be felt.  You see, it is part of us and will always be.  With each pulse, we became connected before we ever met.  With time, both heartbeats synced and now they are one.

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