Wednesday, May 10, 2017

15 Years Ago, Watching ER

Fifteen years ago today, I sat with my mother on an ugly, blue floral-patterned couch and stared at a bulky television set and watched one of our favorite television shows to watch together: ER. (Previous favorites included Golden Girls and Sisters, of course).

That particular night, my favorite character was set to meet his demise. For two seasons, we'd watched him struggle with a brain cancer diagnosis. The stroke-like symptoms, the difficulty speaking, the seizures - each moment of his (television) pain broke our hearts a little more. And of course, in true television-viewer fashion, we were SURE that they could never kill off a character so beloved to the audience. But. They. Did. (Do you see where my concern over the fictitious life of Daryl Dixon is valid? No one is safe on TV.)

And in two of the saddest scenes (seriously, if you choose to click this link or click this link and watch, get your tissues ready), mom and I sobbed over his death. Like, legit sobbed. Part of it was the loss of a character on a show I loved, and part was because you can't help but imagine what life would be like if that happened to you or someone you know. We had already watched mom battle and defeat breast cancer. I distinctly remember saying to her that night, on that ugly couch, that I could not imagine how horrible life would be if that ever happened to her. That only made me cry harder.

Exactly 3 years and 8 days later, it did.

Ironic, a bit, that mom died during brain cancer awareness month. Really, she'd only been given a few months to a year after that initial brain cancer diagnosis in early April 2014, but she was always big in supporting breast cancer and the Relay for Life and all that. Part of me wonders if she held on as long as she did, and died when she did, to serve as a reminder to keep pushing on for a cure.

If you read my blog, you know all about my mom's story so I don't need to rehash it. But what I do want to say is this:

Life is short (Hello, cliche! Yes, I said it.) It really is. Mom didn't imagine going to bed on April 9 that on April 10, she'd be diagnosed with brain cancer. Life can change in an instant, just like that.

Every moment you spend not truly living is a moment wasted. Whether it's on fear or anger or jealousy or stewing or whatever it is, the clock keeps ticking and those are moments you will never have back. You have to learn to let go of that stuff and let it dissipate into nonexistence; when you can move forward with the good in life and let go of the bad (easier said than done sometimes), you won't be wasting those important moments anymore.

I try and explain to the kids that life is like a tree. Your path starts out like the roots, growing for nine months until your debut. From there, you set out on a path and while it might seem scary, you'll start taking many different routes in life. Some of them aren't great; we all make mistakes. That's when you find a new path and follow that one for awhile. You'll make new friends and lose some; some you'll find again. You'll love and lose and learn. Eventually, your history looks like a tree in winter - lots of branches going in all different directions but hopefully, you still find yourself growing and moving upwards towards a sky full of opportunity. And while the branches look sad and bare when it's coldest out - or when times are hard in life - even your mistakes turn into something beautiful down the road.



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