Having cancer and facing my own mortality has taught me many things. I would say one of the biggest things is that it has shown me that You Can’t Take It With You.
In other words, the stuff we strive for (college degrees, salaries, my Mexican Blanket, my cat, notoriety, experiences, my hair, relationships, pictures, THINGS) have very little meaning when it comes down to life and love.
Do I love those things? Sure. Do they give me pleasure and fulfill my needs in life? Sure. But I can’t take them with me.
I find myself saying more and more to my kids: Listen, that thing that you’re arguing about with your sister and getting all worked up about? It’s so small in the scheme of life. It’s just a little dot that means nothing in the long run. Let it go.
It is love and encouragement that really mean the most in life. Filter everything through love and encouragement and the stuff you will leave behind will be parts of your heart and experiences that will carry on, far after you’re gone.
I mean, shit. I could die from cancer coming back, but I could just as easily statistically die behind the wheel of my Rockstar Minivan pulling out of my driveway. (I make that minivan look sexy, in case you didn’t know that.)
Talking about death, while it may seem morose, is not where I’m coming from. I don’t feel depressed today. (Give me a few days. Round 9 of Chemo starts tomorrow and I’m fully expecting to feel like bunghole and my mind will spin at times.) But to understand death and not think of it in a fear-based mindset gives us motivation to make the most of everything: to soak in and relish the beautiful moments of watching my kids read a book; to get up on stage and tell people that their generosity towards me and my Three Little Birds is teaching them (and others) that what really matters is giving, loving, receiving love, and setting aside our pride to ask for help; and someday I will be able to do the same for others.
I will leave all the piddly stuff behind… though I dare say I would like to have my Mexican Blanket in my coffin to take with me across the river Styx.
Cancer, and even Devon coming out of the closet, has given me a new lens to look through as I go about this daily thing called Life. What’s important? What should I let go of? What feeds the positive energy in my life and what should I shed that is negative? What will my students remember about me as they move on toward adulthood? My lesson on how to write a cohesive paper? I certainly hope so, but I’m guessing they will remember more of what it means to be transparent, what being honest with yourself looks like and how to humbly ask for forgiveness. At least, I’d like to think so. I truly hope my own kids remember the pieces of me that I gave to them to get them to the coolest places in their minds and hearts of love, encouragement and learning how to let go and accept the things they can’t change.
I met a woman named Shawna this past weekend who shared her heart and experience of losing her husband to cancer. She really spoke to me. What a wonderful human being. She agreed with my sentiment: Cancer changes you. And it will change you for the better if you let it.
So, today, which is a gift, I will put on my Love spectacles and do my darndest to filter things through them. What’s important? Who needs encouragement? Who needs forgiveness and understanding, not advice? What can I give to someone that will keep on giving and get passed onto someone else?
I mean, I can’t take anything with me, so the stuff I leave here needs to be really cool and meaningful.
Thanks, Cancer, for teaching me that.
Love, Me and My Mexican Blanket