I had a lovely visit from a friend of mine yesterday. We have known each other since I was 19 years old and pregnant with my first child – very pregnant. In fact, she still teases me that it seemed like I was pregnant for 14 months. It felt that way to me too, especially when the little
s*** baby knocked the wind out of me with his outrageously huge precious feet. Being pregnant exhausted me and frustrated me. I remember wondering what I had gotten myself into. And I got so stinkin’ big. But, as they say, in the end it was all worth it. My discomfort, swollen body, fluid retention, shortness of breath, and weight gain resulted in the birth of a terribly ugly beautiful red wrinkley screaming newborn son. And two fractured ribs. Did I mention pain? They say a woman forgets the pain over time. I’m here to tell you that is NOT true. I’m old now and I still remember it. I was shocked how the pain intensified after my water broke. It hurt like hell and I remember the nurse telling me she would get me a shot (back then they administered what they called the ‘twilight shot’, no such thing as an epidural then) after a visit from my husband. I told her forget the husband, get the shot. What did I know? I was only 19 years old. Husbands weren’t allowed in the delivery room in those days, so I missed my chance to share the moment with him until after the delivery. Trust me, I did him a favor.
Back to my friend. Bless her heart, she called me last week for prayer because she had an abnormal mammogram. It was especially scary because she had gotten breast implants a ton of years ago and, believe it or not, she was worried that they would have to be removed. I understand that. Don’t misinterpret either of us; the threat of cancer, loss of body parts, and uncertain mortality will sober a person up quickly. But to my dear friend, those implants were her identity. Not that she’s vampy about them, or showed them off in any way, but because after having grown up without a significant amount of breast, the confidence the implants give her is immeasurable. She is a humble person, a professional, a wife, mother, and grandmother.
Before her test results came back, our imaginations had her already sans breast and implants, with scarred thoracic flatness, balding and hyper-ill. Thank God in His mercy, her results were negative. Praise Him! She gave me the good news when she came all the way out to the countryside for a visit. It was a huge relief as you can imagine. Then she surprised me with a line of thought that made me see cancer in a different way. Cancer, she said, clarifies a person’s life. It makes a person see undeniably the important things in life – the moments with family and loved ones, and the uniqueness of every second of every day. She told me that the ugliness of this world became uglier and the beauty of this world became more beautiful. Colors changed. Love intensified. The ordinary no longer existed. And what a lovely thing to become aware of it all before this life expires, maybe even privileged.
I looked at her like she was cray cray. And because I am missing the check valve normal people are born with that withholds bluntly honest but inappropriate remarks, I self-righteously told her that it would have been better had she recognized those things before the threat of a life-ending disease. I have no tact. For that, I am so sorry, especially because this darling woman is closer to God than I ever hope to be. Her spirituality is golden. I know her well, and have for 40 years so I’ve seen every side of her, good and bad, and she knows me as well. So I found it disconcerting how calm she was about the health scare, and how she turned it into something positive, like some kind of saint or something.
Then, after she left I saw a commercial on TV that proclaimed those very beliefs nearly word for word. I felt better. She is human after all. And I just love her to pieces.
There is a huge lesson in all of this: enjoy, love, clarify life now before the threat of something awful happens. Cultivate an “attitude of gratitude” before you think you have to. I’m thankful for the lesson and for my friend’s saintly attitude, no matter the source. She has always been a blessing to me.