For the past five months, I feel like I have been on a wild white water rafting trip. If you’ve never been on one, this is what happens: you’re floating along a river in a rubber boat, soaking in the warmth of the sun and the beauty of the views when suddenly you come upon some frantic rapids – big white roiling waves, the kind of water that has the potential to throw you out of your life boat if you don’t pilot them correctly – and you have to instantly determine what to do. The learning curve is steep as you navigate your way through each wave and around each rock. Decisions are made both on a gut level and based on past experience. In order to survive this set of rapids, you must stay present to the moment. Once you get through those wild waves, you might have a reprieve – to rejoice, to take in the learning, to rest, or freak out, but then another set of rapids demands all of your attention. And you do it all over again.
That’s what my life has felt like for the past five months as I’ve navigated my way through cancer, two major job changes, and helping my siblings move my parents out of our home of 50 years, the house that holds all the memories of, not only my childhood, but all of the family gatherings of my adulthood.
Now that I’ve come to the end of this river, I am able to start reflecting on everything I’ve experienced. My first question to myself is: How did I manage? How did I get through this?
After my car accident when I was 17 years old, my Grandmother sent me five small Catholic saint medals on a safety pin. Her note explained that these were my deceased Grandfather’s medals and that he had them hanging on his bedpost when he died. Homer, my grandfather, was a devout Catholic, a man of deep faith. And while I am not Catholic, or Christian for that matter, these medals have always symbolized the beauty of faith. On the eve before my biopsy, I took them from my own bedpost, where they have hung since Grandma gave them to me, and attached them to a long black leather cord. I have worn them every day since.
Grandpa’s medals hang right at the slight “v” of my small cleavage and serve as a reminder that faith in life, in the Universe, in the power of good, is a daily choice. I don’t question anymore why my cancer happened. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that I trust that this experience can be, if I allow it, for my highest good.
So I have sat at the helm of my boat this summer knowing that, no matter what happens, ultimately all will be well. Though I don’t have a bible or church doctrine to assure me of that, I do have my past. I have survived other white water trips in my life that have threatened to throw me out of the boat. Instead of tossing me into the water, those other trips have brought me right here, right now.
Right where I am.