There are women who become mothers without effort,
Without patience or loss,
And though they are good mothers and love their children,
I know that I will be better.
I will be better not because of genetics
Or because I have read more books,
But because I have struggled and toiled for this child.
I have longed and waited.
I have cried and prayed.
I have endured and planned
Over and over again.
Like most things in life,
The people who truly have appreciation
Are those who have struggled
To attain their dreams.
I will notice everything about my child.
I will take time to watch my child sleep, explore, and discover.
I will marvel at this miracle
Every day for the rest of my life.
I will be happy when I wake in the middle of the night to the sound of my child,
Knowing that I can comfort, hold, and feed him
And that I am not waking to take another temperature, pop another pill, take another shot
Or cry tears of a broken dream.
My dream will be crying for me.
I count myself lucky in this sense;
That God has given me this insight,
This special vision
With which I will look upon my child.
Whether I parent a child I actually give birth to
Or a child that God leads me to,
I will not be careless with my love.
I will be a better mother for all that I have endured.
I am a better wife,
A better aunt, a better daughter,
Neighbor, friend and sister
Because I have known pain.
I know disillusionment,
As I have been betrayed by my own body.
I have been tried by fire and hell
That many never face.
Yet given time, I stood tall.
I have prevailed.
I have succeeded.
I have won.
So now, when others hurt around me,
I do not run from their pain in order to save myself discomfort.
I see it, mourn it, and join them in theirs.
And even though I cannot make it better,
I can make it less lonely.
I have learned the immense power of another hand holding tight to mine,
Of other eyes that moisten
As they learn to accept the harsh truth
When life is beyond hard.
I have learned a compassion that only comes by walking in those shoes.
I have learned to appreciate life.
Yes, I will be a wonderful mother.
I have many hopes large and small for you.
One of them is this:
that when a friend of mine succumbs to cancer,
you will be the friend who does not.
I hope, and believe, that this hope is well aligned with your hopes for yourself.
The only part I do not take for granted,
for I have no doubt that you will live a life that is wonder filled and wondrous and long,
Is the friendship.
This is harder for me to predict, and what should happen is not so clear.
We move on; we lose contact with old acquaintances,
sometimes with regret, sometimes without;
sometimes this is simply an artifact of the inexorable passage of time.
I lost another friend, the wife of a friend,
And a woman not so very much older than I,
To pancreatic cancer.
I attended her memorial service just before heading to Arizona.
I remember telling you last February
That I had two friends with pancreatic cancer.
Now I have none.
Today, anyway, it seems to me that when I lose a friend to cancer,
The reassurance that another friend who has been through cancer
Would be a comfort.
You could tell me what you had for breakfast, what you see out your window,
Anything at all would serve the simple, blessed purpose
Of letting me know
That you are somewhere, anywhere, alive.
I think of you in such a role because you have become
The youngest of my friends to survive a serious cancer
(older survivor friends can’t be counted on for this–they may die before I do),
And because you and I have already talked
About subjects not so different than this.
I know that you will outlive me by decades
And if someday news of my own death
(which is not, to the best of my knowledge, imminent, so don’t read anything between the lines)
Maybe you’ll dance,
and maybe children will ask you why.