Little people have big feelings. They ask questions that their adults are afraid to answer. They require us to use all of our humanity and our compassion to hold brave space for them. And they demand that we face our own fears so that we can hold their hand tightly and walk gently along side of them until we have all found home again.
A week has passed since the surprise ER visit, the emergency surgery, the cancer diagnosis. At this point, there are quality of life options and there are fighting options. Mele has chosen to fight with a protocol of chemo that will be dosed weekly for the next five months. (if you want to follow her journey, please go to https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/mele. If you would like to help support financially during this difficult time, please go to https://www.gofundme.com/melesfightsong.)
The other morning, I couldn’t do anything right. The scrambled eggs weren’t like Mami makes them. The story telling around the breakfast table wasn’t how Mami does it. My singing, well even Kitty left the house after one verse. Alexandra (age 3) finally stated, “I’m just so mad I could break something!”
I was mad, too. At that point, we were all missing Mami. We are all scared of the diagnosis (though the littles only know that Mami is really sick.) I had bought some plates a while ago from a garage sale. It was time to take them out. I got a metal garbage can and we took turns throwing the plates inside the can and watching them crash apart. (I’m a big fan of the breaking-not a big fan of the cleaning up. So, breaking them right into the garbage can is lovely.) The really big feelings can get lost so quickly in the chaos of the shifting daily patterns.
When Mami came home from the hospital, Henry (age 5) took one look and declared, “You’re still sick!” And then he ran and hid behind the couch shaking and crying. Gently I alternated between comfort and space, dialogue and engagement with his fears, his sadness, his confusion, and his anger. Once the triplets were asleep, I sat near Henry as he played. I listened to him chatter about his Legos. He pointed out a little car and explained that he had a really bad crash. The helper truck (tow truck) will take him and fix him, but he will never be the same. He can only stabilize him so he can rest. And it will be a long fixing until he can go back home. Finally, three hours later, Henry tiptoed to Mami and tucked his favorite stuffed animal along beside her and gave her a hug.
They all understand in their very own ways and in their very own time.
When Mami was in the hospital, Alexandra stomped into my room tonight, slamming open my door. I asked her what I could help her with and she angrily stated, “I need Mami’s shirt. Right now!” She rummaged through the closet, picked out one of Mami’s favorites, and stomped back to bed. I waited a moment and quietly went into her room, sat on her bed, and lightly touched her arm. She immediately started crying into Mele’s shirt. I reassured her and held her until she finally fell asleep.
George (age 3) asked me to lift him up to the thermostat, to which I complied. He pressed the screen and when it lit up, he said, “Hello Luna? This is George on planet earth. Please send your shine to my Mami to help her with the poison inside her body. From the scorpion bite. Thank you Luna. Ciao!”
Victoria (age 3) tried to make sense of things in her own understanding when she explained, “I think Mami just forgot to take her vitamins. And forgot to brush her teeth. I know Mami will be all fixed by the doctors and feel better.”
Henry was quiet as he played in a sandbox for a while before showing me a sand sculpture that he said shows how he feels, “because there really aren’t words when your Mami is this sick.”
Days later, Henry clarified, “I think Mami had a germ get into her blood and her blood doesn’t want to fight back. So it integrated into an owie in her stomach that they have to take out now. Mami is very sick but the doctor cut out the bad parts and the nurses are helping her to feel better again. Even though she is broken, she is going to get better, right? I can make her some Lego creations. She is always so happy to see my work. See these tears, Mama? They are straight from my heart. My heart is cracked.”
Oh, we still have those normal toddler moments. You know, the one where they figured out the window lock and we got to school and all of their shoes were gone. Yup. Victoria cheerily stated, “Out the window!” All eight shoes. All eight socks. Thrown out the window along a three mile stretch of road to school. For the record, I found eight shoes and three socks, two of said socks were carefully tucked into Henry’s shoes.I’m still not laughing. Well, maybe a little.
On the way to school this week, I heard a song on the radio. “Feeling my way through the darkness. Guided by a beating heart. I can’t tell where the journey will end. But I know where to start…So wake me up when it’s all over. When I’m wiser and I’m older.”
There are absolutely moments I want to sleep through this nightmare. Close my eyes and convince myself that this is all a bad dream. But then I think about a parable I heard when I was a child about two wolves fighting. One is darkness and despair. The other is light and hope. The question is, which one wins. The wise answer, whichever one you feed.
At this point, there are quality of life options and there are fighting options. has chosen to fight with a protocol of chemo that will be dosed weekly for the next five months. She will begin once she has healed enough from the extensive surgery. Statistically, we know that this is, indeed, a battle. But there was also only a 1% chance that I would get pregnant with triplets.
One way I feed the light and hope is through our weekly Adventure Day. These have provided these moments of respite and joy since I started them when Henry was born. They have served us well through other bumpy parts of our journey. They help to bring gratitude to our hearts and the moment of the present to our minds.
Today was at the Florida Railway Museum where we rode on the train pulled by Thomas himself! Simple joys of a bounce house, a hay ride, spotting a gopher tortoise, and chasing butterflies. Last week was a music festival with face painting, hula hoops, and dancing followed by a free toddler event where they got to climb onto fire trucks and honk the horns on buses and move big construction machines. Breathing in their laughter, slowing down for their smiles, and holding onto their joy as they enthusiastically roll down a grass hill. These moments of joy is how we stand back up again. How we lift our voices. How we fight for our very lives. In so many ways.
What a journey we are on. This life. In the darkest moments of the night, when I am not sure I am going to find my way through, I feel a tap from a tiny hand and a little voice chirps, “Mama? Agua, please.” And I know that I will get out of bed anyway. I will feed the light and the hope.
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