Last Wednesday, after two full days inside, I finally took myself and my boys out of the house and into the 15 degree weather to grab an early dinner with my friend, Nancy and her family. As we sat at the table waiting for our food, we received the news that school would be cancelled again Thursday and yet again Friday, making it a full Snow Week of kids at home, cancelled meetings, cancelled basketball practices, cancelled bedtimes and cancelled routine and schedule. I have a touch of the OCD going on and love me some routine and I despise me some cold. So this is what happened when Nancy's giddy daughter told us that there was no school for the rest of the week.
Oh, the drama. I can't even lift my face out of my hands. PA.THE.TIC, right? Do you want to slap me? Don't worry. I got that slap later.
Now, my despair was not all about the kids being up in my grill all day because due to the endless Madden 2KWhatever, they are quite busy turning their minds so into mush that they forget they have a mom to bother. My problem is a lot about claustrophobia and a Texas gal's fear of driving in the snow. It's about the fact that there is plenty of fish and chicken and vegetables in the fridge, but Miss Whiney(uncomfortably tight) Pants decides to equate snow days with chili dogs and nachos. It's that darn treadmill in that darn basement and how I need pavement under my feet and real air in my lungs.
But if I am honest, it is also often about those darn kids. It's about the arguing and the snow boots and the clothes strewn about. It's about the fact that this one likes cheese on his sandwich, but this one doesn't and this one left his cereal bowl out making a milk ring on the table and this one ate the last cookie and this one or that one (but no one will admit which one) got chocolate on the new couch. It's about my guilt that I should be the mom who makes snow ice cream and homemade hot chocolate, but I.just.am.not.
Do you see? It's, as usual, all about me. It's about me and my comfort and my routine and my time. It's about me missing the blessing right in front of me. It's about me forgetting my promise to Gavin Rupp to look hard for beauty every single day.
And I knew that I would forget. And I know that I will again. And I think Gavin knows it and God knows it. And I will not beat myself up about it too much because I can ask myself What would Jesus do? all day every day, but I am not Him. (And neither, by the way, are my children. Y'all, they're just so darn loud.) But, that's okay. We just have to get a little switch in our viewpoint, dust off and try again.
And that's why my work with Kyle's Kamp is a blessing . . . a virtual snowball of perspective to the head, if you will.
After dinner Wednesday evening, I attended a meeting of representatives of six local pediatric cancer organizations. And within minutes it was if my mom came in and said, "Child, I'll give you something to whine about."
I, the sniveling, selfish, slightly bloated mother of three currently healthy children, sat next to a man whose sixteen year old daughter died of cancer a few years ago and who would give his arm (actually would cut if off - he said so and I believe him) if it would make one of the other parents in that meeting or any where around the world miss out on having his new perspective on life. He would go out in the freezing cold in shorts and a tshirt if he could spend an hour in the snow with his daughter once more.
I sat across from a man whose ten year old daughter died less than three months ago. A man who, I am quite sure, would pour chocolate all over his couch and then figure out how to make snow ice cream and throw that on the couch, too, if it would bring her back.
Next to him, sat a woman who would wake up the next morning to bundle up her three year old to get on a train to New York's Sloan Kettering for an MRI to determine whether her baby's tumors had stayed stable or grown or perhaps vanished. How about that little wrench in the routine?
A few down from her, sat a man who has been traveling the country visiting doctors and specialists with his twelve year old, all the while supporting his boy as he learns how to use a prosthetic because cancer took one of his child's legs.
At the head of the table, sat a man who would the next day make the same trek to the clinic for his son's leukemia treatment that he has tirelessly taken for the past three years whether it be in snow, wind, ice, hail or blinding sun to fight a disease that came out of no where to turn his life into something he never knew it would be. As this would be his son's last treatment, it would be a day of relief and celebration, but I was sure that the happiness of that day would hold an undercurrent of unshakeable fear that the possibility is always looming that the cycle might someday start all over again.
I stared across the table at the seat that might have held my new friend, but sat empty. I know that this friend had spent her week juggling work and kids home from cancelled school. But this friend, would all the while be trying to mother her children while fighting off waves of grief that threaten to drown her. This friend had only two pairs of boots dripping dirty snow on the floor when she should, she just absolutely should, have had three pairs. I tried to push back the thought of how desperately non-routine were these days for her. The first snow days without the big brother. The first snow days managing arguments among two and wishing desperately for that third voice, so brutally absent from the chaos.
I looked out at the street lamp's light glimmering on the snow that I had sighed and scoffed about that morning. And I recalled a line fromThe Fault in Our Stars, a book I am reading about two teenagers battling cancer:
"People always get used to beauty."
And God's still, strong voice spoke to me through those many still, strong, voices of the parents in that room saying, Do not get used to the beauty. Do not let it slip away unnoticed. Look at it now. Appreciate it now. Do something now.
So today I will start making calls to pester high school baseball coaches about our Kyle's Kamp Diamond Dreams Night. And I will get out of my comfort zone and try to solicit donations to the silent auction for our Kyle's Kamp Casino Night. And I will annoy my Facebook friends by filling up my page with information on various ways to raise as much money as possible to find some sort of beauty in the ashes of this heartbreaking reality of childhood cancer.
And those are important things to do, but more than that, at least today, I will not get used to the beauty of all three of my boys' boots stinking to high heaven in the foyer. I will not get used to the beauty of boys' giggling voices floating into my room at midnight even when I have told them to shut.it.down twenty-five times. I will not get used to the honor of pleading for God's presence to embrace the broken and grieving parents I have met in the past several months who are desperate to see His hope again. I will open my eyes and my ears and I will bundle myself up against the cold wind and I will remember that this life is unsure and non-routine and chaotic and that it is good and hopeful and impossibly beautiful.
I am trying again, today, Gavin. I will pull my hands away from my face and look. I will not get used to the beauty here, friend. Not today.
Jennifer P. Skinner