It Would Be Easy

It would be easy for us to say no to a situation involving a family member that, if all goes through, will distinctly rock our fairly routine family life.  It would be easy for us to say that we are too busy, too poor, too stressed, too hectic, too old, and far too content in our own circumstances to do anything to help.  It would be even easier to say “it’s not our problem”, and walk away living our own life with our own little family.  It would be easiest for us to sit on the sidelines with our own opinions; yet, not be willing to step out in action, in love, and in faith to help.

It would be easy for us to ignore the need, which in turn would ignore the living, breathing lives of those involved.  When we look at the situation at hand though, we know the decision that needs to be made is not the easy one.  Often, the right thing to do is the hardest.  We also know that if the tables were turned, and we were in need of help, we would desperately want the love of family to stand with us.  We also know we have the ability, the means, the love, and the solid rock that is our Lord to carry us through.

It would have been easy for Jesus to say no.  It would have been easier for Him to say He was too busy, too poor, too stressed, too hectic, too old, and far too content in His own circumstances to do anything.  He did not say, “Father, they are not my problem.”  Oh, it would have been especially easy for the Son of God to circumvent the calling on His life in order to avoid hardship.  Because He chose the hard path that led to a bloody and brutal death on a cross, we have been given new life, abundant hope, and eternal grace.

Our life may be changing in the next month or two.  We may have less time, less space, and less money.  We may have to rely on each other for even greater support.  We may have to be even more fervent in prayer, and patient in the progression of things.  We may have to help our little ones understand the opportunity to imprint love onto someone else.  We may lean on the circumstances to help them understand their own stories.

We may face objection, questions, and fear.  We may ask at times why the Lord led us down this path.  We may even face heart-ache.  I can’t help but think, though, that if we didn’t face these things, then our answer would have been far too easy.

Best Teacher Ever

Here in my little corner of the world, school is getting ready to start back in session.  My son will begin kindergarten this year and, needless to say, I’m filled with excitement and a little bit of dread all wrapped up together.  We get to meet his teacher next week and I hope I see in her or him the kind of energy my son thrives on and that every parent desires for their children’s teachers.  I do know one thing though, the school district will be missing a great teacher and counselor this year.

Mr. Martin retired at the end of the 2011/2012 school year after 30+ years of teaching and counseling kids.  He was my 6th grade teacher and turned out to be one of the best teachers I have ever had.  I remember getting him for my 6th grade year and being so excited about it.  Male teachers seemed to be a little bit of a rarity back in the early 80’s.  Looking like he had just stepped off the college campus and into our classroom, it was always exciting to see how he was going to try to teach us.

I became ill early in the school year.  The morning that my illness struck, Mr. Martin noticed that my color was not right.  I was normally a talkative girl, but on that day, I was quiet and different.  He sent me to the nurse’s office to be checked out and the decision was made to call my mother.  Not long after this, I was in the ER and, of course, the rest of my story unfolded.

Mr. Martin came to the hospital nearly every day after school to check on me and keep me up to date on school work.  He was ever-present and truly wanted to know what was happening and if I was recovering.  He provided support to my parents and family members as well.  If it had not been for him I would probably have had to repeat the 6th grade.  After all, I was only in school less than a week or two before I became ill.  I ended up missing between nine and twelve weeks of school due to it.

He tutored me while in the hospital and at home while I was recovering.  I laid in bed the whole time while he read the lesson plans to me.  He would stay at least an hour at a time twice per week.  I was so ill that I do not specifically remember each time he was there, but I just knew he was.  It is like my subconscious has always known.  The image of this teacher sitting by the bedside to teach a gravely ill child brings tears to my eyes.  How lucky I was to have him.

During my recovery, he gave me the book “The Littlest Prince” by Antoine De Saint-Exupery as an assignment to read and write a report on.  Inside the front cover, he wrote a note to me that this book had always been special to him and to make sure I paid attention to what the fox says.  I remember reading the book and writing my report but to be honest, I really did not understand it fully.

Many years later, I found the book among the trinkets of my childhood and reread the conversation between the fox and the little prince. “Goodbye,” said the fox.  “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret:  It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”  “What is essential is invisible to the eye,” the little prince repeated, so he would be sure to remember.  “It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.” “It is the time I have wasted for my rose” said the little prince, so that he would be sure to remember.  “Men have forgotten this truth,” said the fox.  “But you must not forget it.  You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.  You are responsible for your rose….”  “I am responsible for my rose,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember. 

A few years ago, I met with Mr. Martin at his school.  It had been nearly 30 years ago since everything happened.  I had run into him from time to time throughout the years, and gave him the standard and very brief update that I was doing well and what my job was at the time, but I really did not discuss much.  This time though, I purposefully sought him out.  He is a part of my memories of this time in my life.  It would be an incomplete history without him.

I asked him why he assigned The Little Prince for me to read.  He said, “It is a book that was always special to me and has meaning that translates to different moments.”  It is not just a book about survival, but a book about overcoming and transcendence.  I get it.  I may not have gotten it as a child, but I get it now and what great insight and foresight he had to assign this book to me.  I now see the great meaning behind seeing truth with the heart and not the eyes.  My rose, the one that I am responsible for, the one that I have spent time on, the one that I have tamed is really not a rose at all.  It is the way I have handled my life – the goodness and the tragic.  I am responsible for all of it the rest of my life.  My rose is myself.

I learned that the other children asked about me and were told I was recovering from surgery, but were not aware of all the details.  He described me as being girly, but like a little tough bull and seeing me one day like this, and the next minute close to death was difficult.  He recognized that I had to deal with adult issues and that “strange time” of my life was taken from me.  By strange time, he meant when our bodies are changing and puberty is starting.

The most important thing for me to accomplish when meeting him was to tell him that he was the one teacher I will never forget.  He was the teacher who showed care, kindness, and empathy to me and my family during a very difficult time.  We all have that one teacher who inspired us, who mentored us, or who held us accountable.  Mr. Martin was all of these things, but for vastly different reasons.  I could see how it would have been easy to either totally disengage while I was in the hospital or to just pass me along out of sympathy, but he did not do this.

He got paid a stipend for tutoring me and with the money he bought a clock for his mantle. He told me he would have never let anyone else teach me, and regardless of where I needed to go, he would have followed me.  The clock, kindly referred to as “Caroline’s Clock”, still sits on the mantle of his fireplace.  His family knows this and refers to it by my name as well.

Mr. Martin’s teachings were more than just academic.  His actions showed more to me than any school lesson he could have taught.  When we talked about this time back in our lives, both of our eyes welled up.  I had been wanting to reach out to him for years and let him know how thankful I was and still am for what he did.  When I told him how I felt, he responded “a part of teaching is showing your heart and once in a while a person or kid comes along that is special that you share your heart with, and you were one of those persons.”

I think he basically summed up why he was the best teacher I ever had and why he has left an endearing imprint on my heart and life, and I am sure, on the hearts and lives of many other children he has taught.

Happy Retirement, Mr. Martin.  Thank you for the positive influence you have made in the lives of hundreds of children throughout the years.

 

Mother’s Resilience

During Mother’s Day weekend, one might expect me to write about my adoption experience and the incredible love I have for my kiddos. Instead, I’m choosing to focus on my own mother. Mom is quiet, doesn’t seek attention; yet, strong. She is stronger than she gives herself credit for being. She is also faithful and fiercely loyal. It was not until I became a momma that I realized her resiliency, courage, and unselfishness.

To say I was blessed growing up is an understatement. My childhood home was often filled with the smell of sugary sweetness from mom’s baked goodies. It was fairly common to have homemade French toast waiting for me when I woke up. I did not just have a mother; she was a “mommy”. Often, she would be waiting after school to walk me home, after having made a sweet surprise that would greet me when I got there. Fresh brownies, hand-made ice cream sandwiches, and sugar cookies drizzled with icing that spelled out my name were all part of the wonderment of my mom’s love through her baking. I would collapse onto the soft couch with a morsel of something delicious, feeling the love and comfort of home. It does a child good to feel as though she is the center of someone’s universe.

My mom, though reserved, was also very much liked by the kids in the neighborhood and dance studio. Girls would stay the night with me and thoroughly enjoy the vast array of mom’s meals and desserts. I just assumed every mother was like my mom. Although on a tight budget, I never went without anything. She often bought second hand clothes for herself, so I would have the best. My hair was always fixed, clothes clean and ironed if needed, and shoes matching… Mom took pride in taking care of my needs.

Life was pretty normal for us until my illness at the age of eleven. Now, I’m not talking just a little sick. I’m talking going from running in the countryside while visiting my uncle at his farm to facing certain death. A week passed by and all my mom or the doctors knew was that I was dying from massive infection. Exploratory surgery had to be completed to try and figure out what in the world was going on with me. They suspected cancer, but were not certain.

During the surgery, mom escaped off to a room and sat by herself for about three to four hours pondering the thought of losing me to cancer. She tried to prepare herself for the grim news. “How can it be?”, mom must have thought. It was so out of the blue. With the exception of the previous surgeries (appendectomy and adhesion’s), I had been healthy, active, adventurous, and full of life. How do parents truly prepare themselves for hearing the worst possible news about their child?

Once the surgery was over, mom was told devastating news. The doctors had to remove my uterus, Fallopian tubes, and right ovary. It was not cancer though. They had not figured out what type of bacteria it was or how I got it, but if left in, I would have died. Not long after she was told, she and my dad went off to a room by themselves and let out a wail. I wonder what this sounded like. It must have been one of those guttural sounds that come from deep pain…not just the ones you can hear, but ones you can feel. Yes, I was alive, but the impact of what had occurred was life-long.

Sometimes I close my eyes and picture mom and dad huddled in a sterile white hospital waiting room. They must have been holding on tightly to each other. I wonder if they were shaking out of anger, fear, or exhaustion…perhaps all of them out the same time. My seemingly normal life had just come to a screeching halt. It would never be the same. But, neither would theirs. Their daughter’s tragedy; their own parenting experience forever indented with sadness.

Three and half weeks passed by while I was in the hospital fighting the infection. Mom was there all of the time. She put on a brave face, smiled at me through her pain, and held my hand during those long days in the hospital. Her daughter went from being vibrant and energetic to lying in the hospital bed with one foot in this world and the other in Heaven. Yet, she never let me see her scared.

Mom was also grieving as she knew what the surgery meant for the rest of my life. It was more than just a brief illness that I would hopefully recover from. She grieved for the fact that something very special was taken away from me. People would try to tell her things or come up with “reasons”, but she was still trying to figure what the purpose of it all was. Yet, she knew it was important for my life to go on and for me have a sense of normalcy. This must have been difficult for her. She carried this burden by herself so that I could get back to being a pre-teen girl. I was not aware of the full gravity of the situation, but she was.

Mom fought to regain life for me. She made sure I went right back to doing the things I loved; dancing, socializing with friends, etc. However, the surgery did not just affect my life. Through my tragedy, she had to bear witness to and experience the impact of infertility. She too had just been dealt a huge blow. She would never have a biological grandchild. This must have saddened her. Yet, there she was strong, silent, and smiling.

Mom might say that I am the one who was the most resilient during that fateful time in my life. I definitely had the fight in me to survive. Yet, she’s the one who had to navigate raising a daughter who was unlike any other girls. She had to walk through life parenting a daughter who would never experience the joy of announcing a pregnancy, the surprise of finding out the gender, and the moment of seeing her child be born. My mom would also never hear the delightful words of “You’re going to be a grandma”. She would never be able to await anxiously to find out the gender. And, she would never have the opportunity to sit in a waiting room for hours before gazing upon her grandchild for the first time.

But, mom is also the one who modeled how to face the darkness with courage, how to look to the future, and how to seize control back from something that was totally out of control. She’s the one who held in her fears so that I would not absorb them. She’s the one who told me “if you want to achieve something, put your heart into it”. She’s the one who went right back to being the mommy who made home made goodies that brought great comfort and sacrificed her wants so that I would have the very best. She’s the one who never allowed herself to be victimized by this; thus, teaching me to not be a victim of my circumstance. And, she’s the one who didn’t run away from her faith in God.

So, mom, thank you for being resilient. Thank you for modeling to me that when life deals you a blow, you just get up, dust off, and walk strong. Thank you for showing and telling me that I was the most important thing in your world. Thank for you giving me security when the floor fell out from under me. I know your grandma experience started out different from others, so thank you for standing by and supporting me while we were foster parents, and for the love you give my children.

See mom? The Lord does work all things for good for those who believe in Him. My story didn’t end with infertility. Oh, it may have altered it. It may have brought doubts, anger, and tears. But, my story is now filled with love, hope, grace, faith, and your sweet grandchildren.

Happy Mother’s Day. I love you…Caroline