I had the pleasure of meeting a very sweet woman in my class a couple of days ago who was positive, kind, and simply radiated the type of energy that people are drawn to, like moths to a flame. Not exactly the type of demeanor you’d expect from a person who’d been diagnosed with cancer… earlier that day.
This woman isn’t the first of guests to come to my classes seeking therapy though learning to paint in a creative and positive environment, but she most certainly is the one who had the most impact on me.
We spend a good deal of time talking that night and she shared her story with me. She’d had cancer a couple of years ago and beat it, but it was back, this time with a vengeance… it seems there’s no hope for recovery this time around. When she told me this, I could see that it broke her heart, because she’ll be leaving behind children and other family and friends when she goes. But the entire time we spoke, she didn’t shed one single tear, and her illuminating smile didn’t waiver at all, not even a little. I know that most would say that she was faking it, or that she could have possibly been in denial, and I know I could be wrong (I’m not her), but I didn’t think this was fake. I truly felt that the joy and love she was showing was the joy and love that she felt, not because she was oblivious to her circumstances or faking through the pain, but because the good things that she saw to come from her circumstances far outweighed the bad.
See, she spoke a lot about her children… they’d actually lost their stepfather- her second husband- to cancer a few years back. I think it was knowing the pain that they’d endure in losing her which was the worst part for her to have to face. It was the only time I thought maybe her smile could begin to fade. But as she continued to tell me about their plans to enjoy life to the fullest, beginning with my class as their first step toward adventure (I felt beyond honored), her face quickly began to light up again. And it wasn’t only the idea of making new, amazing memories with her loved ones that seemed to filled her heart; it was more what she knew her children would take from it all. I saw that it was the strength that they’d gain and the appreciation for truly living and enjoying life that she knew they’d never let out of their sight was what made her glow. She knew that through her difficult circumstances, she was able to give them something that was absolutely priceless- the gift of life.
We talked some more about this and I told her how wonderful I thought it was that they were choosing to move past what they can’t control and toward finding new, wonderful things to build upon in the rubble. I know that’s not easy for most to do in much less of trying circumstances and I found it to be so inspiring to see her making the most of something that she would be more than justified to spend her remaining days crying and sulking over. I asked her if she thought it was funny, that it often takes something as catastrophic as being faced with death for most to wake up and realize what’s truly important in life, and she said, “Absolutely. It’s a terrible waste that we allow our whole lives to pass us by, only to realize what we were meant to do with it all along right before we’re gone. That’s why I’m glad for my daughters to get to have this experience. My heart breaks for them to go through this again and lose another parent, but my heart leaps for the lives I know they’ll live after. They’ll never take a moment for granted… they actually have a shot at living.”
I believe that. I believe that we can choose to live our lives now. We don’t need to be faced with death to see the importance of our lives and understand what a blessing it is to have this one extra day, even if that’s all we get. I also don’t believe we need to be faced with pain and illness in order to appreciate the meaning of true health and vibrance. I do my best to live each day with meaning and purpose, and I try to always make choices that feed my body, mind, and soul properly along the way to benefit my today as well as my tomorrow, if I should be so blessed to have one. And I’m not perfect- I’m human- but I try. And I think that’s all we can really do. It’s the effort that shows gratitude and appreciation, which is the most important part. It may not ever yield perfection, but it will ultimately yield results worth having.
I pray that this beautiful woman is healed and blessed with years upon years of happy, healthy, vibrant living… but if that is not what’s meant to be, I pray that her life continues on through her children and those who know and love her. One way or another, she has impacted this world tremendously simply by existing and by allowing herself to be authentic and true, and I’m grateful for her. Thankful for the love that she shares with the world… felt like I got forever in a day. ❤