I had no plans to go tripping down memory lane today. My husband found a box stuck in a corner, forgotten for 11 years. I was taken off guard, not ready for what I found inside.
He brought the box to me innocently enough thinking it was old papers that just needed to be sorted, recycled and thrown away. When I first looked inside there were two brown paper lunch bags. Those bags kept me from being suspicious, they were just old Christmas cards, but as I started looking at them, I felt my little ol heart start to flutter and my eyes got a bit wet. Names written on the happy Christmas greetings, names of family and friends passed on. None of us knowing then what was coming on down the road for us. I stopped looking when I saw my Mom’s name and moved on to the loose items in the box.
I almost wished I had closed the box back up after I saw the Christmas cards, but I’ve been trying hard to move things out of my house that are taking up space for no good reason. There were lots of papers, lots of Walgreens prescription sheets. So many medicines, so much money spent to buy medicines I would take once and not be able to keep them down. Too terribly nauseous to even keep the anti-nauseous pill on my tongue long enough to let it dissolve to get some relief.
Cards, cards wishing “Get Well Soon, cards, cards saying, “Thinking of You”, because they weren’t certain I would Get Well Soon, or get well at all.
The box was full of sorrow, by a diagnosis of cancer all those years ago. I opened each one and it almost seemed like the first time seeing the wonderful friends and family in my life trying to send me a note of cheer. I think cards must have arrived every day back then. I remember it being all I could do to open them and read them. It hurt. Everywhere I hurt, my eyes and especially my brain and a whole lot my heart. I was not myself and that made me hurt too.
There were notes from people offering to help however they could. As I read through them, I know many we did not ask for their help. I know I asked very few for help. I could not ask for help. I didn’t know what I needed help with. I offer you, the ones that offered to help with anything, my sorrow at not asking for your help. I wish I could have called you and asked you just to come over and sit with me, but I couldn’t. It hurt too much. I didn’t want to put anyone through just sitting with me. It was hard enough for me to look at what I had become in the mirror.
Some came anyway and sat quietly; some came anyway and took charge when taking charge needed to be done, Lydia, oh Lydia we could not have survived without you and Virginia too, who gave the nurses hell one day, when I couldn’t do it, didn’t even know what to do, except sit on the edge of that hospital bed wringing my hands and moving things from one side of the bedside table to the other and then back again. I was not myself and it filled me with sorrow. All of you angels, many sending not one card, but several cards over the course of my treatments and that Christmas.
I was doing pretty well getting through that box of sorrow until I reached a card from my Grandma. She’s gone now, many of the cards hold her name, many of the cards hold names of other people I loved and who loved me that are gone. Some are signed by friends who went through or are beginning their own cancer war now. It was hard to take. The sorrow was sitting there on my heart, just waiting to explode. I cried like a baby when I read my Grandma’s card, trying to bring me comfort from afar. The card had purple violets on the front and the note said how the bouquet reminded her of when I was born. How the neighbor boy, little Bruce Hastings picked me a bouquet of violets when they brought me home when I was born. I sat there and cried. Grandma didn’t accept well her children and grandchild’s cancer, but she tried the best she wanted to try.
I gathered strength and dug a little deeper, hospital bracelets and papers explaining my care, but then I hit a card from my friend Kathy Benoit with a picture of my little guy Aden. He was wearing a silly elephant costume for Halloween and he looked so very sad. He should have been happy, but his eyes look wet. He was only two. I can’t imagine what he was thinking when his momma was so sick and people he barely knew were taking care of him, because his momma couldn’t and his daddy was trying to work and take care of his wife because she couldn’t take care of herself. I can’t imagine what my teenager Levi was going through or my college student Halie, just two weeks at college, when their dad said, “your Mom’s got cancer,” while I hid in a darkened bedroom, because I could not, would not look into their eyes. Too much pain to see my children hurting or confused, or angry or frightened, I don’t even know what they were feeling. I was not myself and it brings me sorrow.
Eleven years later to all of you that offered to help, to all of you that offered up prayers, to all of you that sent card after card, I’m sorry I didn’t ask you for your help. I’m sorry I couldn’t ask you to come sit with me. To all of you that were afraid, I’m sorry I couldn’t hug you and make it all better. I know I am very late, but thank you for being there for me. I opened a box of sorrow today, I stumbled over my heart, and could not stop the tears from falling. I miss all of those gone, who tried so hard to bring me comfort. I miss them all so much. I know a thousand tears fell for each one. I gave in and let them fall and remembered how much I was loved and how much I loved them. I gave in and let them fall and forgave myself for the time I missed with friends and children and family because I was not myself and it was not my fault, but it brought me sorrow. I gave in and let them fall till I could move on once more all these years passed. All these years of good and happy and blessed times. I just never know when that box of sorrow will get opened up, but it’s best to let the tears flow so I can carry on, blow my nose, wipe my tears and carry on.