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Posts Tagged ‘courage’

We drove to New Hampshire this weekend, looking forward to our “fourth annual pajama party” with two couples who are among our very closest friends.  We have known them for more years than I can easily count up, having met on Star Island, and through the years we have grown closer, sharing ups and downs of children, careers, our mutual celebrations – the mundane and glorious stuff of life.

This weekend was different, though. One of my friends is about to undergo a bilateral radical mastectomy – a surgery designed to not only take away the primary and secondary lesion found in her right breast, but to hopefully erase the possibility of cancer being found, in time, in her other breast.  She faces a preliminary surgery this week and the mastectomy will come the week after.

She is gutsy, my friend.  She set the table for dinner with place cards that carried this statement (author anonymous):  “Courage is looking fear right in the eye and saying, ‘Get the hell out of my way.  I’ve got things to do.'”  She has researched her procedure, she has planned her after-care, she has done everything she can to make this lousy turn of fortune go as well as it might.  Still, it sucks.

My other friend and I got together and planned a gift bag to present during the visit, filled with things that we hoped would help, at least a little – a special shirt for mastectomy patients that holds drains and tubes and velcros on and off; trashy magazines, a book on CD, chocolate, a picture frame for the hospital, and much more.  And of course, we brought food for the freezer and fridge, so that no one would have to worry about whether there’s some good soup or a meatloaf or pasta casserole available – it will be there.  We love each other like we were born from the same mother, I keep thinking, wanting to be there, support each other, help to take away some of the pain — even though we know that isn’t possible.

And the spouses — the amazing, supportive spouse of this woman, who has loved her for more than forty years, since they were teens — and the other two husbands…they talk as well.  My friend’s husband loves her not for her breasts but for her loving and generous spirit, her warmth and unflinching devotion to home and family. Sitting together the men ask questions about the procedure; they worry, and inside, they think, I am sure, “there but for the Grace of God…”. What else can you do, but (as Bob Franke wrote) ‘work and hope’…and believe that all will be well?

Last night at dinner, we drank a toast to the riches we shared, to the blessings of friendship.  We are so fortunate, all of us, to be in such good company, to know that we will continue to be there for one another.  As we talked the night away, ate amazing food, went from reflecting on the upcoming surgery to thinking about spring flowers and then on to politics, faith, our kids, and our upcoming vacation together, I kept looking around the room.  “How did I get so lucky?”, I kept wondering.  I can not imagine my life without these people, can not remember what it was like before I knew them.  They are part of our chosen family, not the people who share our blood – but they share our passion, our love, our values, and our commitment to one another.

On Wednesday my heart and head and spirit, and my prayers too, will be up north, in the operating room as my sister of the heart is wheeled in.  And I will also be sitting, in my mind’s eye, with her husband in that waiting room, hoping for the best possible news as nodes are analyzed and initial procedures done, knowing that there is so much more to this life that needs to be explored, celebrated, relished – for them, for all of us.

Yes, we’ve got things to do and much to celebrate.  And these people are more precious than gold, worth caring for and treasuring beyond all else.

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…so begins the chorus of Pink’s song, “Who Knew,” which my sixteen-year-old daughter, Abby sang last night in Lexington High School’s (LHS) spring a capella jam.  I love the song, and I love that Abby is part of an a capella group (there are six at LHS).   Ben and I were in a capella groups in our colleges, and we know that the camaraderie that develops, not to mention musicality, is powerful and rich.  We’re glad that Abby is having a chance to experience this as well.

But if someone had said three years ago that Abby would be up there singing this solo, I would have doubted them.  The fact that she did it, and did it beautifully, is a tribute to her and the community in which we exist, giving credence to the African proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child.”

Abby was an extraordinarily outgoing small child.  She was known for walking up to complete strangers and kissing them on the knee, or starting up a conversation.  When we would travel, she would work the room at a restaurant, moving from table to table, chatting.  It was charming and engaging.

Like many kids, I suppose, she learned as she grew that one should not always be so fearless.  She became unsure of herself, painfully shy, afraid to take risks for fear of criticism or failure.  She also knew that she didn’t want to live life afraid, and so she committed to confront her insecurities.  With the support of those around her, breakthroughs occurred, sometimes small, sometimes huge.  She loved music, and in her freshman year in high school, she dug deep for the courage to audition for an a capella group.  She didn’t get in, but she worked like mad and tried again as her sophomore year began. Lo and behold, two groups wanted her.  She was over the moon, and chose the one she thought was the best fit.  Synchronistically,, the group’s called “Euphoria.”

Abby’s worked and worked on her singing, on having the courage to try out for a solo, on forming relationships with her co-singers.  And last night, there she was, singing the solo in “Who Knew.”  But there’s more to the story, more that makes me celebrate and want to shout to the heavens with gladness.  It turns out that the cause of the hoarseness and difficulty hitting some notes which she has experienced over the last several months is a cyst on her left vocal cord.  It’s treatable, but the diagnosis couldn’t have come at a worse time, right before the concert.  With the help of medical  professionals and again, a terrific circle of community and friends, Abby decided she wanted to go for it and not miss this opportunity.  Her a capella group worked out an arrangement of the song that included a harmony part, with another singer adding in the high notes and Abby staying on the melody.  The arrangement worked.  Beautifully.  Most of all, she had the guts and commitment to get up there and make it happen.

If someone had said three years ago that I’d be watching this girl stand in front of 600 or so people and sing a solo, I would have told them they were wrong.  And it’s a triumph.  Who knew?

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