Life is an incredible journey, full of twists and unexpected turns. We are herd animals and were not created to make this journey alone.
As most of you know, I was shocked in February to be diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer. It was unexpected and certainly unwelcomed but it’s now part of my life’s journey. I embrace the reality and fight for time.
As I’ve said before, there is no cure and so I’m told I can’t beat this but I’m fighting to go the distance. I believe I’ll be here, writing this column in five years.
My diagnosis isn’t all negative. I’ve never felt so loved and cared for. I have a team of medical professionals fighting on my behalf. I have friends I haven’t seen in years reaching out, visiting and offering their support. But best of all is my family.
My wild and crazy sisters, Debra and Kim, and their wonderful husbands, Keith and Roger, traveled from North Carolina and Florida to spend a week with me. They came to catch up and have fun, but to also provide support and lend a hand.
We are downsizing from our large home of 25 years into a condo that’s dramatically smaller, so they, along with Arlene’s best friend, Tracey, who’s just like family, spent most of each day helping us rummage through shelves, cabinets and boxes to determine what we keep, sell or pitch.
It was an emotional week preparing for the estate sale, but in many ways, it’s the history of our 45 years of marriage, laid out on tables for others to buy. My sister’s sense of humor and free spirit not only made the experience tolerable but fun. I don’t see them often enough but when we do see each other, we make it count. I don’t know what I’d do without them.
Tracey didn’t really know them until this week. She was in complete dismay as my sisters chased down a local police officer to give him a Buster Bar (from Dairy Queen) and to tell the young officer he was appreciated. That’s just how they roll.
For those of you who are long-time readers of my column, know that my daughter, Tara Beth, and her husband Jeff, accepted positions in Pasadena, Calif., more than four years ago and headed west, with our grandsons, Caleb and Noah. Like most of life’s twists and turns, it was a mixture of happiness for their new opportunities and sadness to see them go. Their move wasn’t ended with a period but punctuated with a comma, as they announced this week they are moving back.
We are thrilled. I’ll never miss one of my grandson’s baseball games or concerts again. My only regret is that their move is motivated by my health. My life journey should not dictate theirs, but I was told, “Don’t worry about it. I only have one Dad and we want to be close.”
Of course, I did the only thing I could do in that moment. I cried. As I said, I’ve never felt so loved.
In a lighter note, my handsome and smart nephew, Westin, called me on Sunday to tell me about his new dog. He said, “My puppy is 2 years old and I’m 5.”
I responded, “So, you were three years old when he was born.”
Weston paused and said, “He wasn’t born. We bought him!” I laughed all day at the innocence of his words.
I’ve always loved my friends and family, but never fully realized the importance of relationships and how their love can brighten the darkest times. I’m grateful. My heart is full.
For those who say, “I don’t have friends,” be a friend. Join a small group at your church. Take up a group hobby that places you in the same room with others of similar interests. Volunteer for a local charity. Join a herd. Be part of a pack. They want and need you as much as you need them, and for most of us the day will come when you need their love and support.
Yes, creating meaningful relationships takes effort but it will be effort well spent.
I also hear other say, “I’m estranged from my family.” It’s not too late to forgive and forget. It doesn’t matter what happened. It was in the past. Unless the relationships are toxic, dangerous or otherwise damaging, make the effort to reconnect. Reach out and rekindle family connections. I don’t think you’ll be sorry.
We were not created to travel alone.
Join the herd.