Love, Death, and Survival

Me and my mama, 1976

Me and my mama, 1976

My mother had cancer for the first time when I was a little girl about three or four years old. When she went to the hospital for surgery, leaving me at home with a friend of hers for several days, I was convinced she had left me on purpose and forever. In anger and grief, I took all of my pictures down off the walls. Let’s just say disease and abandonment- real, imagined or otherwise- do not work well for me at all.

Which is why a friend and I decided to come up with a greeting card that says YOUR CANCER IS VERY INCONVENIENT. Or…have you thought about what your cancer is doing to ME? Your timing could not be worse!

Right now my mother, my stepmother and one of my closest friends all have cancer. They are beautiful and and strong and heroic. They have amazingly positive attitudes and radiate love. They are making me contemplate the true meaning of life and the ever present reality of death. They are pushing me to examine what’s important. They are making my heart grow uncomfortably large.

They are forcing me into a spiritual realm of self care that involves a lot of consciousness. They are turning me towards prayer, acceptance and grace. AND they are helping me access oceans of feelings. The kind of feelings it would have been really nice to have a small industrial size box of wine or illegal street drugs over. The kind of feelings that make me feel like I’m three years old and the world is ending. Like there’s a grief coming I won’t survive. And so I am doubling down on the things that keep me grounded: friends, yoga, dance, walking, swimming, meditation and prayer. But freaking out, too much TV and baked goods, too.

I would like to get through the next few months of surgeries, treatments and big decisions without plowing my face through pans of brownies. I would like to maintain the quiet dignity of sitting with my feelings while wearing blowy white linen or relaxing by the hearth with a nice hot cup of tea but I may be neck deep in a bag of Cheetos face glued to Netflix instead. These feelings for me are definitely a both/and situation. And that’s OK, because I believe they will help me survive.

If you want to contribute to my mother’s Go Fund Me as she battles her third round of cancer, contributions are gratefully accepted here! Thanks + love, Valley

Valley HaggardComment