The greatest gifts in my life have come in the form of breast cancer, foreclosure, my drug and sex addicted father, who passed away when I was ten years old, my ex-husband, my children, Jake and Jonah, and their sister, Sydnee, who died two days shy of her due date.
One might ask how losing a father at a young age, getting divorced, losing a child or having cancer could possibly be considered gifts. There is no doubt that these were very challenging times in my life, but once the dust settled, and maybe even during some of the later experiences, I was able to see the gift in each and every experience in my life.
Within each of our not-so-normal lives, we are faced with challenges along the way, nobody is exempt. These challenges show up for us to help us grow. Each and every one of those experiences leaves us with a “gift”. The catch is, we don’t actually get the gift until we are aware it’s there for us. Imagine a beautifully wrapped present hiding way up high in the closet, but you don’t know it exists. It only becomes exciting when you know it’s there and you have the chance to tear it open. The good news is it’s never too late to find them, we just need to open our minds to another way of seeing things.
My hope is that through this series of dysfunctional, crazy, funny, challenging and sometimes embarrassing glances into my life, you will learn to spot the silver linings in your life, unveiling these precious gems that have the power to bring you freedom and peace of mind.
I’m going to tell you some very personal details about my life and you will likely have thoughts of judgment, maybe anger at some point, but don’t stress out, just breathe. I forgive you. Xo
Jonah’s Open Heart
When they say I would rather take the pain myself then watch my child go through it, they aren’t kidding. When my son Jonah was three years old a doctor noticed that he had a heart murmur. She sent us to a pediatric heart specialist, and lo and behold, Jonah had a sub aortic stenosis; simply put, a blockage below the aorta where blood flows out. It was small and something the doctors watched year after year to be sure that it didn’t get to the point where surgery would be necessary. We visited the heart doctor every year fearing the worst. Each year they told us that it was steady or growing slowly and to come back the following year.
Just before Jonah’s eleventh birthday, in 2011, he started slowing down, unable to run as far and as fast as he had in the past. Jonah was always a very energetic kid who loved to run and jump and flip as often as possible. Nothing slowed him down until that year. He even complained that he wasn’t feeling like himself. We all knew it was time.
We made an appointment with the heart doctor and they agreed. It was time. Imagine having to listen to a doctor tell your child that they needed open-heart surgery. This was one of the most difficult days of my life. The look on his face was gut-wrenching. If there was anything I could have done to trade places with him, I would have, to spare him the fear and pain he would have to endure.
To hear Jonah tell it, the hardest part was 1) all the needles, believe it or not, 2) waking up and not being able to breathe because of the tube down his throat and the machine that was breathing for him and 3) getting all of the tubes out, one after the other as the days went on. For me, it was the mental anguish of watching my child go through the scariest time of his life.
It was a life changing moment for him, and one that showed him how strong he was and what he could overcome. It turned a free spirited, in-the-moment child, into a more serious young man. It showed him just how strong he really was, and it showed him just how real life can get really quickly.
As a mom, I cannot tell you how proud I am having watched my son go through this with grace and fearlessness. He taught me so much, in fact, that I would call upon those memories two years later when I was faced with my own scary diagnosis. His response when I told him I needed surgery was “Mom, I’m not worried, my surgery was way worse than yours.” He was right.
During this experience I learned to be honest with my kids because their imagination is always worse than the truth. I learned that kids can handle far more than we give them credit for. I also learned that kids can really teach us adults a thing or two about life. They live in the moment rather than the future and what might happen, and I’m guessing that’s what keeps the level of pain at a minimum for them because they only experience what is actually happening in that moment, rather than the pain from all the future they anticipate.
Just two short weeks after open-heart surgery, Jonah was trying to negotiate with me to let him throw the football “gently” to his brother. If you know my boys, you know there is no such speed as “gentle”. Kids really do live in the moment and they are so resilient. They are such great teachers!
We had been going to a pediatric heart specialist for eight years, and about a year before Jonah’s surgery, on a whim, I decided to go on a dating website. The one man I went out with from that website was a pediatric heart surgeon from the same hospital, and coincidentally, he was the heart surgeon who was scheduled to do Jonah’s surgery. The universe was at work setting things up long before Jonah’s surgery, and it gave me a renewed faith that somebody up there was looking out for us. A coincidence? I think not.
Thanks Doc! xo