I knew that gratitude would be the answer today before the sun rose. I did not have any idea how profoundly true this would be.
Neither Michael nor I slept well last night. Aside from all four of us staying up to watch the NCAA Basketball Championship, Benji began feeling badly around 11pm. He couldn’t really articulate what hurt. I reminded him that he got three doses of chemotherapy in one day, each by a different avenue, and that he truly needed to give his body rest. He slept soundly, but his discomfort spawned in me the worry that is always hardest to quiet just before sleep. It was 1am before I dozed off, 2:30am when I woke up in a cold sweat, and 5am when I threw on my sneakers for the day.
Up on the Ringling Bridge with my wise walking friend, I decided to answer my worry with gratitude. In between schooling, house chores, and catching up on work, I would write thank you cards. This kept me grounded. There were so many challenges today. But each challenge was directly answered with an opportunity to give thanks.
After a battle with Banyan to get ready for the day, I had a meeting with his teacher and counselor to authorize his enrollment in the gifted program for middle school. He still needs guidance, because he is ten. But he is brilliant, and we were chosen to guide him.
After a power struggle with Benjamin, who was unusually defiant about finishing the day’s schoolwork, we had an honest and loving conversation about his capacity to focus when he doesn’t feel well. He can express his feelings beautifully, and we can afford a day off from school after a chemo triple-header.
After a denial from our insurance company on Benjamin’s anti-nausea prescription refill, we were called by our insurance agent and our oncology nurse, each of whom were bulldogging our case. “Leave it to us,” they said. “We will take care of it. He will not go without.” Benjamin is supported by intelligent, kind, helpful people who have his highest good in their hearts.
After a night and morning that found Benjamin’s body hurting, we were offered a complimentary Pilates session with an amazing instructor, right down the street from us. Healing comes gently and easily to Benjamin’s body.
After a day of exhaustion, I was delivered a delicious meal, with all the fixings, to warm up for dinner. Our community feeds us. We are sustained. We are cared for. We are loved.
And this afternoon, after sleep deprivation and fear of low platelets made me yell at my children for playing too roughly, at the exact moment at which I felt the most unworthy to steer this ship of healing, I got a very clear message. There was a package waiting for us at the post office that required my signature.
We got in my car, assuming I would be picking up a square for The Safe Motherhood Quilt Project. Despite stepping down from virtually all of my obligations when Benjamin was diagnosed, The Safe Motherhood Quilt Project is one I could not let go of. I simply put it on hiatus, actually writing the first email of the year to the Project’s Board today. The project raises awareness about unacceptable rates of American maternal death through quilt squares, each made with love, then patched together with others to create something bigger than itself. The volunteers who make the squares put hours of skill and energy into them, so they typically require signatures when sending the squares to me.
Benji signed for the package, which was much, much larger than a quilt square. The postmark was from my sister’s sister-in-law up in Pennsylvania, and it was addressed to our whole family. I was completely and totally baffled. I had forgotten, in my confusion, that this amazing woman was a gifted quilter herself.
I’m so glad we waited to open the box until we got home, otherwise I surely would have wrecked my car. I opened the cards first. After reading them, I knew what would come next. The kids told me later that I said “Oh my God” at least eight times. Inside was the most beautiful thing I think I’ve ever seen. It was a quilt, created by more than thirty hands, from all circles of our deeply enriched lives, masterfully pieced and finished by this extended family member whom I’ve never met. There are gorgeous squares from great grandmothers, grandmothers, mothers, aunts, sisters, childhood friends, college friends, mama friends, now friends, midwives, quilters. There are names for each square sewn on the back, some with quotes, like “You are stronger than you know,” and “Nothing can dim the light that shines from within.”
I cried so deeply and purely when I spread it out over our bed. So did Michael, when he came home. We both needed those moments of honest, unbridled, cleansing release. The boys were amazed, inspecting each square and each name with awe. Its composition is perfect. Its binding, backing, and quilting thread were carefully chosen. Benjamin said, “I can’t believe everyone made this just for us. I’m so thankful. And it smells so good.” Yep, that’s love, my boy. Breathe it in. It is healing you.
We sat down to our delicious meal and held hands. We gave thanks and made a new promise to each other.
We are being healed, and we will heal from within.
We are being loved, and we will love from within.
We will do our part. We will be worthy of this gift. Of this life.
We have a new prized possession in our home tonight. It is gratitude, exquisitely crafted, sewn together with love, the whole greater than each perfect piece. We are in awe.