I spent the day on a detour. My grandnephew almost 2 1/2 is battling a healing journey. He has leukemia and will in days receive a bone marrow transplant that increases his survival prediction from 30% to 70%. Last May he was barely two with a full head of hair living in Alaska and today he sports a baldhead, no eyelashes or eyebrows. His spirit is immense!!!!!!! He is supposed to travel no further than 1 hour from the hospital. Even though I live 2 hours away on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington his parents, baby brother, and Connor ventured by ferry and car my way. They dared to break the rules!!!! My recovering Catholic applauds their choice.
The risk of coming became greater than the risk of not coming. Connor’s counts were high enough to have him out in open areas even though his immune system is severely compromised, and so they came my way and we took him to the Olympic Peninsula Game Farm to feed bread to the bears and buffalo. From the safety of the car he was able to take in this adventure. For these few hours he was free again. The look on his face as the bears waved and the buffalos pressed their huge heads against the car window dissolved the risks of being far away from the hospital in favor of living life as fully as possible today… embracing this moment, this opportunity that we have today to have joy, not certain what tomorrow will bring.
Next week Connor will begin days of intense radiation in preparation for the transplant. Then he will be in total isolation for over 100 days with every prayer and every vision focused on his survival and thriving rather than the alternative. But, truthfully, the alternative is there, so the memories made today became even more important. It has been well worth letting the other parts of life drop and shape-shift to expand my knowing of true joy.
The past months since last May and Connor’s diagnosis I have been pulled from my steps toward my own passions to walk instead in synch with Connor and his family as they maneuver the highs and lows of an unexpected year’s stay in Seattle. I consciously did this not fully knowing the demand, emotionally and physically. And yet, I can go for a few days and come home to my cozy bed and freedom of my home while they remain confined to hospital or their small room at the Ronald McDonald House. I answered the call to be with them, and occasionally look back at the fork in the road… but without regret. I have disappointed friends, compromised commitments with colleagues and work friends, missed deadlines, challenged my finances, and made promises with good intentions and then I found I couldn’t keep them in the world of cancer where life is present moment and the future is unpredictable. I have been weary from long days and nights and lifting more than I should. I have been incredibly teary and incredibly strong. I am more committed to a world of peace. I have been reminded in a totally new way of the importance of the moment, and the need to only take the next step. I am here now. Here are my arms, use these hands. My heart is open.
Today I saw Connor absolutely light up separated only by a fence or a window from animals many times his size. Wonder and delight consumed him rather than cancer for those moments, and is gift to us all was true joy, authentic happiness. Even here, especially here, happiness is possible.