There are many significant shifts in a woman's life, some of them milestones that are celebrated; some of them milestones that we remember as they are so painful that they transform us forever. It has always been my kinestetic belief and understanding that life is precious.
As a nurse, I was a witness and was moved, occasionally to tears, by those who had illnesses, and how their family stood by them in their time of need, and in their time of passing. Some of my patients were stoic and others were angry or teary-eyed and depressed. I was there for them all with their different types of suffering and tried to alleviate these feelings the best that I could.
For me, the total disbelief and ungrounding of my life happened with the passing of my parents, first with my father in 2002, which I will share with you now. The Big CA diagnosis of lung and liver cancer in 2001, happened to my father with not much surprise.
He had been a heavy smoker for much of his life. I remember crying myself to sleep on many occasions as a child, since my pleading for him to stop went unheeded. He did finally stop smoking, after the passing of his own mother at the age of 86. I was in college and studying nursing at Adelphi University. I remember comforting this grown man with his grief...telling him that "Her spirit lives on inside you. Einstein always said, 'Energy is neither created nor destroyed.'" I guess who I have become today is depicted in these statements that I made as a 19 year old student nurse.
We did celebrate his success with 'kicking the habit', as it was a very difficult road for him and he tried many methods.
As such the diagnosis of cancer for my parents hit them terribly hard. My father was determined to 'kick the disease out of his body', which my mother, 12 years his junior wanted so badly. But 1 year later, despite the chemotherapy treatments and the assurances of his oncologist, he started his decline.
I remember his struggle to continue to visit us in our Rye townhouse in order to spend time with his younger grand-daughter, still a toddler. She brought so much pleasure to him, as did my son and his other grand-daughter. But I knew, with my nurse's knowledge that the 'look' was upon him. The edema in his legs was overwhelming and his cough from ehphysema very deep. The weakness in his body, and the occasional look in his eye told me that he, too, knew that the end was near. But he put on the happy look for his grandchildren and for my mother, who was good at seeing only that which she wanted...and that was for him to live!
I bid him good-bye 6 months later in the ICU bed that had become his home. I asked him if I was still his baby? He responded, "I love you and you will always be my baby, no matter how old you become." We both laughed and cried. He sang softly, "Once in Love with Amy", an old Ray Bolger song, and a name he chose for me because of that song. I told him that I loved him and that we would all be ok, should he decide he was ready to leave and pass on. I told him that his mother was waiting for him on the other side and that he would be safe. "I will watch out over mommy, never you worry. I will be there for her, so never fear."
That was the last I ever saw him again...but one day later...early in the morning, I was awakened by the wind chimes he had bought for me. "Daddy is that you? You have come to say good-bye. I love you so. I will keep that promise to you about taking care of mommy. Never you worry." The wind chimes rang again as my tears flowed.
I tried to maintain my Super Woman role all through this time. I was there for my mother, as promised, my grandmother who missed my father so, and was there for my family, especially my son, who was 6 & 1/2 years old at my father's passing and he was quite forlorn.
Writing has always been an outlet for me, so luckily there was some catharsis for me and it was quite helpful. My eulogy to my father was very special and there were so many people at the memorial service for him...and they opened up their hearts to support me at that time
The biggest lesson I learned from my father, a long time ago, was when I struggled to learn how to ride my bike without training wheels. I remember like it was yesterday...I was just a little girl around 7 or 8 and my father held the back of my new Schwinn sting ray bicycle with its bananna seat and cool handle bars with streamers. "You can do it." he had said. He ran with me around the loop in the park.
I thought he was still holding on and when I saw that he was standing and watching me, I just caught myself from falling and despite the sound of the wind, I heard him shout from a distance, "You can do it! You just need to find your balance!"
I remember that even now and for all you Super Women and Super Mom's...isn't that the answer...We just need to find our balance! Let's try to remember this and not give more to others than ourselves. If we love others, don't we too, deserve our own love? I say, "Yes!"
So what is it that I want to teach my children? Be all that you can be. Do all that you can and put your best self forward. Love others as you love yourself. Do not take love forgranted. Find a passion that you love as your career. Find a person that you love and respect them and love them. Find friendships with people whom you love and support and are reciprocal in nature. And most of all, do not forget to love yourself! "You can do it! You just need to find your balance!"