Well, I am cheating here a bit. I hadn't planned it that way. But as the infamous John Lennon song, 'Beautiful Boy' goes, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." And life for me, decided to hand me .... shingles. How is that for fun times? And now, when someone says, "so and so had shingles" and you reply, like I have, many times in the past, " I hear it is painful." I am here to tell you, painful does not even come close to describing it. That is coming from a person who has an extremely high threshold. Nasty stuff. But hopefully with an anti-viral on board and fingers crossed we can keep the severity down and file this away as another weird thing that would of course happen to Heather.
You know, I really hadn't thought out any of these Zoey posts ahead of time. I just kinda sit down and and begin with a simple emotion or thought and it morphs from there. And often, not very easily either. Writing for me is difficult and not at all speedy. My writing is usually laden with grammatical errors and that is even after I have proof read it like 10 times and I still don't catch half the stuff. At some point I just say, whatever and go with it. Hit publish and it is a done deal. Knowing everyone will usually get the jist. On top of my many other little quirky issues, I have realized into my adulthood that I am, honestly mildly dyslexic. Makes perfect sense when I look back at my schooling and my issues I struggled with and things I struggle with to this day. So where am I going with this? I have no idea, except to say, that the commitment to write this way, over the last several days, has not been an easy task. With that said, my thought for today's posting started with the phrase 'collateral damage'.
Collateral damage is defined as: 'injury inflicted on something other than an intended target'. I know that when that phrase is used and the true meaning it was intended for, was in respect to war. As in casualties caused in a military operation. And although we as a family, have not been engaged in military combat, we sure as hell have been at war. The funny thing is, I am not exactly sure who or what, we have been waging war against but if I was to put a face to it, a name to it, I guess I would say, it has been death. As simple and as complicated as that. The fight, tooth and nail, body and spirit, against a force trying to steal from us, our greatest gift, Zoey's life.
And when one stands toe to toe with an adversary such as death, there will be unintended casualties. No way around it.Those casualties may take the form of tangible things such as the loss of a family home, which will then take on an added worry of future financial security. Not to mention the toll of changing homes, not once but twice, over a 3 year period. Which means changing schools and school friends and leaving neighborhoods and neighborhood buddies, as well. You may find that part of the village that you thought would support you, instead, had no idea how to cope, what to say, or how to act, so they took the easy route and left. You may have children, old enough to help carry the load, as you, the parents, are wading through the wreckage, only to find, the load you asked them to help carry has cost them along the way. Mainly the luxury of a carefree senior year of high school. That might not happen to just one child but spend long enough time in the trenches and it may just effect two. How about the emotional toll on your other children that are unfairly ask to face the mortality of their sibling? And some of those children are practically babies themselves. You may find that ignorance truly was bliss and the new view, riddled with fear and uncertainty, is a sight you would have preferred to not have glimpsed. Especially as you have learned about more medical diagnoses, and watched more children suffer from diseases and disorders that at one time, only happened to someone else. Someone else's worst nightmare. You my find your marriage of well over 20 years, would be tested and pushed to limits that are so heavy and hard, that you too could have taken the easier route, just as members of that village had, and left.
You get my point, don't you? Because I could most definitely go on. The point being, that my previous posts on Zoey and her indomitable will to survive, were the center of our story but the rippling effects have been far reaching. The layers to our life were and continue to be, complicated. And for me, I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I have had to struggle through not just one, but a few periods of time over the last few years that can only be classified as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. How could I have possibly escaped it? One day, just over 2 years ago, I was talking to Zoey's pediatrician about my inability to feel joy in my life without feeling as if another shoe were going to drop. A constant state of anxiety about what else might be lurking around the corner. And he asked of me, what I thought a normal response should be, of a mother who has watched her child endure, what I had watched Zoey endure? He allowed me to see that my physical and emotional response to all that I have watched my child endure and my family endure, has been, dare I say again, normal.
When people say, I just don't know how you do it? Or they confess that they themselves 'could never 'do it', that perplexes me a bit. Sure, I suppose I could have crawled into the proverbial bed and pulled the covers over my head, and trust me, there have been times I have wanted to, but to do that, to skulk away and turn my back on my obligation and my duty and quite frankly the privilege that has been handed to me, is just not in my genetic DNA. I have known no other way, than to take this life of the last 5 years, full of its heartache and sorrow and pain and ugliness and allow the grace and the goodness and the joy to win. Easy? Absolutely not. But that grace and goodness has indeed won. Now, if the truth be told, I still could use a solo trip to some tropical island. But run away, turn away,? Never. And if you think for one minute, there are not parents that do just that, I am here to tell you, with first hand knowledge, that happens. As unbelievable as it sounds, it does happen.
Over the course of the last five years and specifically since our journey with leukemia, I have been changed and yes, some of it not for the better. I am a bit more judgmental and intolerant. I truly try not to be. But the truth be told, I am. I am a bit more cynical. I am a tiny bit bitter and angry because of the things I have witnessed. The grief I have watched envelope families, can hardly yield any other result. I may always question the whys of this world and I think that is perfectly fine. I think the problem becomes when you dwell there too long. Because the questions most likely will never be answered. No good will come of waiting for the black and white, cut and dry answers. Wasted time and wasted energy. And the bitterness and anger, those two things, are nothing short of toxic.
I do find myself or better said, I have in the past, found myself worried about the toll the last 5 years has taken on my other children. What will they carry with them? What scars will they bear? But in the end, I know the resiliency of children and the resiliency of the human spirit. I do know that my boys for instance will be better husbands and fathers because of the presence of their sister in their life. And it is no different for the girls. I see the adoration in the girls eyes, as they look at Zoey and marvel at all that she is and they confidently look in the direction of all she will become. I see the service they are doing out in this world, and the career paths they have chosen and know, that Zoey has been a catalyst in all of it. I know when Mark and I are gone, and if we are so blessed to leave this earth before our youngest, I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that we will have not one, not 2 but possibly 5 children, fighting for Zoey. What could be more beautiful than that?
(I realized as I was scrolling through pictures for this post, that I have very few photos of Zoey and I together, or for that matter, myself with any of my other children. I might have to try to change that.)
So yes, collateral damage, there has been plenty and I am not so naive to think, that there will not be more. There will be. This I know. But as I have said, countless times before and so much so, that I have, ready for this, for any that don't already know, I have the two things that have been my trusty guide on this journey, and I have those words permanently etched upon my skin. To be reminded daily that collateral damage is no match for HOPE AND FAITH. If I did not come equipped with those two things, even in the darkest of times, I, we, would not have survived all of our yesterdays or certainly, any of our tomorrows.
I know many of you are most likely not fans of tattoos. I get that and understand it actually. Tattoos are not for everyone. With that said, a little about my tattoo. I had it done on a whim, on my way home, the night before Zoey was released from her last chemo treatment. I had been toying with the idea for awhile. It is on my wrist. It is single tattoo, call an Ambigram. The pictures makes it look a little larger than it is. In one direction is says 'Faith' and in the other, not as sharply, as to keep the integrity of the letters, it says 'Hope'. I have not regretted having it for one moment. I do get looks and quick double takes from time to time and yes, I suppose even judgment but no matter. To me and those who love me, it is 'me'. Fitting with my personality and appropriate for the way I try and live this life given to me. Rich in blessings. Rooted in faith and clinging to hope in the journey that lies before us.