For every invaluable lead actor, there are many supporting roles filled by folks without whom the stars could not shine. My last wonder post was all about the stars. Today, I’d like to acknowledge a small-but-mighty group of folks who have filled key supporting roles over the past months with love and grace.
Four important people — my bestie, Chelsea; my lovely mother-in-law, Pam; my dad; and my cousin, Amber — have all put in boots-on-the-ground time taking care of me when my mom has been unavailable or taking a much-deserved break.
Chelsea is my rock, there for many doctor visits and MRIs taking notes, asking follow-up questions, making sure my concerns are heard and addressed. Driving across town in rush-hour traffic to pick me up at radiation treatments and bring me home. Listening and comforting when I call in tears, overwhelmed by how poorly I feel. Bringing dinner and serving it and cleaning up and taking out the trash, all without even being asked. Helping sell our old bedroom furniture to make way for our new sitting room. Pulling strings and running errands to make possible an early birthday present for Mike. Her selflessness and generosity know no bounds, and I am beyond grateful for everything she does for me and us, and for her love and friendship, which mean the world to me.
Pam spent two weeks here helping to take care of me during chemo round #1, which fell during my parents’ harvest season last fall, and arrived this week to lend her support once again. In addition to providing help with meals and medications, Pam helped us make the beautiful wedding photo coasters so many of you have enjoyed during your visits over recent months. We are looking forward to spending more time with her over the coming couple of weeks, and are so grateful for her eagerness to be here with us during this time, supporting Mike, my mom and me however she can.
My dad has been able to spend a few weeks here over the past several months and plans to be here again later this month. During his time here, he’s applied his positive, go-getter attitude and (and handiness) to helping us resolve issues ranging from a broken fridge valve and flat tires to regular home maintenance and fun projects for our new sitting room. His help has been deeply valued, as has our time together, spent coloring and talking and just being. I think it’s important to acknowledge, too, that it’s probably harder to be 1,300 miles away going to work every day and not here with us, so I appreciate the sacrifices he’s making in that regard.
My dear cousin Amber has been such a source of joy and comfort to me over the past year. Mike and I had an incredibly fun time visiting her and her boyfriend, Mark, in Dallas in between my radiation and chemo treatments last August. (And loved getting the opportunity to spend time with my aunts Yvonne and Karla, and my cousin, Chelsea, as well.) Since then Amber has been able to visit twice, once to provide a break for my mom and help with my daily meals and medications. I’ve cherished the time we’ve had together, from sitting in the park eating McDonald’s breakfast to long talks about life to learning how to knit.
Stay tuned for part III!
In the meantime, I highly recommend watching the moving commencement address Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg gave at UC Berkeley a few days ago — nearly a year to the day after the sudden death of her husband — on the lessons grief has taught her about gratitude, resilience and joy. Here are a few of her poignant words:
For the first time, I am grateful for each breath in and out—grateful for the gift of life itself. I used to celebrate my birthday every five years and friends’ birthdays sometimes. Now I celebrate always. I used to go to sleep worrying about all the things I messed up that day—and trust me that list was often quite long. Now I try really hard to focus on each day’s moments of joy.
It is the greatest irony of my life that losing my husband helped me find deeper gratitude—gratitude for the kindness of my friends, the love of my family, the laughter of my children. My hope for you is that you can find that gratitude—not just on the good days, like today, but on the hard ones, when you will really need it.