Sometimes sadness overwhelms me. I’m hardwired to hear and see the sadness in the world, and I don’t think that’s always a bad thing. I can hear, really listen, to sadness. I can sit next to it and let it be. I don’t always do that, of course. Sometimes I turn away or push it away. Sometimes I talk over it.
Since I’ve become a member of the cancer community I’ve listened more carefully to others’ stories. On my good days, when I’m in my right mind, I feel so lucky to be a survivor. Being in this state of grace means that I can turn outward. I can be a witness and a listener and a supporter to others in this community.
Being a witness means knowing that children die from incurable cancers. It means knowing that people survive but lose the ability to function in normal ways. It means knowing that people with metastatic cancers will be on chemo for the rest of their lives.
It’s overwhelming sometimes to know these things and to sit with them, though I’m always glad I’ve done so. I’m a better person for having done so, and the people I’ve met in this community have changed my life for the better.
But life goes on, and life comes back. The world doesn’t stop in the face of suffering and sadness. It just keeps moving forward.
When my daughter was born, my dad sent me a card with this image and message. My mom had died six years before my daughter was born, and I was still grappling with the grief and absence. This card hit the right spot. Life does come back.
I thought of it today because my Facebook feed is filled with photographs of babies and toddlers. Grandchildren and children. Babies and their older siblings. Their parents and grandparents have such rich stories. These babies are the embodiment of hope. They are assertions that life is worth the risk.
People choose to bring new life into the world despite their own profound challenges and suffering and losses. They are recovering alcoholics, people who’ve lost a child to cancer, people who’ve struggled with mental illness. They’ve looked into the abyss, but they choose to live again and to smile again.
I hear people complain about all the photos parents post on Facebook. I’m not complaining. Keep posting them. I love seeing your new grandchild. I love seeing your toddlers stomping in the mud and playing on the beach. I love the faces and the smiles and the mess. I love seeing the joy in your eyes.
I love knowing that life goes on and life comes back.
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