Light at the End of the Tunnel

July 22, 2015

Phew. The past few weeks have been quite a whirlwind – mostly emotional, sometimes physical – but finally, FINALLY!, I think I see the light at the end of the tunnel.

But today, in a rare moment of quiet reflection (at least recently!), I realized that light at the end of the tunnel wouldn’t be in sight if not for the gentle breeze of kindness at my back, its soft whispers urging me along, reminding me that it takes a village. Not just to raise kids. But to get through life in general. Getting through life, generally, takes a village. It’s not meant for folks to fly through solo. It’s meant to be experienced with a village. And that’s what makes it worth living.

Over the past few weeks those soft whispers of my village – immediate and extended – were a near constant murmur of love, support and encouragement. Just when we needed it most. And I now know that this – these connections, this village – is what make a life a good one.

You see, my dear mom (whom I lovingly call Sarge for her distinct role as the little Sergeant of our family), decided to give us a little health scare. A few hours on an operating room table, a chest saw, a couple percocets and a few nights in the ICU later, and she’s well on the road to recovery. (I *may* have skipped a few details in there – but that’s the general gist of it – haha!). Thank GOD.

But if not for this little scare, I would never have stopped to look around and realized just how special our village really is. So, for that, I am thankful. I mean, sure, it sucks and all that my mom has to sport a 12-inch scar on her chest for the rest of her life, but, really, isn’t knowing what a wonderful coast-to-coast community you are a part of worth that? Hahaha. Totally kidding. I know there are many, many easier ways to understand the importance of your village. My point, however, stands: it is truly an incredible moment when you realize that people are rooting for you – so much so that they extend a little bit of themselves to help support you.

I am overwhelmed. Honestly. In so many ways. Mostly good. (haha! Listen – I can’t lie. It was stressful, too!) But let’s focus on the good.

My husband has it together.  When I told him my mom needed “serious heart surgery”, he stood there with his arm around me for a minute as I cried and then said, “You need to be with her.” And that was that. (Then I raced out of the house to catch a plane for a work trip. On Mother’s Day. But that’s a story for another time.) Point is, I was able to spend four weeks back east with my parents to help out post-surgery. He didn’t miss a beat. And he never once complained. Camp coordination (pick-up, drop-off, lunches), ponytails for Grace, fresh sideburn lines for Gavin, soccer practice, food shopping, dinner, laundry. The works. The guy has it all together. In fact – scarily so. He’d probably be just fine without me. Hahaha. I am truly in awe of him. And incredibly thankful for such an amazing partner.

Family. There’s nothing like a little health scare to re-orient your perspective. Family matters. Every member. Every time. Someone in your family – even extended family – is going through something? Do a little something for them. I am so appreciative of the care and concern for my mom expressed by so many members of our family.  This outreach (and some shared DNA?) truly makes you realize that THIS is what matters most.

People care. From all points of our lives. I had so many friends – old and new – drop a line, reach out, send a card. I have to say – this stuff really meant a lot. And I realized that a) I grew up in a kick-ass village in Philadelphia where good people grow and b) I moved to a kick-ass village in Portland where good people live. I am so thankful for both. Furthermore, it tickled me to watch my very quiet, reserved father interact with his friends via text and phone.  And further still, having amazing colleagues is a true gift. It’s so nice to have supportive team members at work to take the weight on your shoulders as their own to help push you through. People are there when you need them – and that’s an amazing thing.

Never under-estimate the value of a gesture. My neighbors organized a dinner train for Kenny and the kids – and brought him a few home-cooked meals while I was away. While he was mortified, I was so incredibly grateful that I have such a nice group of gals to back me up in times when I might need it. Despite living here for almost four years now, there are times where I still get very homesick, but seeing our neighborhood rally to support our family so I could be home with my parents when they needed me…well, let’s just say I cried. Happy tears. Grateful tears. Not sure what to do? Sometimes the offer to do something is just enough to lift someone’s spirits for the day.

Social media is powerful. Sure, sure. We’ve all experienced eye-roll-inducing posts, over-shares, and ‘I really didn’t need to know that.’ moments on Facebook and the like. But I will say – as a professional communicator – social media is an amazingly powerful and efficient way to stay connected to your village – past and present, close or distant, friend or acquaintance. We did small updates about my mom so we could reach the most people with the least amount of smart phone keyboard typing and, I have to say, in addition to the incredible efficiency to get to our extended village, it was nice for her to see all the “likes” and read the encouraging and supportive comments once she was back on her feet. She didn’t sanction any of that, by the way – haha! 🙂

Be Kind. Always. I can’t count how many folks reached out to me on Facebook for my mom’s address or other contact information because they wanted to do something nice for her because she’d done something for them over the years – even if it was something small like making them laugh or treating them kindly. Pay it forward. Refund it backwards. Whatever. Just be kind – and it will come back to you some day!

Always reach out. Even if you aren’t sure what to say. One of my favorite things was eavesdropping on my mom telling my dad about a card she got from so-and-so or a Facebook message she got, or whatever. She beamed. What you say doesn’t matter – but taking action does. Even if you think it won’t matter – do it anyway. It will mean something to somebody.

It’s OK to worry. But not too much. Don’t lose your sense of humor. Or your sense of self. We didn’t, as you can tell in the pic accompanying this post. 😉 Yes, that’s my family – the day before my mom’s surgery. Posing for a ‘day before Mom’s heart surgery’ pic – with props from my uncle’s garden. Admit it. It’s funny. And irreverent, of course. But that’s us. Haha!

Overall, this post is just a giant thank you. Thank you, village, for making scary hurdles seem like a few grains of  sand in the road. Thank you for enveloping our family in your collective arms, and for contributing your voice to the coast-to-coast murmur that’s surging me (and the rest of my family) toward the bright light at the end of this tunnel.


P.S. One my favorite things in life is the nickname I gave my mom – Sarge. It’s really taken off. To the point where many of my friends – and some of her friends – now call her this as well. I look forward to Karma’s impending visit when Grace is a sassy 20-something who speaks her mind freely. I should start planting seeds now so I end up with something flattering. Or, at the very least, truthful.

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