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Changed


Everything changed again yesterday. We’re now two down, one to go, as we moved our middle child into the dorm. We knew she was ready. I thought I was ready.

And it’s ok.

We’ve done this before. We know the change is permanent and that nothing is ever the same again. They’re still your child, and they always come home, but it’s still forever different.

And it’s ok.

Except this is the child who was robbed of part of her childhood. This is the one we came within hours of losing. When you come that close, you forever worry about losing them again. It’s tempting to want to wrap them in a blanket bubble on your couch and never let them go. But that would only rob her again. She deserves to stumble and live and crash and soar. She deserves to be free. I’m the one who’ll struggle. I’ll find a new path, with a new hole inside after the change. I’ll celebrate her victories and try to catch her when she falls. I’ll keep loving her.

And it’s ok. Go take the world by storm sweetie.

“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”  –Dr. Seuss


Home


There were two especially dark times when Megan was ill. The first, unsurprisingly, was when she was sickest. You can tell when doctors aren’t sure your child is going to make it from their pained facial expressions and the careful words they choose when they answer your desperate questions seeking reassurance. The other bad time was after she came home the first time, when the worst of the crisis had passed for the moment.

For the first time in the two months since our wee hour race to Little Rock with only the clothes on our backs, we could all eat dinner at home together and sleep in our own beds. It was almost bliss, marred only by the knowledge that it could end at any moment. The next few weeks were a much needed relief, if not exactly normal. There were the grueling, twice a week Little Rock trips for chemo, including one sudden trip by ambulance:  a fever is dangerous in someone whose immune system has been wiped out. But otherwise, we were together and home, beginning to recover, physically and emotionally…until the call. I knew by then what a bone marrow transplant meant. It meant splitting our family in two again, only this time for up to a year. A year of significant uncertainty and risk. A year of juggling holidays and birthdays and school and work. A year of trying to keep things normal for our other daughter. A year of trying to keep myself together, shaky as I was after what we’d already been through. It was a blow that nearly knocked me down. But you do what you have to do, especially when it’s your child. I picked myself up and sadly packed for a year. We drove the 600 miles to Cincinnati and did our best to settle in.

A month later, with Megan improving, her doctor shocked us during a routine check – she could go home! This time the packing and long drive were joyous. We were home, together again. We ate dinner together. We spent the holidays at home. And I told myself that I would never take these simple privileges for granted again, though I sometimes have since then. On this second anniversary of our long drive into the frightening unknown, I am thankful. Thankful for my daughter’s remission. Thankful for the meals we eat together. Thankful for laughter and sharing the small talk of the day. Thankful to sleep in my own bed. My teenage girls already know, from having had their lives suddenly blown up, that boring is good. I am so very thankful for this boring day together.

“If the only prayer that you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.”  –Meister Eckhart


Dark


I had the opportunity recently to drive alone for 4 1/2 hours to central Kansas, most of it in the dark. It was kind of surreal once the sun went down and full darkness settled in. That part of eastern Kansas is sparsely populated, and the small arc from my headlights was often all that was visible as I sped down the lonely highway. An occasional yard light would float over the horizon to remind me that hardy souls have chosen this remote life. Some of the lights turned out to be false oases…co-ops with only propane tanks and no permanent inhabitants…and I would feel even more alone. Every little bit, a solitary tree near the road would slowly watch me pass his post…a silent, gentle giant reminding me that we are never really alone. The stars, plainly visible without city lights to dim them, were my only constant companion. But for most of several hours, the only visible sign that I was making progress toward my destination were the passing road signs and dashes zipping by on the pavement. The only frightening part of the journey was the bloody massacre of thousands of bugs, attracted to their doom on my windshield by the only light for miles around; it wasn’t a pretty sight in the morning light. Near the end of my journey, a massive lightning storm on the distant horizon broke my boredom. I later learned that it was hundreds of miles away, but it still put on a good show. As I drove, the isolation was comforting. I’m a Kansas girl, raised in the country. I don’t need civilization to feel safe.

I reversed the trip two days later in the daylight. People from the city say that there’s nothing to see on that drive – I disagree. I studied shapes in the clouds as I drove–there’s no better place to cloud watch, where you can see the whole sky at once. I passed dilapidated farmhouses (including one with an outhouse), houses built of rock, white country schools and churches, and red barns…just the color they should be. Some of the churches had small cemeteries, and several farmers had painted big old American flags on the sides of out buildings. One driveway sported a crudely painted sign that read “Thanks to our troops”. Motionless oil wells sat frozen among the hay bales and cattle, and I got to see the corn crop being brought in. One sign said “farm fresh eggs”, and another shaped like a giant, white cow announced an upcoming fall festival. I even got the best view that I’ve ever had of Kansas’ only nuclear power plant, which had frightened me since the news stories from its construction during my childhood. But the best part of the drive is that this time of year is sunflower season, in the sunflower state. They filled the ditches on both sides of the road, so thick that if I had a dollar for every flower that I passed in that 100+ miles, I’d be the richest person in America. That day, in spite of the modest boredom of that lonely drive, I kind of was.

“No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there than any other country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place like home.”  –Dorothy, in The Wizard of Oz


What If We’re From Mars?

Scientists say new evidence suggests that life may have started on Mars and transferred to Earth on an interplanetary meteorite. The story barely made a blip in the news, and I’ve been wondering why. I once read that the discovery of aliens would profoundly and permanently change human civilization. By itself, the knowledge that we were not alone would have significant theological implications. So why wouldn’t the notion that we may not be natives of Earth–that we’re mere migrants or, worse, hitchhikers–be a major news story?

Nearly all cultures have a human creation story. But whether humans are believed to have been created by a supreme being, or whether it’s believed we came from inside the Earth itself, the Earth is a central player in these stories. I would have thought a potential change to where we really started would be a big deal.

Maybe we’re preoccupied by the stresses of our daily lives. Maybe we’re grateful to have landed where the weather is only like Antarctica in Antarctica. Maybe we just don’t care where our microbial ancestors originated. Or maybe all that matters is where home is now, like Texans proud to be Texans, though they themselves are just second generation. Humans have always been wanderers, on to the next place when things got tough at home or when it just caught our fancy. Sounds like we may have been wandering far longer than we ever imagined.

“Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids. In fact, it’s cold as hell.” –Elton John, Rocket Man