The other day I posted on Facebook about my struggles to find a new narrative around Christmas this year. I knew that having cancer would set us back financially, and it’s an issue we’ve battled ever since I was diagnosed. However, I was really struggling with the idea that this Christmas- after a year of losses and challenges for my kids- would be another sting in an already biting wound. I was searching for a way to once again make peace with our new reality and to move forward with a healed heart.
I was searching for advice. I needed to ground myself. I needed to be reminded where love lives and how to make sure my children felt it during this special time of year.
Even though I know the number or presents under the tree doesn’t reflect my love for my girls, there was something very painful about imagining a Christmas where they noticed a change. Their whole lives have been change and adjustment and uncertainty and resiliency this year. They have fought, just as Tom and I have, to find their footing in this new normal. They have labored under a constantly shifting world where there is less of me to go around and a lot more fear, heartache, and sadness. I don’t often write this drearily about cancer because, as an adult, I am using it as an opportunity to push my way through to growth and depth and peace. But for my children, those sweet innocent souls who don’t have a choice and don’t have the same broad shoulders or understanding, it’s heartbreaking.
I have watched my oldest, Elle, change so much this year. Cancer has matured her in ways that are crushingly beautiful. I am both proud and deeply sad to realize how she has walked through the last nine months. I can’t even think of it without tears rolling down my cheeks. She is less confident, more careful, less certain. She is also deeply compassionate, very kind, and incredibly loving. After this last medical intervention where I was away for over three weeks, she confessed to me that she feared I would never return. Imagine being 5-years-old and worrying that you will never see your mother again. But through it all, she still went to school, did her homework, and was respectful to her Nana and Grandma while we were away. She truly soldiered on…Like I said, I’m proud and heartbroken.
It was this struggle, wanting to give them a freaking break already against the constant commitment to answer the call of deeper peace and understanding, that led me home, back to the people who have been here all along. I have an amazing community around me, people whom I admire and who are wise and loving. I knew they would help steer me straight and that they would also lift me up with love. And so they did.
Once again, I was showered in love.
Within hours of my writing, my Facebook feed and inbox were flooded with people looking to help our family. One angel, a lawyer friend and true powerhouse of love, talent and skill, immediately shopped for my girls as generously as I would have had it been a “normal” Christmas. I can honestly say that this gesture, on top of everything everyone else has offered, is more powerful and more present in my life than even the worst, darkest, scariest cancer days. That says a lot. This love, this generosity, is bigger than when I was staring down death in August. These moments of support have tipped the scales. I am once again reminded of the unending capacity for good in this life even (or especially?) when hope is but a sliver and the battle has left you weary. Once again, love wins.
It is hard, if not impossible, for me to say how deeply moved I am by the generosity of those around me. You expect a lot of bad things to alongside cancer. When beautiful and amazing things happen, it rewrites the script. It makes me realize that with love, faith, and hope, anything is possible.
If lightness can be created in such darkness, what can we not accomplish?
This is the lesson I want to teach my girls this Christmas. I want them to believe in miracles and in love and faith and hope because I know it is real. I want them to see the light in the darkness and to forever move forward with the knowledge that life is limitless, abundant, and beautiful. That is what these last few days have taught me. It isn’t the presents, it is the compassion and empathy they are given with that has changed everything for me this Christmas. That is what I will teach them in these days before Christmas.
I am going to help them understand through both receiving and giving. On receiving, my plan is to create a little Christmas miracle for them in our own home. My wish is to build a little stage for them downstairs where they can give performances, be musical, and act out their little dreams. I want to gather the supplies, send them away for a night, and build it for them while they are away as a gift from the spirit of Santa and his elves (all our friends who are lifting us up). I want them to have a creative outlet and encourage their natural musical interests. Fortunately, I have lots of left over materials that I can throw at the effort. The added bonus is that this little area will provide hours of fun for my girls while Tom is a single dad in January and February. (I’ll be in Seattle for radiation). It should be a great place for them to play with friends and keep busy. Thanks to my industrious friend, we have the presents part covered, so this is the second little miracle that I want to inspire them with. If you are interested in helping us pull this off (and I only write this because many of you requested that I do so) we have created a Mazurek Christmas gift registry on Amazon (you may need to search for Mazurek Family) and I am happy to send along the link if you would like it.
The second way the Mazureks will be soaking in the beauty of life is by giving. We don’t have money, but we have time and lots of love. We will be volunteering locally, making visits to a nearby nursing home, and helping our neighbors. I know my children will better understand love when they see how they can impact someone else. Giving love away and lifting someone else up renews your spirit and reminds you that you can chose how you will walk through this life- even in hard times. If you know of an organization or individual who needs time or effort this season, please let us know. We will be there will bells on.
I am so grateful for all the suggestions for family traditions, advice, and generosity shared by my community. Thank you for showing me the way and for healing our hearts. Please know that your love will be passed forward this year, and for the rest of our days and years ahead.
Give ‘Em Hell.