December 30, 2009


Life is complicated. This morning I received the news from a friend here that her little brother back in America has been diagnosed with colon cancer. He is scheduled to have the mass surgically removed tomorrow, after which they will have a better idea what they are up against. He is 25 years old, and has a wife.

The longer I live, and the more my sphere of friends and acquaintances grows, the more news of this type I receive. I remember as a kid hearing my parents say things like, "That was the year So-and-so's wife died," or "That was the Christmas that So-and-so had a stroke." They were just names to me, not real people, and tragedies remained something that happened in far-away places to far-away folks, like tornadoes picking up entire houses and dumping them on the other side of the state, or like winning the lottery.

But then, when I was in high school, my childhood friend and longtime neighbor was killed instantly when an SUV slid on a patch of ice, ran a stop sign and broadsided her. She was seatbelted, but her head hit her door window with a fatal force. She was on her way to a school dance.

I remember sitting at her funeral, in the overflow seating, with all of our peers, wondering exactly what kind of world I lived in. It was like the rosy veil I had been wearing as a middle-class American kid in suburbia was being pulled back, and I was seeing things for the first time.

Now, more than 10 years later, I still think about her mother, and how she wakes up every morning with a hole in her heart.My dear friend and mentor, Allison, once sat across from me at Aroma's coffee shop in Van Buren, Arkansas, while I ate a breakfast gyro, and told me something like this, "If you are going to be a wife and mother who does not live in fear, you have to be willing to lose your husband and children and still go on in faith, with life in your bones and hope in your heart." The message was, essentially, you must let them go. Your beating heart must not be wired to theirs.

Wow. I chewed my gyro and watched another piece of that rosy veil fall away.

So tonight, as my children sleep in their beds and my husband is across town, I grapple with the fact that I may never see any of them again. I could get up to cross the room and have an aneurysm and hit the floor, like my Dad's late sister did, or Brave could stop breathing in his crib, or Bright could choke on a button, or Daniel could get run over by a dump truck on his way home. Seriously, there are no guarantees.


But one. If you don't know about it, let me know. I'd be happy to tell you. I'd be happy to impart hope where there otherwise is none. That one guarantee is the reason I live way over here, because nothing...NOTHING else will last and if you tie your heart to anything else, when it goes down, you will go down with it.

Hope has one form, and peace has one name. You can bet your life on it.