August 2nd, 2012
This past week, my oldest started a new school. At the new student orientation, after the introductions and the parents-only spiel, the students had gone off to meet their teachers and see their classrooms.
I retreated to the gymnasium, hoping to get a little bit of work done while I waited for my daughter to finish her tour.
A few minutes later, one of the dads joined me. “Good idea,” he said. “Not exactly enough time to go back to the office.”
We got to chatting. He had a son. He was raising him on his own “because my wife passed away.”
A pause. Then: “May I ask how?”
“She died of breast cancer when my son was 7.”
He told a painful but all too familiar story. They caught it early. She went through all the treatment, chemo, surgery, radiation, the works. And a few months after treatment was over, she had a metastatic recurrence.
When I meet a breast cancer widower or orphan, I feel compelled to open my heart to hear their story. I feel a need to make myself emotionally available. Most people cannot imagine what they have experienced. I have gone closer than most. I feel I owe it to the woman who died.
Because the truth is, I hope that others would do the same for my husband and children if I ended up leaving them behind.
It was a moving conversation, full of connection and empathy without being uncomfortably personal. I think we both were touched, he feeling understood and me feeling the gratitude of being in the place that I am.
That night, however, was a different story. At 3 AM, I woke in a sweat. I had dreamed I was being chased down with some monster mutation of vicious tractor. The driver was trying to kill me.
It was only after I woke that I realized that the gentle, kind father’s face was on the demon of my dream.
How do we do this? How do we reap the fruits of compassion that our experience gives us while looking at our worst fears straight in the face?
This entry was posted on Thursday, August 2nd, 2012 at 1:48 pm and is filed under Survivorship. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.