Thursday, May 26, 2011

Maggie May...

 I hadn't thought of her in a long time.  A dear little girl who died of a rare leukemia early on in Josh's treatment. Too young for Make-a-Wish, CCA planned a visit for the family to Rod Stewart's private home. You see, Maggie May was named after his famous song.

And on a regular day, I ran to TaeKwonDo with my grandson to pick up Josh. As we were leaving, a grandmother and mother approached me.

"We know Josh!" they exclaimed.

"You do?" I questioned back not recognizing their faces.

"I'm Maggie May's grandmother" the older woman stated.

"Oh" I sighed, "Maggie May."

Emotion engulfed me.

Immediately I was back in the hospital hallway standing with a family who were visiting. They chatted away, but I didn't hear a word. Transfixed and frozen, I watched Maggie May's mom push her stroller all around the pediatric floor. Maggie's bald head and round face smiling up at all the nurses. I knew she was saying good-bye. I knew her treatment had been stopped, because it hadn't worked. Maggie May was dying. The family visiting us were oblivious to the tears and powerful drama playing out just a few feet away at the nurses station.

"How are Maggie's parents now?" I asked the grandma and aunt.

"They are divorced. They both remarried and have started new families" answered the grandma.

"They are happy, though" the aunt added. "And doing well."

"It sure is good to see Josh" continued the grandma and they both smiled.  

"It's good to see the ones who have made it" the grandma said next, but her voice caught a little.

Maggie May...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Falling down a mountain...

On a sun drenched Saturday I climbed up a snow covered mountain to 8900 feet with my Summit Sisters. We studied the climbing route, ant-like dots of people striving for the pinnacle. I absorbed the view encircling me, which mere words cannot begin to describe, allowing its beauty to fill my soul.

Later our summit guide had us practice "falling" down the mountain with our ice axes. Sometimes called "self rescue" the ice axe is a mountain climbers tool to save themselves from sliding down a steep mountain face. We first practiced "falling" sitting down.

Slide, self arrest, stop. Easy.

Next we tried it on our stomachs head first. No problem.

Finally on our backs headfirst. Fail.

I attempted it four times and finally one of my Summit Sisters assisted by flipping my legs up, over and around. Embarrassing.

It just didn't feel intuitive to me, as if there was a gap between my right and left brain. I couldn't even seem to visualize how to bend and flip my legs around to the right position. It felt awkward. I couldn't do it without help. Once she helped me, I was able to get the feel of it.

There are parts of mountain climbing I love and there are parts of it I fear. That's why I climb. The love part is easy. The fear part is complicated. I don't like heights and steep mountain faces bring that out. I know the feeling of severe vertical exposure. Shaky legs, dizziness, and nausea usually show up. And the terror can take over my mind, if I let it. I pull inside myself. I focus on each step. I think of all the children I know fighting cancer and those who are gone. I think of what they've suffered. This helps, but doesn't extinguish it completely. Sometimes I enjoy the summit more after I'm safely down the mountain. Fear is a powerful emotion.

Through counseling I've come to the understanding I've been fearful all my life. It was an "ah ha" moment for me. Everything seemed to come together like puzzle pieces. And in that flash I understood myself in a way I never had before. Fear and anxiety were how I learned to survive. It became my coping technique and as my counselor pointed out, it worked... until now.

Much of the fear I learned concerned God and the spiritual world. Fear of not having enough faith. Fear of "opening the door to Satan " whether by accident or willingly. Fear of not reading my Bible enough. Fear of not praying enough. Fear of trusting or not trusting. Fear of letting my guard down. Fear of not repenting enough. Fear that I might be crazy. And in that "ah ha" instant I found out, I am not crazy. There is nothing wrong with me.

God gave me coping skills to keep me strong when I needed to be strong. But now I can let go. I need to learn to trust Him. Acceptance is huge. And when that fear overwhelms me, I allow myself to feel it. I acknowledge it by giving it a nod, but I don't fear the fear. Then I smile, because I know deep inside I'm ok. I am loved by my Creator. He wants me. He's with me...always.

Mountain climbing has a way of connecting us to our spiritual lives. I might not feel the intuitiveness of "self arrest" as I slide head first on my back down a mountain, but I can "fall" down a mountain with Him...