Your Smiles Make Me Smile

If you really want to get the most out of my blog, it's best to start with the first post written in July to the present since some blogs refer back to earlier posts; but any order is just fine... Thanks for visiting! Now scroll on down to the good news! ~Renae~

Saturday, September 22, 2012


My mother said that on the day that I was born, there was snow on the ground. It was unusual for the early part of October, October 8 to be exact; but I was smiling anyway when I arrived.

Last year I decided to take a week off for my birthday to play catch up on my life. You know, all the things that get in the way of really living…the oil changes, the laundry, the yearly check-ups.  I was at least four months behind on everything, so as a birthday gift to myself, I took the week off.  That was the week before I died.

I knew I had a lump in my breast, but I was able to dismiss it because prior check ups and mammograms had always turned up negative. The pain in the lump had increasingly begun to throb, which concerned me, but nothing that wouldn’t show up on a mammogram; or so I thought.

What they never told me was that I had dense breasts, meaning that mammograms might reflect a false negative.  Although my OBGYN had this information in her records, she never shared it with me, or maybe she never read the details in the report from a prior mammogram.  Regardless, all I got was the yearly letter that I was fine and they’d see me next year.  I trusted in that.

A week after my birthday, after burying myself in corn at the corn fest and hiding in the corn stalks while trying to scare my daughters, and considering stealing an ear of corn only to be lectured by my eldest that they would kick me out and never allow me back in the corn maze again, (not ever!), we innocently laughed.  We laughed while eating barbecued pork sandwiches on cowboy style benches while being entertained by a little boy dressed in a super hero costume; we laughed while taking goofy pictures on the bridge that looks over one of the biggest corn mazes in the United States.  I basked in my favorite time of the year, autumn, the time when the crisp of the new season is a reprieve from the hot summer air and the leaves show hints of oranges and reds and dance upon the ground.  A week after we laughed, I received the letter.

At that moment, everything I believed and thought and held to be true vanished; at the moment when innocence was lost, I died; and that was the last of the girl that I used to know.

It was poetic really, a beautiful end to my life during my favorite time of year, while simultaneously the leaves continued to turn color with the season’s change.  Knowing that Christmas carols would ring without me was painful really, and I grieved with that new knowledge.  But knowing that Christmas carols would ring without me was also liberating. The world would rejoice in all the beauty bestowed upon it, with or without my existence, and in that I found the freedom to let go, and in that very moment was when I also found the freedom to truly live.

I can’t speak for others, but the day I was diagnosed with cancer was the day the squealing of the tires came to a screeching halt, the movie stopped, the lights went out, and I found myself alone in darkness and silence. People often ask me “What stage?” But when I was diagnosed, there was no stage, there was finality. No tomorrow, no yesterday, only the here and now; this one breath that I am able to take right…now, this very second.  Stage? Oh I wish it were so simple to explain in a stage, but let me describe the truth of my diagnosis, the moment when I realized that death is a very real very inevitable part of life. My cancer diagnosis wasn’t a matter of how long I had to live, but of an even greater truth that my physical being will eventually die.  It may not even be from cancer, it could be from falling in the shower and hitting my head, or a multitude of other things.  It wasn’t the cancer diagnosis that I feared, it was the finality of death, and that knowledge came to me, screamed at me in painstaking agony via the cancer diagnosis.  It was really as simple as that.  In that knowledge, I cried, hard.  I grieved.  At times I couldn’t breathe it hurt so badly and I gasped for my next breath. Sometimes I cried so hard that I could only open my mouth, yet the pain was so overwhelming that no sound came out. I screamed without words. I cussed, and I sat at times in silence drained of all feeling.  I reminisced about everything and everyone I ever loved and the unbearable thought of losing them. The “stage” couldn’t be summed up in a number, but in the enormity of grief. And then slowly, oh so very slowly, by allowing myself to grieve the loss of myself, I learned to live again.

A year has gone by, and my favorite season is upon me.  I am watching a hummingbird take in the aroma of the last of the summer wisteria blossoms as I write this. I had to stop to take it in. That’s what I do now when I see beauty, I stop. I bask. I live fully in the moment.

A very brave woman that I have been fortunate to know wrote the book “Blessed with Cancer.”  When I generously received a copy from her after my diagnosis, I was too angry at the cancer to understand how anyone could ever feel blessed with cancer. Admittedly, I hid the book in the top shelf of my closet, with the spine to the wall, cursing at the very thought that anyone could think cancer is a blessing.  But I get it now. It isn’t the illness that’s the blessing, it’s the awakening that comes with it.

Over the past year I have learned the very meaning of life, unlike I knew in my former life. Unlike I understood when I heard clichés that I readily dismissed as soon as the next item on my to-do list popped into my head. I actually stop now to smell the roses. I stop to watch hummingbirds. I stop to laugh.

In all of my innocence and hope and childlike fantasy that life would last forever, approximately one year ago, I did in fact, die.  But paradoxically, the autumn colors are brighter than before, the sound of music, more beautiful, and with my death, in abundance, came life. 

Don't miss it.

Sweet Dreams and Always GOOD Dreams,



Anonymous said...

In facing our own mortality, we certainly can't help but question our own direction. For the record, do you think a caterpillar looks at metamorphosis as death or the new abundance of life? Sometimes we struggle with "New Normal" but aren't we supposed to grow until we are done? You are abundant, vital, talented, experienced and well. If that which does not kill you, makes you stronger...I suspect you are now armor plated. Some of us celebrate you being so alive every day.

renae said...

Thank you anonymous for celebrating my life. I too celebrate my life, but mainly because each day gifts me with the constant joy of being surrounded by those I love. It is everyone else that makes my life so worth living.

I think that caterpillars probably don't analyze their death and then their life because it seems to me that it is the failure of humans to live in the is we who lose our way and then strive to regain appreciation of that which we lost when we faced with the concept of death. Caterpillars probably live in each and every moment in acceptance. But then, I'm not a caterpillar.

In the end, if I am stronger, if I am armor plated, it is only because I have been so well loved.

Anonymous said...

I too have experienced such an awakening. Reading your words only confirms my own renewed zest for butterflies and babies. Thank you for sharing.

renaedarlene said...

Oooohhh the babies...I so love the babies!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sahring...I've just begun my journey and will be under the watchful eye of the same Team you used. Diane

renaedarlene said...

Hi dglassme,

Please keep me posted on how your journey is progressing. Sending you positive thoughts and holding your hand. ~Renae~