In counseling with my priest, I let out all my anxieties and fears surrounding my cancer treatment and my future. I don’t even remember what I said. I just remember crying and fistfuls of tissues and staring around the room at the shelves full of books. I’m sure it involved my fear of dying, my fear of going away and leaving my family forever, my fear that there was nothing left for me.
“Some people find,” Father said gently, “that the last years of their lives, they look back on those as the best ones.”
I knew in my head what he was talking about. But my heart was yelling at him.
“WHY would you SAY that? That doesn’t make me feel better at ALL! I don’t want it to be the end of my life! I want to get better! I want to see my kids become adults. I want to live to a ripe old age and have many more good years!”
I left feeling dissatisfied, privately thinking that maybe Father just wasn’t that great at ministering to sick people. Way too nonchalant, way too calm.
Then treatment ended, and I was still cancer-free, three months. Then Christmas came and went. My sister got married.
I celebrated the New Year at home with my friends. Then my birthday. I went out to the blues bar and sang out loud with my friends.
Then, six months cancer-free. My hair began to grow back. Then Valentine’s Day. My son began to walk and talk and celebrated his first birthday.
My baby sister turned 21. Christ was risen. Mother’s Day came and went. Cancer-free nine months.
My daughter turned four and had a unicorn birthday party. I planted and tended a beautiful garden in my backyard and watched my children play. I took them to the pool.
I celebrated my sixth anniversary with my husband in style. I walked in the woods. I went to beautiful Masses and Holy Hours. I consecrated myself to the Blessed Virgin. I went camping with my extended family. I attended my hometown picnic and the State Fair. One year cancer-free.
I threw a party. My daughter went to preschool. I harvested my garden and found out I was going to become an aunt. I read books and wrote and cooked meals and made jam and picked wildflowers and argued with strangers on the internet and made new friends. The leaves changed colors and fell. Fifteen months cancer-free. I spent Thanksgiving with my family, including my grandparents, and stressed over Christmas and went to weddings and Advent and Christmas came and went joyfully.
I will not pretend the year was picture-perfect . My growing family had all the normal stressors and heartaches. I buried and grieved over friends old and new. My favorite bar closed. My favorite cat disappeared. I struggled to manage my intense anxiety for the future and my worries in the present. My thirty-year-old body behaved as if it was much older, from my hip to my hormones. Some of my plans did not turn out. Some of my garden did not grow. But all in all, I was full. Full of life and absolutely satisfied. After years of fighting and striving and planning (and years of clinical depression) it is a new and wonderful feeling.
So here I stand on the eve of a new year once again, my hands full of a whole year of joy and sorrow I never counted on having. God willing, I will do it again. And again and again and again. But if he does not grant me this grace, he has still granted me the grace that Father was trying to tell me about back in the parish office. I have had one of the best years of my life in 2018, and I am grateful and full and satisfied.
“We praise thee, O God: we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord.
All the earth doth worship Thee, the Father everlasting.
To Thee all Angels cry aloud: the Heavens and all the powers therein.
To Thee Cherubim and Seraphim continually do cry, Holy, Holy, Holy: Lord God of Sabaoth;
Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty of Thy Glory.
The glorious company of the Apostles praise Thee.
The godly fellowship of the Prophets praise Thee.
The noble army of Martyrs praise Thee.
The holy Church throughout all the world doth acknowledge Thee;
The Father of an infinite Majesty;
Thine honourable, true, and only Son;
Also the Holy Ghost: the Comforter.
Thou art the King of Glory, O Christ.
Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father.
When Thou tookest upon Thee to deliver man: Thou didst not abhor the Virgin’s womb.
When Thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death, Thou didst open the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.
Thou sittest at the right hand of God in the glory of the Father.
We believe that Thou shalt come to be our Judge.
We therefore pray Thee, help Thy servants whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy precious blood.
Make them to be numbered with Thy Saints in glory everlasting.
O Lord, save Thy people: and bless Thine heritage.
Govern them and lift them up for ever.
Day by day we magnify Thee; and we worship Thy Name, ever world without end.
Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this day without sin.
O Lord, have mercy upon us.
O Lord, let Thy mercy lighten upon us: as our trust is in Thee.
O Lord, in Thee have I trusted: let me never be confounded.” – Te Deum