Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Pay It Forward

There are no real words to express how loved and cared for I have felt during this journey of the last few months. We went through a series of horrible things, some of which continue, and each of them individually were almost too much to bear, and certainly collectively they were. And yet we did not carry them alone. Alongside came friends, who really are the absolute definition of family. Friends that listened to me, cried with me and comforted me. We have received gifts that each and every time were beyond our wildest expectations, and always unexpected . . . but I am getting ahead of myself.

First, I have my girl-friends. These ladies came have known me since my childhood days, through those high-school years and stood beside me at my wedding. We have been through loss, joy, grief, pain, adoption, illness, divorce, death and many successes. We are as different as can be; from right wing traditionalist to left wing tree hugger; from single and independent to stay at home mom; from rich and famous to quiet and reserved. Yet at the heart of it we are the same - sisters of the heart.

When they heard of my cancer battle and pending surgery each and everyone of "My Girls" as they are commonly referred to in our house, dropped when they were doing and supported me. Pam (not pictured), famous lawyer, an incredibly busy and important woman with two children of her own, booked an entire week off work (an incredibly important and well paying job I might add) just to sit by my hospital side on the other side of the continent in another country and dammit if she had to kick an airline attendant's desk and driving an extra 4 hours when they messed up her flight, she was going to be there! She also made it her day's work to provide me with play lists on her Iphone and Frisk Mints procured from the gift shop. How do I ever repay that type of love?

Shannon, fighting her own battle against a horrible disease, hosted us in her home the night before my surgery, and the night before she left town to travel to her own specialist appointment. She was willing to sacrifice her own health to be a support to me, how do I ever repay that type of love?

Tamara still dealing with her own grief after the loss of her mother to a brief and horrid battle with cancer less than a year ago, paused her attempts to pack up her mothers home and also took a week off of work to play nursemaid to me as I lay on her couch. She fed me, clothed me and ensured my every need was met. How do I repay that type of love?

Alison and Christine, both willing to drag kith and kin across the countryside to visit me repeatedly in the hospital. Bearing thoughtful, amazing gifts of food, pajamas, creams and encouraging words they supported me through a very scary time. All 5 girls came together to put together a "Yes We Can" box of encouragement for me that they gave to me the night before my surgery. I can never, ever express what their thoughtfulness meant to me as I went into the evening scared, terrified and feeling very alone, and left feeling loved, encouraged and knowing I would be ok. How do I repay that type of love?

Orange is the Kidney Cancer Color!

After surgery, our house was filled with meals from our church "family". People I may have only known in passing spent the time to tell my husband and children how much we meant to them, or that my presence at church was missed. I still have casseroles in the freezer, and one for supper tonight.

The unexpected gifts surprise even the most hard hearted in our family. When Shel lost his job, he also lost his gym membership. Squash is Shel's release, his fun, his time away that he cherishes. But the membership was a luxury and paid for by the company he worked for. There was no way to justify a membership in these tough economic times, and so, he gave up what he loved without complaint. Out of the blue the owner of the gym called one night last week to say they are restoring Shel's account. He has strung some rackets for them over the years and they wanted to say thanks, and let us know they were thinking of us, and to please come play anytime. An unexpected gift.

And then there is our Harambee Family. Harambee is a camp we have attended every year for 10 years. It is for families (adoptive or biological, although most are adoptive) raising children of African Heritage. When news of my cancer diagnosis spread to the organizers they not only waived our fees for this year, they offered me access to a house on the property so I could rest, if need be. Privately, one camp friend sent us gas money to make sure we could come, another sent food money. Its humbling, its overwhelming, its hard to receive, and yet we do. How do I repay that type of love?

And then this week we heard of a family in need of a vehicle. We were so INCREDIBLY lucky to be able to replace our van with a truck that seats us all (baby girls included), blessed in fact because of the love and generosity of my grandmother who in her death made sure I, and "her boys" would be provided for. So we gave our van away, paying forward even in some small way the blessings we have been shown. And on this day that we would give away our van, I received a cheque from a friend. This friend is also from camp, a woman I have shared laughter and tears with over the years, but have never seen outside that precious one week a summer. We know we are "family" but this I did not expect because the cheque matched the amount we would have received for selling the van. She said it was her way to "Pay It Forward" for the generosity of friends when she needed it years ago. I am overwhelmed to the point of being unable to even formulate the words to say thank-you. How do I repay that type of love?

There is no way to repay, except to pay it forward. And so this is my promise to you that we will. We will. When we can, as we are able, we will. This is my promise and when we do it will be in honor of each and everyone of you and your encouraging words, thoughtful gifts, kind emails, generous hearts and your love. I can never say thankyou enough. Cancer may suck, but it has openned my eyes to the amount of love and goodness in the world.



Judy said...


Soon after I was diagnosed, my pastor told me to try to remember to look for the beauty in the journey because it would be there (he knew personally because one of his children had cancer growing up; cured, thank God).

And it IS there, it so IS. It's one of the things that's changed me, that's made my New Normal. Cancer changes a person in many ways, and the beauty you find along the way is one of the ways it changes you, I believe.

And I also very much believe in the Pay It Forward philosophy. :)

Love and prayers,

Regina said...

There's a saying out there - what you put out, you get back in multiples. Your experience is a perfect example of this principle. What you have offered the universe in your life has been kindness, generosity, warmth, love and loyalty. This is simply the Universe reflecting that right back to you.

It's, as they say, the silver lining. A tremendous credit to who you are and what you've brought to the world. The most magnificent part is that your children will bring that forward as well long after you're gone as they've learned how to from you.


Julia said...

What a beautiful chain of events and blessings during such a terrible time for you. I'm so moved by the beauty that is still in this world and amongst people when we least expect it! I'm so very glad you are so surrounded by so much love Jen.

MamaS said...

Thank you for sharing your life and God's amazing faithfulness to you and yours!
I was so blessed and inspired from reading your last post that I read it out loud to my hubby and unexpectedly wept my way through it. How great is our God!
(I too am an adoptive mom of 2 beautiful and 'visible' children. Perhaps I will have the pleasure of meeting you @ Harambee this year.)

OAM3 said...

Crying all over now Jen... What a testament to your gifts to us all. I am so glad you have that support and I know you'll keep doing what you do naturally, and the circle will continue.