November 5, 2o15
Today I share a blog from a dear friend of mine and a writer herself. Elizabeth will, in fact, be writing my first book.
Elizabeth Kelly Atwell is a mum of four, teacher, director and writer living in Denver, Colorado. She currently travels back and forth between Denver and Toronto to have and support her mum’s end of life journey with stage 4 brain cancer. Elizabeth has found her writing voice in her goal to write to inspire and help others heal, but she writes for a variety of publications and purposes. If you want to read more or use her writing skill for your own purposes, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org..
Anne uses pebbles, stones and boulders as metaphors for the challenges of life. When I think of Anne’s story, it is tempting to dismiss my own challenges as less significant, but in truth, pain is pain and we all have to figure out ways to face and overcome challenges. Challenges are just part of life, whether they are pebble size or boulder size. My own survival through painful times has come from strategies that extend Anne’s metaphor. Over time, the boulders get battered by wind and water and become stones; the stones become pebbles and a pebble eventually becomes a grain of sand. And a grain of sand can get caught in an oyster’s shell and become a glowing, iridescent pearl.
Clearly, nature doesn’t make it easy for a boulder or even a grain of sand to become a pearl. Human nature doesn’t make it easy for us to turn our boulders into pearls either. But it is possible, and that was the key for me not just to survive, but to become stronger, wiser, kinder and more compassionate (I hope, anyway). While an irritating grain of sand can become a beautiful pearl, challenges can become gifts if we choose to make them so.
When my husband faced a life-threatening illness that lasted three months, I would get my four kids off to school and hope that they could make it through the day, then spend all day at the hospital, and pray he would make it another day, and then return home not only to those four kids who were terrified their daddy was going to die, but also to a financial nightmare I couldn’t ignore. Was it exhausting, stressful, frightening and painful? Absolutely. Were there moments when I was so overwhelmed that I could barely think? You bet. But, within that boulder I could see a very large and very precious pearl.
That pearl, the outpouring of love and friendship and support, and my faith, gave me the strength, and comfort to be there for my husband and my children. My sister, my mum and my aunt all came to Denver from Canada for a week each to support me during some of the worst of it; my in-laws were at the hospital in evenings so I could feel okay leaving to be there for the kids, meals arrived at the door; even yard work got done. Messages and emails of love and support and prayers were sent from around the world. This extraordinary kindness and love even from random strangers gave me strength and comfort to survive and focus my energy and gratitude on that instead of the pain.
You might ask, what if there is no one there to help, to show love? Then the challenge you face and I know it is a big one because it was for me too is to look for it and ask. You will be surprised and amazed to find how much is there. I learned that. At first, it was hard to accept, and it was even harder to have to ask. But I had to be strong for my husband and my kids, so I learned. And I realize now it was okay to accept it for me too. So I learned to accept the love and help offered. I also learned that I am not the only one who needs and wants to give so it’s okay to say yes and receive. I know I will pay it forward. That lesson alone is a precious and life changing pearl.
In hindsight, that pearl has grown larger as I have reflected on the many blessings that, that boulder brought to my family and me. As a family, we have become closer and more loving. My children (ages 14, 16, 18 and 20) are now best friends because they had to come together to support each other, their dad and me. The kids discovered their own strength and the recognition that I had faith in their strength and love to get through. That is a lifelong gift for them (especially in the world where kids tend to get rescued in ways that will not prepare them well for adulthood). I have learned to find joy in so much, not the least of which is paying forward kindness and service to others. And we all learned to appreciate and be profoundly grateful for what’s most important in life family, friends, love, kindness and faith.
Today, another challenging boulder presents itself: my journey with my mum and my family as we face her terminal stage 4 brain cancer. As I travel back and forth from Denver to Toronto, I hold on to the pearl I created three years ago and use all of its lessons on this journey with mum. The creation of that pearl has given me greater strength, wisdom and compassion so that I may make another pearl out of this boulder.
I can’t say that I would choose a lifetime of boulders, stones and pebbles but if I do, I plan on making a priceless, glowing pearl necklace out of them.
May we all find strength in Elizabeth’s story and remember what is most important in life. I thank you, Elizabeth, for you most gracious friendship and continued support on both our journeys together and separately.
Lots of Love to you all
Peace of I