What Would You Want?

I often think about leaving my children behind, not at school…in life. I think about it and I’m terrified about it happening, of missing out on their lives, of them living those lives without a mother, feeling that loss at such a young age. That fear causes me to avoid doing anything to give them something to remember, to hold on to, to give them comfort when they need a mom – or a whole family – if I’m not there. If I write for them, record stories, put together photo albums or any of the other things I’ve heard suggested, what if it means I’m done? What if finishing that list of things triggers something?

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I was 4 days past her due date. It was 105 degrees outside and we had no air conditioning. I was desperate to get that baby out of me. I ate every spicy food we could get our hands on, I moved rocks in the back yard (we were going to start a landscaping project – it wasn’t just a random act), I walked a lot…pretty much anything that you hear can help spur on labor. I had a gardening project I was saving for after she was born and finally, I had run out of things to keep me busy so I just said ‘srew it’ and got started on it. It involved attaching galvanized containers to the fence and planting herbs in them. I had literally just finished planting the LAST herb (basil) and my water broke. Clearly, this is indisputable proof that if I’ve got planned projects and I just go ahead and finish them, big things will happen. Right?!

While I’m optimistic that I’ll be around for a while yet, I’m afraid that if I don’t write to them or do some of those things that will help them remember me and support them through their grief I may miss the chance and be too late. So, I have this conflict of finishing that list and triggering the worst OR finishing the list and feeling relief because it’s done if the worst should happen unexpectedly. While it may be a clear choice when written down like that, for some reason it’s one of my biggest struggles. It’s where my strength falters.

I don’t mean to be pessimistic, I think it’s more realistic. I will die – we all will at some point. I want my children to know they were everything to me, that I wouldn’t ever leave them if I had the choice. I want them to have memories as they grow, to have something that will wrap them in the warmth of a hug and make them feel safe, to have something that will remind them I’m there in those big moments in their lives – telling them all the things I would have said if I were standing in front of them as they graduate, marry, have children, save the world.

For those who have lost a parent, I don’t want to bring up feelings of loss that have already been worked through, but I want to get this right. In my connections in the cancer community (stupid cancer – there’s enough of it that we have a community), I’ve met young people who’ve lost their moms or dads to cancer. I would love to hear from some of them what helped with their grief, what did their parent leave behind to let them know they were loved beyond words, what helps them when they’re in need of a parent (advice, hugs… whatever) who is no longer around. What don’t you have that you wish you had? What would comfort you? What would help you move on from the grief with strength and confidence, knowing that parent is in your heart and with you always. What advice would you have for those of us at risk of leaving our children behind?

Love Is Love

I’m going to conjure up an alternative meaning to everydayleft today. I probably won’t do it often, but I think it’s an important day in our country. Some of you won’t agree with my position. I understand that we aren’t always going to agree on these things because of a number of reasons. We don’t always have to agree, but I hope that you continue to read and perhaps give this issue some thought.

As I was in the hospital preparing for and recovering from neurosurgery and learning that I had brain cancer, my husband was there by my side. Every possible minute. He asked the questions I couldn’t. He talked to the nurses and doctors about how I was feeling and whether I might need more pain medication. He regulated visitors when he knew I didn’t want or need the stress or confusion of company. He found a nurse who could wash the blood out of my hair before my children arrived for a visit after surgery. He held my hand and kept me reasonably calm when I needed reassurance in a scary situation – all while he was just as terrified and far more lucid and capable of processing what was going on.

All this and more, he was able to do because he was my husband – we’re legally married and heterosexual. I believe that because he was there, I stayed strong and was able to leave the hospital 2 days after brain surgery. He was my advocate, my strength, my anti-anxiety drug, my constant partner in an unexpected and unwanted adventure.

If my partner were a woman – if I were gay – she would not have had the same rights to be there holding my hand, advocating for my care, keeping me strong. She may have been less informed about what was going on and would have been more anxious as a result. I would have been more anxious as a result. My kids would have likely seen me with a terrifying amount of blood in my hair – scaring them even more than they already were as their mom lay in a hospital bed – seeming somewhat less than herself. The nurses may not have learned that Vicodin makes me hallucinate and, if they gave it to me for pain (they tried), could have presented ‘new symptoms’. They may have fed me food that made me ill – say cheese or milk. Maybe she could have been there, but it’s not a guaranteed right.

Legal marital status defines whether she could take Family Medical Leave to help care for me as any spouse would. It determines her rights to help make decisions about my medical care. My rights to medical insurance coverage are impacted. And that’s just in the hospital or during treatment. What about her rights if I die? Her rights as a parent of our children are currently defined on whether she is the biological parent. Her rights to survivor benefits are defined by our legal marital status – taxation, 401k rollover, social security, and more. Some say that domestic partner status is enough. It’s nowhere near enough.

It’s time for us to accept that Gay and Lesbian couples exist in our world. It’s time for us to give these couples the same rights as heterosexual spouses. It’s time for full equality.