“Is Nana Better?”

In my group therapy session last week I learned another valuable lesson.  It was this: closely observe my children to recognize in them the wondrous qualities of childhood – innocence, wonder, openness – and to learn that even though these were squelched in my childhood by an abusive father I can resuscitate those characteristics in my own life. I can learn to thrive by learning from my children.

If you have ever visited my Facebook page you will know that occasionally I post comments made by my kids under the headings of Gabe’s Gab and Sam’s Sayings. Most often they are remarks that first reduce me to gales of laughter and secondly shock my senses into realizing how brilliant are young minds in their ability to cut through noise to reach essential truths.

Just last week Gabe asked, “Is Nana better?”

I responded that she was although she still had work to do.

Sam then asked, “Did Grandpa make her better?”

I said, yes, Grandpa and a whole bunch of other people, too.

Sam then inquired, “Will there be a party?”

Yes, Sam, there will be a party and in fact we should approach every day like a party.

The genesis of this conversation began almost one month ago. Nana was gardening. She pricked her right index finger on a thorny bush.

Twenty-four hours later she was fighting for her life in Oakville Trafalgar Hospital under intensive care treatment for flesh-eating disease.

Life happens.

It is a truism.

Another is that bad things happen to good people.

How we respond is what differentiates.

How we are supported when it happens is what makes a world of difference.

A long time ago in a land far away, I played the role of Mr. Zuss in Archibald MacLeish’s modern-day adaptation of the story of Job.  In the play, entitled J.B*., Mr. Zuss is God.  I will freely admit that this was for me a classic case of being miscast and my performance, mercifully witnessed by few, was the absolute worst in my entire acting career.  I was horrible.

But since the play is a powerful piece with several good lessons I took away influences that have stayed with me ’til today including this: rather than remaining mired in the great tragedies of his life, J.B. finds a way to move forward by embracing his wife and creating a new life built upon a foundation of acceptance and love.  J.B., although not stated as such in the play, decides to live in the present moment. He embraces the notion that thoughts are not facts and begins to live a mindful life.

This all came to mind recently as Katie and I revisited the past 24-plus months of our lives and as we approach our seventh wedding anniversary. Just as Katie’s trek through the dark valleys of breast cancer was enlightened by the support of people both near and far, so was her mother’s recovery from this surreal episode of flesh-eating disease marked by excellence in conventional medicine and the transformative impact of receiving constant care and love from Roger, her husband, Andrew and Bob, her sons, and the touching, hands-on ministrations of her daughter Katie. Additionally, both Katie and her mom were in the thoughts and prayers of people all around the globe – from the jungles of Brazil to the Channel Islands to the teeming streets of Hong Kong and London – both were swathed in the wrappings of virtual support.

Fellow blogger Nicole Sobie, a.k.a., Cancer Dragon, in her most recent posting writes about support. I love Nicole’s writing and her insight which includes this passage: “So my main advice, for those who ask how to help, is just to show up. Don’t worry so much about what to say, what to do.”

“Just show up.”

A key component of living a mindful life is captured in those three simple words and too often we are the last to just show up for our own lives, never mind the lives of others.

Lao Tzu writes, “In dwelling, live close to the ground. In thinking, keep to the simple. In conflict, be fair and generous. In governing, don’t try to control. In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present.” 

Be present.

Be mindful.

Be aware.

Stop and smell the roses. Just make sure you don’t prick your finger!

After you’ve undergone several disruptive episodes where the lives of those you love most are threatened, one might reasonably expect a break from the fates. What we’re learning however is that fate will continue to toss both grenades and bouquets in our path. How we embrace them is what will help us move forward. So Gabe and Sam, there will be a party and Mummy and Daddy will try to ensure that you grow up realizing that every moment we draw breath is a little celebration, that every time we laugh, cry, sigh, and sing we are blessed.

Take the moments to enjoy the simplicity of life.

Shell the peas with zest. Even the mundane and pedestrian events of life are worthy of wonder.

Thanks to all for your continued good will and support.

*J.B. is a 1958 play written in free verse by American playwright and poet Archibald MacLeish and is a modern retelling of the story of the biblical figure Job — hence the title: J.B./Job. 

The play opens in “a corner inside an enormous circus tent.” Two vendors, Mr. Zuss and Nickles, begin the play-within-a-play by assuming the roles of God and Satan, respectively. They watch J.B., a wealthy banker, describe his prosperity as a just reward for his faithfulness to God. Scorning, Nickles challenges Zuss that J.B. will curse God if his life is ruined. The two observe as J.B.’s children and property are destroyed in horrible accidents and the former millionaire takes to the streets. J.B. is visited by three Comforters (representing History, Science, and Religion) who offer contradicting explanations for his plight. He declines to believe any of them, instead calling out to God to show him the just cause for his punishment. When finally confronted by the circus vendors, J.B. refuses to accept Nickles’ urging toward suicide to spite God or Zuss’ offer of his old life in exchange for quiet obedience to religion. Instead, he takes solace in his wife Sarah and the new life they will create together.

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4 thoughts on ““Is Nana Better?”

  1. Avatar of DeniseDenise

    You tell us, Shell the peas with zest.

    And, then you show us.

    :)

    Such a beautiful post. Thank you.

    Wishing you and yours moments today which bring bouquets.

    Reply
  2. Avatar of ejourneysejourneys

    I love this, Don. I love how innocence, wonder, and openness are children’s gifts to you, which you in turn nurture in them. It’s a beautiful circle.

    Reply

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