Saturday, October 12, 2013

Shaky, Possessive Fingers

Life Isn't Fair. That's something we've all heard before, and grudgingly accepted. But now, as I look at the things I've experienced and the things I've seen others experience, it's not a matter of fairness, it's a matter of ability. Life is completely fair! It is we that decide if we deserve what is being handed us. It is we that decide how to handle what we've been given.

I am a religious person. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I believe in God the Father and in His son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost. I believe that we are here for a purpose and that God has individual plans for each one of us. I also believe that God doesn't give us anything in life that we can't handle without his help, and if we choose to deny his help, life becomes more difficult and sorrowful than intended. I believe that God is loving and wants to help us learn and grow, and so he gives us opportunities to do so.

Trials and challenges surround us every day, whether we're experiencing them ourselves or we're watching others struggle. They're inescapable and come in all shapes and sizes. Once the storm of tests pass, we tend to try to forget them and move on and just be happy in ignorance. But me, I hope to never do that. I hope to take each challenge and learn and grow and be better for it. I hope to never forget the moments when I could have been weak, but I was strong and I came out on top.

One of the saddest times of my life is a time that I too often forget. I want to remember because it taught me one of the most important lessons I've received!

I had a friend who was so stubborn that hell itself could have frozen over and she would insist it
was perfectly lovely weather. She was diagnosed with stage 3 inflammatory breast cancer, which of course she denied. She refused to go to the doctor for chemotherapy and self medicated with herbal pills and different exotic foods. Her sons begged her to go to the doctor and take prescribed medicine. Reluctantly, she eventually went to the doctor and realized the seriousness of her condition as her sons cried on the bench in the corner of the examination room. Once she accepted her illness, it consumed her. For 2 weeks, I lived in her home taking care of her and her two teenage sons who were incapacitated with worry and grief. One day while going through her belongings, I found a box of Christmas decorations. Her tree was still set up in the front room and it was long past Easter. I took the box to Jennifer and she picked a small, shiny orb from the box which dangled on a string around her shaky finger. She sighed with a sad look and said simply, “My possessions don’t matter anymore.” She dropped the ornament into the box resting on my lap. She ranted about her regret for always being too busy to take a Christmas picture with her sons and how she really wanted that picture. I had to repeat several times, “Yes, the tree is still set up Jennifer. No Jennifer, it’s not decorated.” In her slightly bewildered and frantic state, she asked me to decorate the tree. Jennifer didn’t actually care about the tree, but she cared about one last Christmas photo with her sons. She cared about her sons having her in their memory for the rest of forever. She then asked me to help her bathe and do her hair and makeup so she wouldn't look "Like a dying person" in the photo. She always had such a good sense of humor, even in her last days! I woke early one morning and took my bag of makeup to her home. She laid there on her hospital bed in the sitting room and I brushed her long silver hair from her face. She held a hand-mirror up to her face and I saw in the reflection that she was crying. "I just don't feel pretty anymore," she said, pressing her eyeballs in an attempt to stop them from puffing up. All I could do was silently cry. What was I supposed to say to this amazing angel? "You're still beautiful. You'll always be beautiful, Jennifer." That's all I could say. She smiled up at me and I smiled back and then she lightheartedly said, "Oh well! Why do I even care anymore? Doesn't matter now!" Oh, Jennifer. I applied her makeup, careful to cover the tear tracks and she swore that she looked the most beautiful she had ever looked. She took a Christmas picture in May with her two sons supporting her.

Cleaning out Jennifer's home was hard for us, but it was even harder for her. At first, anyway. She was hesitant to throw anything out, but slowly realized and vocalized how pointless all of her little possessions were. Like she did with the Christmas ornament, she dropped everything.
Her last wish was to dance with her sons. She said it was insurance for their wedding day and told them to remember her as they danced. She laughed at her own cute thought, but cried as her sons supported her again and sang to her as they swayed, each taking a turn. Her shaky, possessive fingers grasped onto the only thing she cared about.

Jennifer taught me one of the most influential lessons I have ever received. She let go of her possessions. She held onto the people she loved. Her focus of purpose switched from gaining things to giving love.

There was no cure for Jennifer's disease, just as there is no cure for the "fairness" of life. But you CAN overcome the monotony and difficulty of life by loving people, cherishing people, and caring about people. We’re all on this journey through life together. Nobody should have to do it alone. I don’t want you to even try to do it alone. For me? For me, grab a partner or two. For me, share their load and then let them help you with yours! For me, have confidence in your brilliance and worth. And for you, love everyone.

All of that being said, I think life is fair. I think the crazy things that happen are fair. I think the beautiful moments are fair. I think the sadness and joy and frustration are all fair. Because it is what is intended for us. People call it fate, which is something that I believe you create for yourself through your actions and choices. I call it wonderful. I call it incredible. I call it a miracle. Don't take for granted the people in your life. They're traveling their own path and may need your help. They may be thinking to themselves, "Why me?! This isn't fair!" Show them they can grow and even thrive. Show them they're important and strong. Prove to them that life is a gift to be loved, not an unfair game to whine about. We're a team here. Be a leader. Love.

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