We have spent more than 365 days in this year of craziness. I can often find an unexpected gift from a hardship, though sometimes it is well after the fact. Though we are not out of the woods yet, I’ve already begun looking in the rear-view mirror. In doing so, I’ve found some amazing gifts from this time.
Recently, it dawned on me that my 12-year-old son is an asker of questions. Differently, my 9-year-old daughter is a maker of things. Both are the ways they demonstrate their love and care for others. I didn’t fully recognize these as important gifts until we hit some pretty big bumps in the already lumpy road of this year.
In October, just when I thought we were hitting a stride, one of our closest family friends was diagnosed with cervical cancer. By close friend, I mean Stephanie was our nanny for 3 years and belongs to what we all call our “framily.” Stephanie is at holidays and birthday parties; she comes to basketball games and dance recitals. Our kids spend the night with her often, which during COVID has been an amazing gift.
I was absolutely terrified to tell my kids about Stephanie’s diagnosis. They’d experienced sick grandparents, but Stephanie and I are the same age. As I was sharing with a close group of friends about dreading this conversation, one person said, “Your kids will be okay, you have prepared them for this. You have never shied away from tough conversations before.” Until that moment I’d almost forgotten that this is how we parent.
My husband and I have always been upfront about a lot of tough subjects. From the time our kids could pray out loud, when they asked about why we prayed for someone, we answered honestly. So, bolstered with this reminder, we sat our kids down on the great room floor. They know by now, not great news is coming, and we shared Stephanie’s diagnosis. I am not sure what my husband and I said, except “Stephanie has cancer”. There were a lot of questions, which included ‘Will Stephanie die?” We said, “We don’t think so, but we cannot know for sure.” Then my kids asked how they could help during Stephanie’s treatment. I was surprised, but Stephanie has cared so much for them, they immediately wanted to care for her.
As Stephanie’s treatment stretched into the New Year, my kids helped care for her animals on the days she had to be at the cancer center all day—this flexibility was a gift of online school. All the while, not knowing, my daughter made her little gifts, and my son would text to see how she was doing. Stephanie had her 90 day follow up scan in mid-May and she told me my son had messaged to say he was so glad it had come back clear (we all were). She mentioned how much she loved getting his messages asking how she was.
Even as things were opening up in May, the seemingly smoother road had another big bump ahead. We do not have pets of our own, but my kids love other people’s animals as if they are their own. Captain, who was the constant companion of my kids’ Godmother Pattie, crossed the rainbow bridge just a couple of weeks ago. Our kids have known Captain all their lives. Before bringing our newborn son to visit his future godmother, we shared his baby hat with Pattie so Captain would know him. I cannot think of an age or stage our kids have lived through that Captain has not been a part of. They Christmas shopped for Captain and our daughter made and mailed him dog treats. During Wednesday night COVID dinners with Aunt Pattie, I am thankful my kids got to “see” Captain this past year more than they might have otherwise.
As Captain began to decline, we told our kids. We held Captain and Pattie in our prayers. The week Captain died, our kids were with their grandparents— made possible because of vaccinations! We kept the news until we could tell them in person. We shared what happened and that Pattie got to be with Captain the whole time. Our kids responded saying they were so glad Captain wasn’t alone. When they said that, I realized my kids can also recognize a gift in a tough situation too.
I’m not sure we will be off this lumpy road any time soon. I do know that even if the road smooths out, there will be bumps, there always will. I hope I will be more aware of the gifts that come from the hard times. Noticing how my kids have come into their own, using their God-given gifts to care for others has been the most unexpected gift of all along this road.
What gifts did you discover while traveling the bumpy roads of the pandemic?