Being diagnosed with Stage IIIC cancer when my daughter was six days old, I have thought a great deal about what might happen after I die. Who will be the mother figure to her? Will my husband remarry?
Would I want him to remarry?
Of course, these questions are not unique to me just because of my cancer. Any of us could be hit by a bus tomorrow. The future is unknown. Just last week, in fact, a young mom and warrior in the cancer community died suddenly of a blood clot one week after the birth of her fourth child. This after successfully beating breast cancer and going on to become a tireless advocate for cancer research and awareness.
Try and wrap your head around that one.
Maybe it’s because I’m now plugged into a community where death is an all-too-frequent visitor. Or maybe it’s because the date of my first three-month post-treatment tests is looming. But death is on my mind a lot these days. My potential death.
My husband and I recently took our first beach trip with the baby since her birth. (Note that I said “trip,” not “vacation.” We learned that traveling with a baby isn’t really a vacation.) While on this trip, I caught myself thinking, “Well, at least I got to see that,” while watching my daughter or husband do something adorable or inspiring.
I thought it while seeing my daughter stick her toes in the ocean for the first time. I thought it while watching her father dance with her to jazz music being played on a sidewalk. I thought it while watching our girl squeal with delight as she rolled around with our dogs in the sand.
At least I got to see that.
Perhaps this morbid train of thought will fade as I get more clean scans under my belt. But for now, it’s on my mind. And it has made me wonder what I’d want for my husband and daughter if I were to take an early bite of the dust.
Once I push aside the (very unpleasant) vision of the younger, hotter, bustier woman with shampoo-commercial hair who will no doubt try to sweep my amazing husband off his feet before my ashes have even been scattered, I think about what I’d really want for them in my absence.
I wouldn’t want them to be sad and mournful forever. I wouldn’t want them to ever forget me, but I’d want them to know joy and happiness and love again. I’d want my husband to have a companion who made him laugh and was a great partner to him in every way. I’d want someone to love my daughter unconditionally, and to guide and nurture her in the ways that only a fellow female can. I’d want her to have someone with whom she felt comfortable talking about girl stuff and boy stuff. I’d want someone to show her by their actions how it is to be kind and compassionate and generous at heart.
When I think about it, I guess what I’d really want is for them to have someone in their lives who is very much like the woman I hope to be. The very best version of myself on my very best day. And even better than that.
Fortunately, I trust my husband’s judgment. He’s an excellent parent and person. And we have a huge network of family and friends who are just good people. So, I know in my heart they’d be okay. More than okay.
What it comes down to is that I just don’t want to miss any of it. I want to be the one to get to do those things — growing old with my husband and watching our daughter grow from a baby to a mother herself.
In case I don’t, though, I am trying to appreciate each day for the wonder that it is. And savor every.single.thing.
Images via Mark Montgomery