This I Believe

Susan - Virginia Beach, Virginia
Entered on July 13, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: hope, setbacks
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Hold Your Breath and Smile

In good times we smile. In bad times we cry. This is the nature of life. We all experience many different types of adventures throughout our time on earth. We may not have control over the experiences that affect us, but for better or worse; we must continue on.

I know life is not easy at times. I believe maintaining a positive outlook and attitude is essential. With this belief, I have lived my life, raised my children, and helped my friends and family. It was not hard to keep a smile on our face in the good times; through the bad times a smile is a struggle. Hold your breath and smile; the good times are around the corner.

In 1995, Amber, 17 years old, was walking home from her friend’s house. A young woman with a ready smile, big doe-brown eyes and light brown hair, with her entire life in front of her. Amber was brutally raped and murdered, on that hot and humid August night. A complete stranger made the decision to end her life and dreams, as well as our entire family’s dreams for her. My other children — TJ, 14 at the time, and Danielle, 8 years old — idolized their older sister. TJ took it the hardest; he and Amber were very close. The children wanted answers, which neither the police, nor I could provide. It took time, but we knew good times would return and life would continue. We made it through this horrible ordeal with a smile here and there at first. Hold your breath and smile the laughter will return; it did, but only until March 1st, 1999.

TJ was graduating from high school; getting ready to leave for college required a complete physical. There was a small bump on his side located in the upper right rib cage. “No big deal,” the doctor said, “probably a cyst, we’ll just take it out and everything will be fine.” With a hug, kiss and smile, TJ went into surgery. Four hours later the doctor returned. The lump wasn’t a cyst as expected; it was a tumor. My son was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. My initial reaction, selfish as it sounds was: “Can I not get one child to the age of 18?!” TJ’s twin brother died within his first 72 hours of life. Amber was taken at 17. Now TJ with cancer! I had to tell Danielle, then 12 years old, how sick her big brother was and why he was not coming straight home as planned. Looking up at me with her innocent, tear-stained blue eyes, she then smiled. Danielle repeated the words I had said to her so many times before: “Mom, hold your breath and smile; TJ will be okay, and we’ll make it through this too.”

What wonderful insight she had; TJ is now 25 and healthy, and getting married next July.

These are two extreme examples, I realize. Throughout the ups and downs of our lives, truly believing in a positive outcome with smiles on our faces can turn around the most horrible and profound experiences. Tomorrow the sun will rise again. A new day begins. Hold your breath and smile, the good that is coming around the corner.