I believe that those who go before us, can help us.
Recently, I received an Email from my mother’s old friend Joanie. I have never met Joanie, but I remember my mother always spoke fondly of her and the fun times they had living together when they were young. It was thrilling for me to hear from someone I had never personally conversed with but had heard so much about in my formative years.
Joanie had been doing some serious house cleaning and had come across several letters that my mother had written to her from December 1974 up until August 1992, just 5 months before she passed away. She said she had tried for a few years to find my sister and I, but to no avail. She thought it was important that we have the letters, and they arrived at my doorstep neatly wrapped in a bright red ribbon. They couldn’t have come at a better time.
My good friend, Christy, was recently diagnosed with leukemia – she is 38 years old. Two years ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The doctors removed both of her breasts and put her through several rounds of chemotherapy. For the past year and a half, she has worked on putting her life back together. She made her first trip to Europe, started jogging and returned to doing what she loves most – performing her standup comedy.
When I visited her in the hospital, she was understandably angry and upset. She told my fiancé and I that she didn’t think she had enough fight in her to go through cancer again. I was quick to reassure her.
“You got through breast cancer,” I said. “You can get through anything.”
But deep down, I wasn’t so sure. Then, the letters arrived.
My mother, Kathleen Murphy, passed away from bone marrow cancer, caused by breast cancer, when I was 14 years old. Reading her letters to Joanie, I felt my mother coming alive through the pages. I have never laughed or cried so much in my entire life. As a single parent, with two small children, a low-paying job and an ex who fails to pay child support on time, her life was far from easy. But there are few traces of anger or bitterness in my mother’s letters. Instead, they are filled with refreshing humor, wit and unwavering optimism.
Perhaps, my favorite letter — is her last. She was sick and dying, yet still able to find the humor in life. After a fairly serious few pages, she writes:
Please bear in mind, I am rarely serious. Actually, the love of my life at this time is medium BBQ buffalo chicken wings. They have taken over my fantasies like Mexican food did a few years ago. Does that mean I am getting old when wings mean more to me than checking out guys? I think so.
I believe that my mother knew I needed her, and she was there for me. I no longer doubt my inner strength. I believe, that with the help of some medium spicy buffalo wings, I can get through anything.