My friend Pam died of cancer last December. She was thirty-five, happily married with two young children. The illness spread quickly, poisoning her body but never her spirit. Although cancer robbed my friend of her life, it taught me to appreciate the little moments of my own.
One fall day, Pam talked about her seven-year-old daughter, who had just learned to ride her bicycle without training wheels. Her face fell when she said, “I missed it.” The silence in the hospital room spoke volumes. I didn’t need her to say any more. As a mother, I instantly understood the complexity of her simple, poignant statement. What she said struck a chord within me so deep that it still resonates today.
“I missed it because I’m in here. I can’t be a mom anymore. I won’t see my children grow. I’m going to miss so much more.”
This spring, my son rode his bike for the first time. As I watched his clumsy initial attempts transform into confidence, tears welled in my eyes. I stopped jogging alongside him and watched the distance between us grow. All I could think of were Pam’s words. I tried to burn his image into my mind to make sure I wouldn’t forget what he looked like. And I cried. I cried for my friend and all that she will never witness. I cried for her daughter and son, who didn’t have a mom waiting at the end of the road. I cried for her husband, who will experience these moments alone.
As my son turned the corner and came back to me, a funny thing happened. I wiped my tears away and smiled. I needed to enjoy this moment because Pam was never able to. She would want me to cheer him on and wave my arms like a lunatic as he looped around the block. I needed to remember it for her, not despite her.
How often do I get caught up in the small things in life? Packing lunches, making doctor’s appointments, and folding laundry. Some call them chores, but now I believe they are what make a life. These small details used to seem endless and overwhelming, but now it’s okay.
I want to be there to give my kids a bath after a day of playing outside in the mud. I want to scrub the grass stains out of their worn-out, threadbare jeans. I want to rush through the aisles of a grocery store looking for a last-minute dinner ingredient. I want to cram a haircut in between soccer games and kissing a scraped knee. I want to scramble for a babysitter so that my husband and I can finally have a “date night.”
I appreciate my chaos because it’s mine. These details are the pieces of me that make up my life. My moments. I don’t want to miss them.