I edit about 13,000 words every weekday—that’s roughly 26 articles a day and 130 a week (give or take). I’m a bit inured to this by now and it takes a lot to impress me, but the article about ladybugs did just that and brought back a memory.
I was so young. My mom always did my hair, and I laughed later thinking those tight ponytails could give me a free facelift. My mom had put me in a darling blue dress because some ladies had decided to come over. I loved listening to them talk about adult stuff, so I sat quietly, hoping to be part of the party—and eventually get a cookie my mom had set on a plate. The conversation topics kind of blended together until one lady said, “She’s so sick.” Then she whispered, “You know her mom was sick first.” I noticed the woman’s spotless shoes and perfect hair.
“I had no idea.” Another woman gasped.
“Well.” The speaker’s immaculate shoes tapped under the table. “She always said she wanted to take on her mother’s sickness—so her mom could get better. Now her mother is dead and she’s dying too!”
“You don’t think—“
“Oh, yes I do!” she replied. “I think she took some of her mother’s sickness from her, but not all of it! And that’s why she’s so sick now.”
My mom didn’t say anything, always pretty quiet unless she talked about her love for God. I studied her, that beautiful dark hair falling in waves around her face. Dear God, could I please look like her someday, all Italian and gorgeous?
(My stunning Italian mama.)
I smiled at my mama and suddenly wanted to ask her about this mysterious conversation. Sure, I thought some dumb things as a kid—that sleeping with a certain blanket could make me beautiful or that people could get pregnant by touching their boobs to a guy’s chest—but even I knew you can’t take someone’s sickness by willing it into yourself. My six-year-old mind whirred. Couldn’t they just pass it along through their genes or something?
When I got older, I learned about hereditary illnesses (like everyone else), but the humanities always interested me more, especially the concept of sin eaters or how people try to hope that one being (even a ladybug) can take away sickness, sorrow, or even sin. I think people just want to define and quantify everything about suffering, pain, or guilt. It’s easier to wrap our heads around something if there’s a reason for it—and especially if there’s a solution.
I know it’s incredibly stupid (just like my early notions about reproduction), but the other day, I sat on my porch willing a ladybug to fly over and take my sorrows. I rested in front of our four-foot tall “welcome” sign, truly believing something would happen. Surely God would see me in this time of weakness. He’d do something to help take away the pain or the thought that I’m in a death spiral, fighting until it’s time to see my son in Heaven.
I sat in the bitter, snowy cold, looking through tears, wondering why life has to be so damn hard. “God,” I whispered, “today I need help being strong. It’s getting harder the longer I’ve had to fight. I’m tired.”
The wind swept through leafless, barren trees, and a chill came over me, so strong I forgot the pain from cancer. That’s when our welcome sign fell over.
“Seriously,” I groaned. “Not the ‘sign’ I’d hoped for.” But when I went to pick it up, I found something it’s been concealing: a little painted rock. I gaped because that rock went missing almost two years ago. After one of my worst bouts with radiation, a nurse came over and said, “I made this. I didn’t know who to give it to until now. I want you to have it.” I stared at the beautifully painted designs and thanked her—having no idea it was her last day working in the melanoma unit. But after I brought it home, someone moved it, and I couldn’t find the rock for years.
So, today, on this incredibly cold winter day as I grasped for hope, I held that rock to my chest and sobbed. How fitting that a nurse who lessened my pain gave me such a sign of lasting peace. I traced the black dots, little eyes, and intricate designs on the painted rock: my ladybug. “Thank you, God. For letting me be alive to fight another day.”
Who knew that a gift from almost two years ago would wind up being my miracle for today? Life is so beautiful.