“I just relate to her the most,” Heather said. She’d called to see how I fared after yesterday’s surgery. “I finished your book and loved it. I thought that might brighten your day a little bit.”
“You’re right.” I giggled. “AND you’re the best! Thank you for reading it.”
“It IS weird knowing all of you though because I could hear your voices throughout the whole thing. But Sky is so real and a lot like I was as a teenager.” Then she whispered, “My mom had cancer when I was young too.”
“She did? I remember you saying she died a while ago. Did she die from cancer?”
“Yeah,” she whispered.
It does seem like everyone has been affected by cancer. And I’m shocked with the number of people who’ve died from melanoma. I might feel like telling someone my story—they could be the cashier at a grocery store, a waiter at a restaurant, a person sitting by me at the DMV… And they’ll know someone who died from melanoma. “Please go see your dermatologist,” I’ll beg. Please….” I’ll ask complete strangers because no one needs to personally understand this kind of suffering.
“So, how is Sky?” Heather asked, bringing me back to the moment. “Is she still having a hard time with everything?”
“Actually, no. She’s been doing amazing.”
“That’s awesome. What’s she been up to?”
I thought about my beautiful, vivacious Sky. She’s my rainbow baby. That means she had a sibling who died right before her. And I always thought God sent her down at that exact time to somehow ease the pain. And she was just a ball of blonde-haired, giggly fun. She made it so hard to be anything except happy around her. In fact, I should’ve named her “Joy.”
Anyway, it’s hard to explain what our relationship has gone through the past two years because we’ve been through the fire and definitely come out stronger for it.
Sky moved to Utah her Junior year—smack dab in the middle of my diagnosis, when doctors gave me two years to live. She visited us a few times, but nearly six months later, that’s when things really changed. I remember her look of worry as we played board games and talked about life. “I miss you, Mama,” she said.
“I miss you too!”
And we both cried.
All of my kids have grown up in their own ways and been absolutely exceptional throughout this experience: whether it’s swooping in so I won’t have to do dishes or cleaning hard-to-reach places in the bathroom. Trey and Indy do things “just because” now. And Ruby has ordered and paid for groceries or taken me out on mom-daughter dates more times than I can count.
But Sky has changed in her own ways too. She rearranged her schedule numerous times so she could go with me to treatments. She’s held my hand as the medicine dropped into my veins.
“Every time I have a cold and I want to call in sick to work,” she said one day, “I think about how tough you are—and how you’re sick all the time—and yet you hardly ever call in. You’ve even worked from the hospital room.”
Then she took it a step further and changed her entire schedule so she’d work the same time as me—early mornings. We now had the afternoons alone together. Those are times I will always treasure. Whether we ate fancy cheese and drank bougie coffee, played 31 or SkyJo, watched our millionth documentary, or just waxed poetic, that whole year made my heart warm.
“You…you kids and Mike are like my best friends. I’m so lucky.”
She got a little teary-eyed. “You too, Mama.”
Heather waited, probably wondering why I hadn’t answered her question. “She’s in Montana right now, working for a hotel in Yellowstone. And she’s grown up so much. I’m so proud of her,” I said.
“That sounds amazing. You must miss her though.”
“I do, but the job ends in a few weeks and she’ll be back soon. Plus she’s come to visit, and she sends me these videos every day. They are so cute.” I told her all about Sky’s adventures and the wonderful people—and even animals—she’s encountered.
“Elisa, is this ever hard for you? That you can’t do things you see everyone else doing? I know you wanted to travel. And you loved hiking. Sometimes it makes me sad because we just think things are going better and then you need stronger treatments, more radiation, or even this stupid gallbladder surgery. Everyone loves you so much, but it hurts me thinking of all the things you used to love—but you’ll never be able to do again.”
I had to smile wistfully because my life has changed so much. “I did love those things, but I love it even more seeing the beauty of them through my kids’ eyes and through my family and my friends’ eyes. Sky called me the other day so excited about epiphanies I had at her same age, and I could hardly wait to hear her talk about her renewed love of life or how exciting and new everything is. I love when Ruby calls and talks about a tattoo she’s done. I love hearing Trey and Indy rave about the songs they’re writing together and hoping to someday perform onstage. And I love hearing my friends talk about their travels and how beautiful our world is. I’m living it up—in my own way. Happy just seeing people enjoying it around me, happy that I’m still lucky enough to be part of it. It’s not about what I’m missing; it’s about what God has still allowed me to be part of.”
After I hung up the phone, I clicked on one of Sky’s videos and watched it for the hundredth time. In it, she talks about how much she’s learning and enjoying it up there because she’s taking the most beautiful pictures when she’s not working.
Tears filled my eyes not because I’ve raised the most brilliant or accomplished kids in the world (even though I think I have), but because I’ve raised kids who really get “it”—they understand life. It’s not about what we can gain, accomplish, or conquer. It’s about spreading love and just appreciating the fact that we’re lucky: To. Even. Be. Alive!
I shut my laptop, crawled into bed and ate another bowl of sherbet. Sure I just had surgery yesterday, but that just makes today even brighter because at least today isn’t yesterday. 😉
Pic above: Someone anonymously sent us this mat. I love it!
Pic above: This is just before the gallbladder surgery this Tuesday. I guess cancer treatments killed my gallbladder, but of all the organs for it to kill, that’s the best one! 🤣😅