Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Who taught you the most?

When you get to the end of your life and realize you're tied to the tracks... (Not just you, all of us really...) When you get there, some of you could be unfortunate like I am, and you might actually see the train coming. In that situation, it's impossible to ignore your situation. How many seconds do you have? At 80 mph, what will the moments right before impact feel like? 

Everything gets too fast for words at first, and then, it slows to this incredibly odd reversal. 

"Who was it?" the grief counselor asked me in front of our terminal cancer group.

"Excuse me, but can you repeat the full question?" I asked. "This is some heavy stuff, and I got lost."

"Looking back at your life, who's the person who taught you the very most?"

"I'm sorry," I paused, thinking really hard, "but I can't narrow it down. I really don't know."

Other group members readily answered, eager to show off and relay stories of the people who had changed their lives. I heard about piano teachers and basketball coaches. A woman talked about her boss, and a man spoke about a doctor at the cancer center. I envied them. How could they narrow it down with such absolute surety? 

Yet, even after the meeting, that question plagued me. In fact, it's been months since the counselor asked this, and I've thought about it often.

I didn't find the answer until a couple of weeks ago when I talked with my brother on the phone. I cried and laughed. We discussed all sorts of things, from my ongoing fight against terminal cancer to a book we'd both read. We jumped from topic to topic never losing pace, and—like I do so often with Shane—when I hung up the phone, we were both laughing pretty hard. 

Yes, I'm tied to the tracks, and since doctors have told me cancer will kill me, I do see the train coming. It's a superpower in some ways because it makes thoughts extremely reflective and powerful. And as I sat on my porch, enjoying the fall weather, I thought about all of the things my brother has done for me. He's nine years older but still took time out of his busy school schedule to hang out with me. As a kid, when I did anything even remotely impressive—to me—I wanted Shane to know, so he'd be proud. He read books to me; played hacky sack, tether ball, and card games; helped me with homework; and always saw the best in me.

When I grew up, he encouraged me to go back to school, and I somehow found the strength even as a single mom. And later, when someone said terrible things to me, I battled depression. I sat on my bed one day, sinking into those words... thinking he was right, and suddenly I thought of my brother. Some of his words surfaced to me, making me feel worth something. Even when he wasn't talking to me or physically there, his kindness knows no bounds.

It's such an incredible gift to look back at my life and realize the person who taught me the most wasn't a piano teacher, a basketball coach, a boss, or a doctor. The person who believed in me despite reason and always saw the good even when it was dimmed, that person is my brother. He taught me to stay strong when I feel weak, to keep going when life is hard, and to fight like hell even when doctors have said I'm dying.

Life is such an odd thing. Yes, we all have certain constraints: We're all born, and we will all die. But I'm just trying to find peace while I'm still somewhere in the middle. 

I'm grateful for the people in my life who made me feel like I mattered, especially when they're as exceptional as my brother. I'm so fortunate God let me be in his life. Maybe God knew I'd have hard experiences, and I needed someone extraordinary to help me along the way. Despite terminal cancer, hardships, and pain, I am the luckiest.

Love you so much, Shane! Happy 50th birthday!

Picture below: Shane, pushing me in my wheelchair 💓


  1. I would love to push you in your wheel chair

  2. What a beautiful person you have had in your life all these years. A true gift are those people in our life that care about us and want the best for us. Your brother is one of them that has been there since your beginning. Along the way you have cultivated a spouse, kiddos, and friends that see who you are. A bright light that shines even during the darkness. Bless you for sharing your experiences and kindness. We need more examples like you in the world ❤️‍🩹🫶❤️‍🩹