Not just a four-letter word
Love - a four-letter word. A term of endearment and affection. A verb. An elusive concept. An everyday, mundane term used to express preference: ‘I love ice-cream,’ or ‘I love coffee.’
For many, love is a romantic fantasy that will fulfil our deepest longings and yearnings, making our dreams come true and bringing forever happiness. It is the fairy godmother of words intended to make the world a wonderful place.
As the saying goes…‘Love will conquer all!’
My experience of love, however, took me by surprise - not conforming to any traditional definition or cliched expression. It is a version so overwhelming and humbling, that years will not erase its memory, significance or impact.
It began on the morning of the 4th October 1996, weighing in at a mere 2.95kg. Her name was Laura Nicole; a tiny little bundle of pink softness, sweetness and utter dependence. This particular love’s journey ended on the 30th December 2004, when she breathed her last living breath at the tender age of eight.
That eight year journey began with the typical road of motherhood until a medical diagnosis changed plans - upending family life. For 14 months, words such as ‘cancer,’ ‘tumour markers’, ‘chemotherapy’ and ‘radiation’ became a familiar part of our everyday vocabulary and language. A Paediatric Oncology ward became our ‘home away from home,’ and our new normal. Weekly routines involved scrutinising blood results and being grateful for blood donors and bandannas.
This is the soil wherein a very special form of love grew and blossomed.
A love so unique, no dictionary definition could do it justice. A love so special, words lack the mere ability to articulate it . Only the experience of it could be understood.
How do I begin to describe it, except by saying that this love was illustrated in the simple trust a little girl placed in me, her mom. In living a childhood cancer diagnosis on the front lines, she knew that I would be the one to bear the burden of bad news and that I would do the worrying so that she could just carry on being a little girl and living her life with an enthusiasm and delight that mocked the disease attacking her little body and the poison seeking to fight it.
At one point, she even remarked that if Dr Charmaine, her oncologist, had bad news, she must say it in Afrikaans, (as then she would not understand, but she knew I would).
This tender trust blew me away.
A conversation one afternoon: ‘Mom, I am so glad you are with me, because Dad wouldn't know what to do.’ (Her logic was clear: Dads fix things and she knew Dad couldn’t fix her sickness).
This simple love took my breath away.
This is what made being a mom worthwhile. This love and trust that was placed in me was such a rare and special gift, it still radiates in the innermost part of my being.
That innocent and dependent love of a child towards her mother can only be compared with the indescribable love of my heart towards my child. I would have taken her place in an instant if I could. I would have laid down my life for her without blinking.
Through Laura’s love of me, she had the unique ability to make me feel like the best mom in the world. It was as natural as breathing to her.
Red carpets and crowns could never compare with this honour.
Not because I deserved it, or had done anything exceptional to earn it. Just because I was her mom - and that was enough.
This has resulted in me realising that love cannot be defined by words.
It has no boundaries or parameters. It is unpredictable and surprising and can be found in the strangest of places and the saddest of circumstances. It is dynamic. It cannot be manufactured, and the experience of it leaves you stronger and extremely grateful, even in moments of brokenness.
Laura is no longer with us. But her bravery and love has left me with a glimpse of eternity and a humble acceptance that love is found in vulnerability and in relationships. It cannot be forgotten and it will completely change you.
So, these three remain; faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is a four-letter word called LOVE.
If you are a mom whose child has been diagnosed with cancer, or if you know a mom whose child has been diagnosed with cancer, then these following two blogs might be helpful and encouraging:
I sent a personal letter to a mom whose teenage son had just been diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. I dod not know this mom well, but I did know, in some part, what she was going through and how a mom's world changes when her child is diagnosed with cancer.
This blog is a slight digression from my usual blogposts, but I hope it will encourage your hearts and equip you to practically and sensitively walk a road with parents whose children have been diagnosed with cancer. We as a family have walked this dark road. Many walked it with us. It changed us and it changed them. This is part of our story. We cannot change that.