“We been fighting for all the wrong stuff
We better fight to stay in love.”~ Tanya Stephens.
I went on a trip to Jamaica one year, the kind of trip where you don’t do any of the touristy things, yet you do those things which the average person who lives on the island doesn’t do. I was lucky enough to be able to get lost in the rural hinterland, up in the cool hills, where the morning mist hangs low over coffee bushes, and birds zip from flower to flower. The kind of place surrounded by ridges, so that you don’t see the sun for a good few hours after it actually rises. The kind of place where you hang out of the window, feel the dew on your face, smell a distant wood fire burning, and listen to the calls of a rooster here and there, a baby crying, an adult calling, a footfall through the bush. And think to yourself: “Every moment perfect.”
Driving out from that country village, you head for nowhere in particular, passing through towns with a country market on display, primary colors of fruit and vegetables competing with the primary colors of clothes and hats and flags. Noisy trucks blaring their horns while noisy boomboxes provide a thump, thump, thump of a chest pounding bass line. Reggae everywhere. Smiles and laughter everywhere. Smells of good food cooking everywhere; that fresh baked bread smell; that Saturday beef soup smell; that good-to-be-alive smell.
Leaving the busy market town, we headed along the backbone of the island and I had to stop for a while, to stand and gaze out at the flowing line of ridge after ridge disappearing westwards. In the foreground were carefully tended yam hills; in the distance you could see tips of bamboo groves. I just stood and soaked and drank it all in. I was joined by a dread, a Rastafarian who wanted to make sure I was ok (white woman standing at the side of the road, looking lost, I suppose). ‘Yes, man,’ I told him, ‘mi jus a look’ (I’m just looking). Nonplussed, he looked outward and could not imagine what it was I saw, the beauty was an everyday thing to him.
Today I write in tribute of a woman I never met. She was my sister’s best friend, and we met only through our writing. My sister had given her a copy of my book, and she had sent me a kind note acknowledging the gift. She was a brave woman, one who was a true warrior as she battled ovarian cancer. She fought it with the prescribed treatment, with alternative medicine, with a combination of the two, but most of all she fought it with the resilience of her spirit, her refusal to accept a death sentence.
Over the years she shared her story in a blog, and soon connected with a network of similar souls, mostly women who were also struggling with a disease that could be disfiguring, painful, with many symptoms, and often a very poor prognosis. But the theme of all Trish’s writing was positivity, a belief in what was possible, and most of all, an appreciation for all that was beautiful in her life. Not only did she provide encouragement and support, she provided tips, shared resources, put people in touch with others who could help in some way. Ovarian cancer is particularly dreadful, because often the diagnosis is not made until the disease is advanced. Early symptoms are vague (bloating, generalized abdominal discomfort) and mimic regular female symptoms. Her posts also helped to raise awareness and provided education.
When Trish went on a trip, she shared photos of those beautiful places that restored her soul. She wrote her posts with a sense of humor, so that even when tragedy struck, or symptoms threatened to overwhelm her, she found a way to make light of the situation, to keep us entertained.
When she reported on her low days, it was in a way to explain her absence from her online world, not to seek pity. In one of her last posts she described seeking treatment for a new symptom, and standing up for herself (advocacy), not permitting the doctors to perform a test which could have further damaged her kidney. Ever the brave warrior, she knew enough about her condition and her body to be her own best spokesperson, she maintained her independence.
I know I have not been able to capture even one tenth of the spirit of Trish. It is not always easy to ‘know’ someone from a facebook page, or a blog. But her spirit was so indefatigable that her family were comforted even as she drifted away. Her daughter told her she was still waiting on a miracle. “This is the miracle” her mother told her.
This week we celebrate National Nurses’ Week. On Sunday, we celebrate Mother’s Day. On Wednesday we celebrated Teacher Appreciation Day. I would like to humbly thank and celebrate all of the patients, children and students that have made it possible for me to be each one of those categories celebrated above. For I have learned more from my patients than I ever learnt in the classroom. I learned to be a mother by having children. And every day in the classroom I learn how to be a teacher.
The poet Khalil Gibran wrote: “I have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet, strange, I am ungrateful to those teachers.” We may not like the form in which many of our lessons come, and often it is only in hindsight that we can truly appreciate how much we have grown.
This Friday morning, whether you are on the receiving end or giving end of accolades and thanks, I hope you recognize that we alone have the power to make each moment perfect. We can only see the beauty in the mundane if we open our eyes to it. We can only see the lesson if our minds are ready to receive. We can only truly feel love if we allow ourselves to love.
Have a wonderful weekend, Family!