On this last day of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I just want to remind you that it is not just about one month but about one life, one family, one community, and one world at a time.
I still believe there is a cure out there but in the meantime there are things you can do to help yourself and your loved ones fight against a disease that robs so many families of the caregivers. Early detection is key. Get them Smash-A-Grams, do your monthly feels, and have honest conversations with your doctor.
I was out in the Carytown area yesterday. One of the worst places to be when you know that you can’t have solid food for 36 hours before a medical test. But I was looking to pick up my last meal for a few days and wanted something special.
However my husband and I ran across homeless people near the trash cans of so many of these trendy restaurants . I began to weep when I saw them because this is America….the land of excess…and yet so many are living like this. Carytown flows with cash. Most times I can afford nothing there. It was heartbreaking seeing people of all ages and colors hoping for some wasteful person’s scraps.
This situation is only exasperated by Covid closing so many churches and shelter resources. It is also created by a ” I got mine. You get yours” attitude so many financially secure people have.
We don’t have a lot in our house but we are blessed. My husband and pooled what we had and bought as many sandwiches and fries we could handle. Thank you to the Carytown McDonald’s for asking what we were doing and donating a matching amount of bottled water.
I was shook so much by one married couple out on the corner with what seemed to be all of their possessions huddled against the cold. I freaked when I noticed a baby stroller but was relieved to find it was a very old dog wrapped in a blanket. I’m not a pet lover but I had to feed it. The poor thing was so tired looking he barely lifted his head at the smell of food. The young husband was so grateful he started to cry.
In the age of Covid you can’t touch, get too close or even see smiles anymore. But I was struck by all the emotions in his eyes and they spoke the volume of the problems in the human experience. His eyes were a golden brown color that I have never seen before and pierced right through me as a reminder to be grateful in all things. Even under the dirt and behind a make shift mask his face glowed.
I also noticed that they still wore their wedding bands. Tells me that they have not been out there too long. Most folks would have pawned for a room. Also tells me that they are determined to stay a family.
My husband and I made one last pass thru the street to make sure we hadn’t missed anybody we saw. Thought I had gone crazy because the couple and that old dog were suddenly gone. No way they could have moved that fast. We had just circled the block.
All I can do is wonder if we had been visited and tested. I pray we passed. My own food is still in the fridge. No need for it. My heart filled me.
Knowing full well that I have to be ready for work in 4 short hours, I am changing the flower pot holding a certain plant on my dining room table.
Honestly, I can’t even tell you what kind of plant she is. All I know is that when I acquired her the tag said “low maintenance.” She ( I determined that because it was far too pretty to be otherwise) was an impulse purchase made immediately after I had been diagnosed with cancer.
“I want life in this house. Something that grows!” That is was I screamed at my husband when he questioned my purchase. He was right to be puzzled because my green thumb was notoriously lacking. Not even faux plants were safe from me.
But this one said “low maintenance.” I knew she would not fail me. I needed that in my life knowing that my world was about to change. All I had to do was water, feed, turn some light on her. I would sing around her and we would both be alright.
Fast forward. Just about 15 months later. The hard part is done. Surgery, chemo, radiation over. Hair growing back. Returning to more life as Michelle and less as a patient. Busy, busy, busy.
I’m doing pretty good. Her? Not so much. This morning I could practically hear her crying. Missing some leaves. Some turning yellow. Not growing anymore.
I wanted to give excuses. I wanted to blame Her for not living up to the guarantee. I swore I had not changed a thing. I was still doing my regular routine care of Her.
Or was I?
Was it this Sunday or last? Had my every Sunday morning ritual of loving on Her become less regular? When was the last time I added plant food. Did I forget that She was not a cactus?
I realized from feeling around her soil that water was not this issue. Her position near the light was giving Her the proper hours each day.
Her roots were exposing but She was dying. I realized She was not growing, changing, and evolving because she had no room to. The normal processes of day to day without the promise to expand space had choked the life from Her. Literally.
Routine care was killing Her.
Her, was teaching me a lesson. Daring me not to return to my “low maintenance” life from before cancer. Her yellowing leaves were weeping begging me to remember to not just breathe but to live.
And then I began to weep.
A few days ago, I lost a beautiful friend. Not to cancer but to a stupid flu bug. I begin to think of her as that neglected plant. Loving, caring, giving her all to make the lives of others beautiful. But not requiring much in return.
Too young to die, but who had convinced herself she was too old to try new things.
She was an awesome cook who dreamed of catering, but was stuck at a desk job. After many years, she got caught in a company downsizing. I tried to make her see it as an opportunity to finally make use of that awesome kitchen. I even bought her a chef’s hat with her name monogrammed on it, hoping to it motivate her. I never saw her wear it outside of the day I gave it to her at the office.
So I am still weeping at this awful hour with dirt under my fingernails. Heartbroken at the thought of what could have been if she had just re-repotted.
Now don’t get me wrong. She had a beautiful life. She had an amazing soul. Her love was beyond compare. But I always could feel her holding back what was truly inside. She gave herself routine care with no room to expand.
Then I begin to think of the others I lost during the past 15 months. To the ravishing of cancer clinical and otherwise. Where might they have wanted their roots to go? How tall did they want to be?
I realized that their memories were speaking to me through the plant I am fighting to save.
Fight to grow! Everyday! Don’t accept a low maintenance condition when you are born to reach for light. Don’t let the routine “have to” things keep you from being as green as you can possibly be. Don’t let any disappointment, disability or person impede the life you were born to live.
So, now I am completing this task with love. I will probably have the smell of fresh potting soil in my nose all day. I should have worn gloves to keep me from having any dirt under my nails when I go to work.
But it’s okay. It will be a reminder that I am meant to grow to a bigger pot. Doing my work …but chasing my dreams!!!
In memory of Michelle Rodgers Baber. The most beautiful flower transplanted to Heaven on January 17, 2020. “See ya later, Darling.”