by Wendy Touchette
The email link to your January blog post sat in my inbox for many weeks. I have struggled with what to respond, how to respond or even whether I should respond. As I finally reply, although my words may not be quite as elegant or humorous as yours are in your blog posts, I hope my words can be honest and heartfelt and maybe give you food for thought.
Although I am a mom and went through my own cancer journey five years ago, I can only begin to imagine myself in your shoes right now. However, having been a child who lost her mom to cancer many moons ago, I hope sharing a little of my memories and experiences might be helpful to you in some way. I was 4 and my sister was 7 when my mom was diagnosed. To be honest, I have few memories of her illness and subsequent surgical and chemo treatments. It was 1975, cancer treatments were limited (especially in western mass), and people were honestly afraid to talk about it too much. Despite her fight, she lost her battle in the February 1976 at the age of 26. My dad was 29; I was 5; my sister was 7.
Over the years, a menagerie of family – grandparents, great grandparents, aunts and cousins – provided a great deal of love, care and support for us, especially helpful to my dad as he navigated raising daughters on his own. Early on, most people did not share many stories about my mom with me. The exception was great grandma Benoit, whose house was my home away from home on many weekends. I treasured those stories that supplemented and brightened my own limited memory of the short time with my mom in my life. My sister, though only a few years older, had many more and vivid memories and stories of her time with mom. As I grew older, I became more bold and asked questions and requested stories about my mom from those who knew her best. I think they were sometimes afraid that somehow talking about my mom would make me sad. How silly – I craved these stories and loved hearing about the woman who gave me life. I was grateful to everyone who shared.
With the high expectations of dad and family, my sister and I excelled in school and were the first in our extended family to graduate college. But even beyond the academic accomplishments, my sister and I have both grown up to be very level-headed, independent, mature and responsible people. I attribute that to our experiences growing up, including the loss of our mom. Even now, although we are very different people, my sister and I share a very special bond that will never be broken.
You asked “was it worth it” and responded yes, because you had kids. While everyone’s life’s journey is a different experience of people, places, events and circumstances, please know your kids lives are made infinitely richer by the memories that you are giving them and these experiences can be influential in a way that makes them stronger individuals as they grow. I can only hope that your family celebrates your life with your kids not only while you are here on earth, but through stories and memories for their entire lives.