You know when you watch a movie or read something that really resonates? The one that you’re still thinking about the next morning?
I came across something like that last night. I checked my breastcancer.org message board – I only check it every once in a while these days since my favorite, Erin, died. A post caught my eye… a link for a blog called “Punk Rock Mommy.” I started reading and couldn’t stop.
It made me laugh and cry and the sense of identity was so strong. Andrea, the “punk rock mommy, and I couldn’t be more different on the surface. She has multiple tattoos and piercings, 6 kids, and is all into music… yep, you guessed it, punk rock music. I have pierced ears (and didn’t have those prior to Oct-2007), one tiny tattoo that barely counts and that I regret, no kids, and I usually find music annoying.
But I felt such a pull to keep reading and such a sadness that she’s gone. But also thankfulness that she shared in an open online journal where I could happen upon her three weeks after she died. Her writing is real – honest and open. It made me want to stand and applaud.
She never denied her mortality… at least not to any great extent. She was open with her children, explaining that their mama was going to have to leave them earlier than they had planned. And then they spent the next months getting ready as a family – preparing letters and birthday cards for each of them, consciously saying goodbye and acknowledging that each holiday, birthday, and occasion could very possibly be her last. But she did it in a very non-morbid way, without self-pity or fanfare. Reading her thoughts, her interviews with the local paper, even her last post that she wrote to be published only after her death, I realized that she didn’t fear death, or see it as the enemy.
Here’s a quote from one of her interviews. In these isolated examples, her cheer may seem empty or hollow; but if you read the entire year, you realize that no, this is just who she is:
She laughed often throughout the interview. And when I commented on that, she told me she had nothing to be unhappy about. “Not only am I blessed with so much beauty in my life, I have deep faith that gives me peace with the person I’ve become and the life I have.”
When I asked whether she had any further thoughts to share with those reading this column, she thought for a minute and said: “Don’t ever allow your circumstances or your situation dictate your happiness.” And then she laughed.
Of course, if I’m completely truthful with myself, I know that perhaps we didn’t allow Mama to be honest. When she would talk about dying, we shushed her and talked about the importance of positive thoughts. Now, looking back, I realize that perhaps Andrea’s method might have been better. Maybe. It’s hard to say. And of course, Andrea had IBC (inflammatory breast cancer), which is very rare and results in almost certain death. Mama, on the other hand, had triple negative invasive ductal carcinoma… still rare, but with a survival rate high enough to give us hope.
Hope. Andrea had something to say about “hope” too…. here’s another quote from an interview:
Andrea has no hope. She said hope was about expecting something from the universe and people rarely get what they want. Instead, they get what they get. “Ultimately, we need to be open to whatever happens to us and believe that is what we are supposed to have.”
Now this may seem negative at first glance. But if you think about it, she’s saying that hope = expectations. And expectation is entitlement… feeling that you’ve earned or deserve or should be given a certain thing. So she’s suggesting “accept” instead of “expect.”
I actually felt my fear lessen as I read her thoughts. I’ve been operating in a state of subdued terror – terror that I can’t get pregnant, terror that it’s better if I don’t because I’ll just die anyway, terror that I continue the legacy of motherless daughters. But reading Andrea’s journal, I realized that it’s a choice… I can choose to fight furiously and hope and hope and hope. Or I can be realistically positive, and Bobby, our children, and I can work through the grieving process together.
Just a thought… I lay awake for the longest time last night just thinking and thinking about Andrea’s choices compared to Mama’s choices, and how they affected those that are left behind. If you feel an urge, check it out sometime… her journal is at www.punkrockmommy.org.