Y'all already know the less than ideal parts about our 2008. It's no secret that in February, our world came to a grinding standstill when Mandy showed significant disease progression and started chemo.
That? Pretty much SUCKED!
And to be honest, I don't really remember much of February. Or March. By April, I start to have some vague recollections.
So, rather than bemoan the crappy parts, I want to wrap 2008 up in some warm, smooshy Willis goodness.
It's a choice. What you do with your life. It really is. Into everyone's life a little (or sometimes a-whole-freakin-lot) of crap must fall. You can hate it, rage against it, cry about it and scream about it. God knows, I did all of those, and still do. Repeatedly. And often. And at the end of it, I try really hard to find the blessings. Sometimes, I succeed. Others? Yea. Not so much. But, I keep trying.
So, in an effort to teach this to my kids, and myself, I gave everyone in my house an assignment: Write down five good things about 2008. No peeking at your neighbor's paper. It had to be from the individual heart. No external inspiration or paraphrasing allowed.
So, I give you The Willis Top 5. Five good things that we'll remember from 2008. Youngest to oldest:
1) The Children's Center
2) My sleepover birthday party
4) Miss Emily and Miss Lisa
5) Flight Camp
1) I met Nathaniel
2) The Children's Cancer Center
3) I get to spend more time with Daddy
4) Mandy's feeling better
5) Awesome hockey games
1) I redid my room with my own money
2) Discovered vintage hats and used them in the room redo
3) String Camp
4) High school
5) All the people at the Children's Cancer Center
1) That I had my jaw surgery in January and that it alleviated that whole serial-killer-trying-to-escape-my-skull-with-an-ice-pick-via-my-eye-thing.
2) I am going to cheat and get a two-fer on this one....our support "staff." First, the staff at the Children's Cancer Center. The most amazing gift they give is not hockey tickets, it is not weekend getaways, it is not even the unfailing love and support they offer. It is the gift of being able to, if only for a moment, make cancer and all that goes with it not be the foremost thing in our minds. Secondly, the amazing staff at All Children's Tampa Hematology/Oncology clinic. They have taken a wretched, terrifying situation and made my daughter smile, absolutely every time it was even remotely possible. She loves these people, as do I, and for that my thankfulness knows no bounds.
3) The amazing kindness we have been shown over and over in a million different ways by our friends, our family, and people we don't even know personally. It would take me far too long and far too many words to adequately express my thanks for your support and your love and your never ending ability to just be there for us.
4) The gift of slowing down and appreciating every single moment, every single breath, every single smile, every laugh, every hug. I take nothing for granted. I savor every moment. You just never know when it will all change, when life will be turned on it's ear. Relish it.
5) Ronnie, Alannah, Zachary and Mandy. The reason in my life. For just about everything. It just doesn't get more simple than that.
RONNIE (who took the whole 5 bullet points assignment and got a bit wordy with it. But it is sweet and lovely and so it all gets to be on here exactly as he wrote it).
I will confess that I didn’t exactly receive this assignment with great enthusiasm. Frankly, there is not a lot I’d like to remember about 2008, given that it took a turn for the unpleasant on Day 49.
But I am nothing if not loyal and dutiful and responsive to an assignment.
And when forced to reflect (if only for a few minutes — the deadline was pretty tight), the reflection reveals that there were actually many things to treasure about this year.
In no particular order:
THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS and not-so-strangers: Friends, neighbors, area businesses, people we barely know, people we don’t know ... We’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of goodness this year. The list is long and I’d miss my deadline — not to mention a few names — if I was to try to list it all here. You know who you are. “Thank you” isn’t enough, but it’s the best I can do given the constraints of disk space and the English language.
ONE PARTICULAR NAME that I didn’t know before this year is etched near the top of my heart now. Mary Ann Massolio, the executive director of the Children’s Cancer Center, is a bright, bright light illuminating a journey that might otherwise be very dark. She and her staff have taken in our whole family — not just Mandy — as five of their own. My children have learned a lot about how to be good people in the last year, and Mary Ann has been a fabulous example to follow.
I HAD SOME GREAT NIGHTS IN DENMARK with some good friends; a few nights that lasted well into the next morning. It was a tremendous example of the power of music, red wine and friendship, and how that power crosses international boundaries. It was great to do something overseas other than work, and it was great to see real-time examples of another culture going about normal life. I’ve been greatly enriched by my travels in many ways, but none more powerful than getting to just hang out and listen to tunes and have a good time with some good people.
I KEPT MY JOB. Given the state of the economy and the state of the industry in which I work, this is more of an upset than you might think. A lot of people more qualified than me didn’t get through 2008 without a visit from the Career Grim Reaper. It’s been a grim reminder that there are few guarantees in life, and a confirmation of how important it is to give my best to every day.
MY WIFE. This is not an upset; she was also the best thing about 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1993, 1992, 1991, and 1990. Seeing it all written out brings new meaning to it. Realizing that 2008 is just another four digits in a journey that has covered a lot of ground and is about to cover a lot more, well, that gives me everything I need to look forward to four more digits, and four more yet, and four more ...
So, yeah, 2008 is a year I’d rather not repeat. But as it turns out, that doesn’t mean I want to forget.
May your 2009 give you more love than your heart can hold, enough laughter to make your cheeks hurt and a never ending, never failing hope for tomorrow.
Love to all of you from all of us~