When I was playing the waiting game with my diagnosis — the first few weeks of blur… blood work, biopsies, urine specimens, medical history, ultrasounds, mammograms — I was out of my damn mind. Truly.
I was walking around in a state of disbelief and despair. I would want, desperately, to sleep. I was exhausted. I was drained. But every time I would lay down, I’d be so afraid I wouldn’t wake. I truly thought that if I had cancer, and I hadn’t known, that it was going to be the “kind that killed me immediately.” Because I didn’t know that with breast cancer, there aren’t a lot of kinds that actually kill you immediately. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I was wandering. And wondering. What was to come…
I thought, for the first time really ever, about the after life in a way that it would be personal. Like my after life. I don’t know that I’d ever really thought of death in the way that it would be mine some day. I hadn’t thought about it in the way that I would be the ashes from the ashes. I thought about finality of my earthly life. And I was terrified.
It was because I couldn’t picture it. I had always had this picture in my mind of heaven when I was a child. Of clouds. And blue skies. And my parents and grandparents and every single person I adore. And there would be no pain. No sorrow. No bullshit. No worry.
But when I was 33, possibly on the verge of death, I just couldn’t imagine where I was going if it didn’t have my people there. My parents. My friends. The loves of my life. I couldn’t grasp what it would be. How it would feel perfect. Without sorrow. Or pain. If I couldn’t be in the company of the ones that meant the most. How could it be a place of eternal blessing and bliss?
And then I got my diagnosis. And I decided I wasn’t dying. I would just be living differently. And instead, I realized this… I would live heaven on earth as much as life would allow me to.
Treatment was hard. There were weeks where I wondered how I would find earthly bliss. And then, the goodness glimmered through. It shimmered like rays of perfection proving to me that the heaven is found in the simple moments of good. And anytime I felt downtrodden. Any place where I felt like the mountain was too big to move, I was carried. I was carried by friends, family, my husband, my children, my doctors, strangers… prayers, good vibes, positive energy. It. Carried me. Like little bits of God’s grace. Turning into big proof of eternal goodness.
And since, I’ve seen the ocean. I’ve flown amongst the clouds. I’ve floated through the wind. I’ve snuggled up into my husband’s arms. I’ve been mesmerized by the sun’s setting. And grateful for it rising again. I’ve felt my gut full of laughter. I’ve been obsessed with the tiny expressions from my tiny people. I’ve felt my dad’s heart beating next to mine in a hug. I’ve eaten my mom’s soul food. I’ve been my 100% true self with my sister. I’ve smiled at the love of strangers. And I’ve sat, cup of coffee in hand, chilly morning breeze, surrounded by friendship, and known that in my pain, I found healing. Not just from cancer. But from a life filled with worry. Not just from a tumor. But from letting impermanent things weigh me down. Not just from sickness. But from the need to be anyone I’m not. I have found that little glimpse into heaven on earth. And I have a lot less questions about what comes next.
In knowing that there can be such heaven in an imperfect place, I’ve realized that the truth in the after is going to be far more than my heart could ever fathom. And that it’s something God will take care of for me. So there’s no need to sweat it in the meantime.
Instead, we are meant to live the richest life we can in the short amount of time we have, I believe. We are meant to connect. Love. Be vulnerable. Be kind. Be authentic. Find ways to find joy. Live and relish the positive things that come to you. And know what an immeasurable blessing those things are. And the bad parts. The sad parts. The hard parts. The painful parts. Those are only temporary And that when we get to where we’re going, we may not see all the others we hold so dear but we will be made up of pieces of each person’s hearts and we will hold them with us while we wait.
It is in the act of true living that we gain life. It is in the act of giving that we get. It is in the small moments that we find the big purpose. And while I have no intention of getting to that after part any day soon, I believe I have more confidence now that when I get to where I am going, it will all be good.