Monday, September 20, 2010

Tell Them I Said Yes to Life

For the past week, I’ve been heading to my friend’s house after dinner and giving him a shot. Yup, that’s what I said. And no, I don’t mean I would drive over there and pour him some whiskey. I mean an injection, pharmaceutical-type, legally prescribed by a surgeon.

My friend, Joe, recently had surgery and needed a daily injection of an anti-coagulant. His doctor suggested that this was something easily taken care of at home, if he could find someone comfortable doing it. Having given injections before, and being not at all queasy about needles, I volunteered. I might have more than volunteered. I might have said something about being honored if he would give me the chance to be his care-provider. And that is the truth about how it felt. Joe's been through a lot of health challenges in the past couple years, and I felt fortunate to be able to lighten his emotional load even just a little bit.

And so, each evening for a week, I gave Joe a shot in his leg and then sat on his couch and visited. Each night when I got up to leave, either he or his partner (or both) would thank me and ask, “are you sure it’s not too much?” I’d shake my head in disbelief and reassure him that it was, indeed, nowhere near too much. Bottom line is that I am grateful to have had the chance to help him in this small way. I am grateful to offer him support. That’s what friends are for. When friendship really works, that’s what friends do. They say yes.

There’s a hymn I know, written by Alicia S. Carpenter, which resonates for me. Here is the first stanza:

Just as long as I have breath, I must answer, 'Yes' to life;
though with pain I made my way, still with hope I meet each day.
If they ask what I did well, tell them I said, 'Yes', to life

It’s why I walk and crew in the 3Day for the Cure – because saying “yes to life” is the thing I want to do well. It’s why I work diligently year-round to keep raising money for the fight against breast cancer – because it is how I can meet each day with hope. It is why I believe that helping my friends and family can come before anything else – because saying yes builds connections, and connections are what keep us strong. I say yes because I feel a strong responsibility to do so. I keep saying yes because I can.

Twelve years ago, through a mutual friend, I met Mary Kay. We talked on the phone before we met in person, and right away I felt that I had found someone who was going to be a part of my life forever. When we met face to face, we hugged immediately. I remember the moment clearly. I walked down to meet the boat that she was arriving on. I saw her walking towards me, her arm around a boy who was smiling and laughing with my own son. She looked up and our glances caught one another. I smiled inquiringly towards her and she nodded emphatically and she yelled out loud, “YES! Yes, I am who you are looking for!” It sounds a bit like romantic comedy when I write it that way, but it was just simple heart-filled friendship from the very start. Mary Kay and I had three years as friends before I lost her to breast cancer. But that premonition that I had that she would be part of my life forever? THAT was so very true.

I say yes to life, because Mary Kay isn’t here to do it anymore. Mar said yes to my friendship. She said yes to being a fabulous parent. She even said yes to being a fabulous parent when she became a single parent suddenly when she lost her husband to pancreatic cancer. She said yes when they said she could try to fight her breast cancer. She said yes when the doctors finally said it was time to stop trying. She said yes to planning the lives her children would have to live without her by their sides. She said yes to everything in her life. And when she had to, she said yes to saying goodbye. She said yes, even to the things she didn’t want, but didn’t have a choice about.

Sure, sometimes the fact that I say yes means that I don’t have time to keep my house as clean as I’d like. And sometimes all the yeses I have said mean that I don’t have time to hide in the basement and make a basket. And sometimes all my yeses mean that I don’t get around to writing my blog. But while all those things aren’t happening, and aren’t getting done, something amazing IS getting done. I am saying yes to life. And so, the next time that I am feeling angry and frustrated about something I haven’t gotten done, I promise myself to stop and think about all the things I am getting done. Like giving a friend something he really needed and didn’t really want.