There has been a lovely wedding in our family. Three beautiful people – a mother, a father and a little son – were married in a park overlooking the sea. It was gentle and joyful, reflecting the nature of this family, and the love they all bring to us. There was a summer storm the night before, and it refreshed the air and the grass, leaving sparkling leaves and soft clouds in its wake.
There were not many dry eyes when big ones Archie and Edie led the way, and George walked Rachel down the slope to Steven waiting in the gazebo that stood at the edge of the beach. It was at the end of chemo #1 for George, after a bumpy few weeks, and the doctors stopped it early so he could be well for the big event. Seeing him proudly walking his daughter was just the outcome that everyone was hoping for – George most of all.
After the champagne and cake, and when a TigerAir drama had been circumvented by extra airline tickets to Bali being purchased (in the hope of later recompense), the three set off for their honeymoon.
Four year old Ben had been a bit afraid of the water and swimming, so we sent him away with a wedding present of a little flotation vest to use in the pool. (This was mainly to reassure a certain grandma that he would be safe in the very attractive but unfenced pool in the accommodation brochure – too many years of OH&S training as a teacher, I suspect.)
You don’t normally send your parents emails from your honeymoon, but when you need updates on your dad’s health, you are allowed some flexibility in the rules.
So email one told us that Ben had learned to float. He has a wonderful way of expressing himself that can show you all sorts of levels of meaning, if you listen to his words and ponder their richness. This time he said to his mum with great satisfaction “Now I am a person who can float.”
I wonder what those words hint at – was he despairing that he ever would be able to float, did he long to be able to, did he watch other kids do it and wonder why he couldn’t be one of them, does he love the feeling of trusting the water, does he feel as if he has graduated into a new ability level in life? The satisfaction with his expanded identity, and his ability to recognise it, gladdened my heart. It calls to mind the three-fold wisdom of our nature: being, consciousness and joy. Or as I have heard it said, the Hindu scriptures express this as existence, knowledge and bliss.
When you want a second update on your dad’s health, why not add a video clip to your email? The clip shows that Ben has already integrated this new ability into his self-concept, and is now demonstrating both his new ‘doggy paddle’ and comparing it to his ‘old-fashioned paddling’ – I presume this refers to his former style that was pretty well a lot of thrashing around in the water.
Well, Ben, for the grown-ups our life lessons have been pretty similar as we learn to cope with the ups and downs, the unpredictability of life with leukaemia, the lessons and skills we need for chemo, for adjustment, for absorbing new knowledge about ourselves and our life stages. Like you we are surrounded and supported by love, and we are moving from thrashing around to some smoother sort of integration.
Once again I won’t speak for George – his journey is not mine, nor is mine his. We are anchored in each other’s love, and for me, this is the grace where I take off my shoes. Sacred time, sacred place.
In fact, this grandma can say that like you, Ben, now I am feeling like a person who can float. Like you, that makes me very happy.