Our Mother Lode

cb5475493ec4a778373255328ab618e2Our family is in the weeds. I am talking the over the head, dense, thorny, and blocking out the daylight kind of weeds. I learned this phrase when I was a child and overheard my chef uncle talk about what happens when the orders pile up more quickly than they can be filled and sent out to the dining room. It is another way to explain chaos.

Resisting the urge to whine and let the root system increase is a challenge. Sitting down to write anything has been a struggle. Grocery lists included. Pages and pages of the sentence “all cancer and no play make the Waters Chicks angry, sad, and afraid” would be a lousy read. It would also be feeding the problem and inviting the weeds to continue to take over the landscape.

In this moment, the only way to temper the sour with sweet, the fear with faith, and the sadness with joy is to share a story about a woman who has done each of those things marvelously, beautifully, and consistently her entire life.

Back story time. My parents divorced when I was pregnant with my first child. My husband and I had just moved back to Florida from Rhode Island when they told us the news. Changes were on the horizon and I wondered how things would play out.

My dad began a new relationship with someone he worked with. When the time came to meet her, I was excited and looked forward to it. My dad seemed happier than I had remembered him being in a very long time. My first impression of Diana was that she was beautiful, kind, gracious, and funny. My dad hit the jackpot. We all got the mother lode.

2892-murphy-graduationI knew very quickly she was one in a million and we have grown very close over the past twenty years. She has been a grandmother to our children, one of our biggest cheerleaders, and a blessing beyond measure in our lives. Whether on the floor playing with the boys, sending notes and cards, or offering encouraging words, she has always been there for us without hesitation.

She is a confidant and a wise woman. I was always impressed with her take on life, spirituality, and her independent spirit. We bonded over being the first born children in our families and could relate, and commiserate, with one another without even saying a word.

Diana was diagnosed with cancer almost two years ago. Her courage and strength has been a shining example to each of us to the power of persistence and remaining positive. From the start, her sense of humor and down to earth nature meshed nicely with our motley crew. There are endless stories and examples detailing her kindness and thoughtfulness.

After her diagnosis she asked us to send any photos of her from our collection. At first we thought she was kidding. She was not. We learned that she was compiling her memorial slideshow. It became a running joke and we happily obliged. She wanted to make sure everything was in order and was determined to make things easier for everyone around her.

There are few people I think more highly of than her. She has always been a take the bull by the horns kind of gal and a great listener. No more so than when I mentioned my fascination with a Squatty Potty I saw on Shark Tank and bought me one for my birthday. Maybe TMI, but every time I see it I smile and remember the look on my dad’s face when he brought it in from his car. Yes it is real. And it works!

In January she attended my Switching Teams book launch while undergoing chemo. She was literally wearing her chemo pump when she made the 3 hour trip. She was the first to order a copy of the book and has lovingly and vigorously supported me on every step of my coming out journey. She was among the few who cheered our relationship and celebrated our love in the beginning. 

Last weekend she was placed in hospice care. Despite all the doctor’s efforts and our barrage of prayers for healing, the cancer spread and she has been enduring unimaginable pain and suffering for the past three months.

There are not enough words to adequately describe what it has meant to have her in my life. Despite not having children of her own, she has become a mom, and friend to me. Her friendship and presence in our family is one of the greatest gifts we have ever received.

Diana is the embodiment of unconditional love. She is strong, courageous, and kind. Always. My wife and I were able to see her this past weekend. It will most likely be the last time we see her. Our hearts are broken but spending precious time with her was something that eased our heartache. Her pain level was increasing as the visit went on. We found out she asked the nurse for half a dose of her pain medication before we arrived because she did not want to be groggy for her guests.

We also had a very serious conversation about Popsicle flavors. I love orange, she does not. We learned she ate an orange one the night before because she did not want to trouble the nurse for something different. This is vintage Di. Considering others when full permission to have anything she wants is on the table.

I am grateful for her example of kindness, love, and faith. At one point she expressed her wish to take on my wife’s breast cancer so she could be cancer free. No words. As she begins the next phase of her journey home, I hope she knows that I am a better person because I know her. I hope she knows that we all are.

During this very emotional time it is hard not to feel heartbroken, sad, and angry. We are a broken, but tough, and will get through this difficult time if we remember the joy, happiness, and love we share with Diana.

In my opinion, a perfect world would have a billion Diana’s in it. We choose to honor her life by doing whatever we can to bring light to the darkness. Do something kind for someone this week or buy a Squatty Potty. In the moments when fear or anger takes hold, feel it, and know you are not alone. Reach out. The love is there for the taking.

4731-book-launchOur family may feel like the weeds are out of control but they will not choke out all of the light. Love is the ultimate weed killer. If you are so inclined, please keep my family, especially my dad, in your thoughts and prayers as we continue to fight the weeds.