Can There be Joy in so Much Suffering?

We all know there are many different seasons to life. There are the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Each brings it’s own challenges and often time with the more blessings you have, the larger your stress load can become. When a mother first brings her baby home from the hospital they are filled with immense joy, but eventually the worry begins; whether it be over finances, going back to work, balancing your relationships, etc.  And so is the cycle of life.  Even the most joyous moments can bring suffering.  So in turn, can the seasons of suffering have moments of Joy?  I would argue yes.

On October 20th, 2016 suffering rode into my life on a dark horse with a vengeance.  My mother had been cancer free for over ten years and it seemed almost a lifetime ago when we fought and won that battle. We were all so much younger then and virgins to the cancer world. We were full of hope and determination. In this third week of October just last Fall, we learned the cancer was back.  Right off the bat, I knew this battle would be different. It would be longer, harder and much more intense. Time stood still as we waited for all the results to pour in.  We eventually learned, mom would have a mastectomy, reconstruction and then chemotherapy for 20 weeks.

For some people reading this, it may be heart breaking news.  For others, they have been through so much more they probably wish this was the story of their struggle instead of the burden they carry. To describe my mom as the glue that holds our entire family together would be an epic understatement. She has helped raise my kids, been a guide through my marriage, been an ethical compass and so much more. My parents have been married over 40 years and to say my dad adores my mom wouldn’t begin to shed the light on how much he cherishes her. So when the cancer diagnosis hit, we all fell to our knees. It seemed so unfair…to us all. Telling my children their “Mi-Ma” would no longer be able to watch them mid-week was heart wrenching as their little brains tried to absorb such an abstract concept known to the common world as Cancer.

We all suffered in silence for a very long time.  It took us months to tell our extended family and even longer to tell our friends. Looking back now I can’t really say why we didn’t want to make those phone calls. Maybe we wanted our loved ones to continue living, instead of pausing life or worrying or asking us how we are doing. Maybe telling them made it all that more real and undeniable. I do know one thing, once we started to let people in, we were all amazed at how encouraged people were by our story. They were encouraged by our love, our commitment, our continued kindness and grace to others during this immense suffering. We chose to find joy in our pain and to really make sure each of us knew how loved we are. We made it a priority to speak to one another every single day, to laugh in every moment. I have never lived so raw and so exposed within my family than I have in the past seven months. In hindsight, we wouldn’t have spent the first weeks struggle alone seeing now how we could have been the light to help others out of their suffering.

A few weeks back we received another blow.  All of my mom’s reconstructive surgery had to be undone and radiation would begin.  Six long weeks, five days a week. Seriously!? About six weeks prior to this news and the completion of her chemotherapy, we inadvertently stopped living. Instead, we counted down the treatments until life would begin again. As we looked toward the light at the end of our tunnel, we were sure life would start again. What we hadn’t realized is while we stared off, focusing only on the distance, we each had actually dug a hole that just got deeper and deeper and now we had to find the strength to climb out of it. Fortunately we realized to stop living and to just wait for this part of our journey to end was a huge mistake.   We are even more grateful we came to this harsh reality before receiving the news about the radiation treatment. Slowly but surely we are getting back to life. You can bet it looks different than it did before Cancer invited itself back into our lives but it is still filled with grace, kindness, compassion and love.

Over the last few weeks, the real estate world has been full of some really amazing people that have surrounded us with grace and love. Did those specific clients know about my mother? No. Were they extra understanding because of the situation we are going through? Nope. At the end of the day, those particular people are just KIND people. Unfortunately, there were an equal number of clients who weren’t so loving. Some of their actions were so out of line, so brazen and ridiculous that I literally found myself removing all sense of emotion and simply compartmentalizing their behavior, their comments, their disregard. At first I was tempted to justify their actions, often telling myself, “I am sure there is more to the story. They must be going through a hard time.” But then DeAnna reminded me…. With all the suffering I am experiencing while watching my mother suffer and seeing what my children and father are going through, I still spread kindness, acting with love and respect.  Is there really a good excuse out there for treating someone with disrespect and anger? There sure isn’t.

Find Joy. Make it a priority. It doesn’t cost one red cent to be kind to someone. Bless those around you. It will mean the world to them and will cost you nothing. If you are struggling, reach out.