Flashes of Hope

William Erkkila 003

One of the greatest silver linings in our current fight against leukemia is the abundance of volunteer and charity organizations that love in tangible ways. One of my very favorite is a group of photographers who volunteer their time and resources to give patients pictures of their fight. These are “Flashes of Hope” that we can look back on as sacred stones, battlefield markers and sadly, sometimes the last pictures of our warriors before they are gone.

On one unexpected Friday, there was a knock on the door. Flashes of Hope had taken over the family room to make a temporary photo-shoot area. It was our opportunity.

I was tired. I had forgotten a hairdryer. Will had a low ANC and had fussed all morning. It was actually the perfect time for pictures…because we were in the middle of exactly what fighting for your life is all about. Hope is also about finding the joy and the laughter in what is to come. In the midst of the darkness, there are Flashes of Hope.

William Erkkila 005   A time to just stick out your tongue at life.

William Erkkila 007  A time to look up and ponder. 

William Erkkila 011     A time to hold those close to you and smile.

William Erkkila 015 A time to sit back and revel in the beauty of a true hero at war.

William Erkkila 018   A time to look out at others.

William Erkkila 021  A time to SMOOCH until everyone is laughing!

William Erkkila 025 A time to just laugh from down in the toes all the way to your eyes.

William Erkkila 8x10 002     A time to celebrate a life more abundant and true love.

Sometimes I am so anxious for this all to be “over” and to get on to the next stage that I want to push past this. I don’t want pictures of how tired I look or how sick William gets. Then again, I want to be able to look back at what made us and couldn’t break us. I want proof of what faith is strengthened by. Behind all the junk and how bad we felt on this day, William the Conqueror and I look joyful, full of life, and hopeful. I am thankful that is what was captured in the Flash of Hope.

**Flashes of Hope can be contacted at 6009 Landerhaven Dr, Suite 1 Mayfield Heights, OH 44124

Please send business their way!

IMPORTANT: I can send you copies of the photo but they can NOT be copied or used for anything other than my personal pages and use. DO NOT take them! Ill get them to you if you want them and for Heaven’s sake, don’t use it on anything for commercial profit or I’ll have to hurt you. Thanks.

Crazy Talk: Episode 346

If you’ve followed the blog for a while, you know about my superpower to attract “interesting” conversations. Those with the gift of gab, particularly inappropriate comments are drawn to me. My undefinable quality is the neon bug-zapper that beckons the big-mouthed moths.

Note past episodes from the grocery store,https://laughmoreabundant.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/grocery-shopping-and-stranger-danger/ or at a wedding in which a stranger predicted the gender of my child while copping a feel. https://laughmoreabundant.wordpress.com/2012/08/09/crazier-than-patsy-cline/

Join me for today’s episode. It was 10am and I had enjoyed a nice walk from the parking garage to the hospital lobby, which is lined with comfortable blue chairs, large plants and artwork. As I walked past one window, I caught sight of a man in a suit just sitting down under a very large potted palm tree. “I’m going to just pretend I’m at the beach” he said aloud.
awkward conversation starters
This comment was said to the “Conversational Bermuda Triangle”. This is when a comment is spoken at no one in particular, but clearly loud enough for one to hear and in a person’s general direction. This is usually when someone is in transit but in close proximity.

Startled because the man was only about 3 feet away, I looked over at him as he continued. “It’s a concrete beach, but it will do.” Okay. “It worked for Jimmy Buffet” I replied, starting to edge away. Too late. He jumped up out of his chair. I sized the man up. The man was in his mid 40s, Caucasian, starting to gray and in a middle-of-the-line quality black suit. Then I spotted a white badge that read, “Admin”. He was early for an appointment. Oh boy.

“What are you here for?” he asked in a friendly manner.

I pulled no punches. I now wonder what he would have said if I had said something crass like, “For a pap smear” or for some terrible boils on my feet. Oh well.

“I have a two year old with leukemia upstairs.”
Instantly, sorrow spread over his face. “Oh, I am so sorry you have to be here for that.” I told him William the Conqueror is beating AML and then changed the subject.
“What are YOU here for today?”

“Oh, I sell drugs.” he said, flippantly.
I smiled. “Oh, really. Hm.”
“Yes, I sell drugs from my car” he smirked.
Okay then.

“You might be careful saying something like that around here.” I warned.
“Oh, my pastor loves that joke. I sell drugs for cancers, two for lung and one for stomach specifically.”

Maybe I’ve lived in military towns too long, but I can assure you that if this man tried to sell drugs out of his car it would go badly for all involved.
“Well, in this area you might be careful. There actually are a lot of people who sell drugs out of cars.” I answered. These days I find that people who joke about something they don’t live around just seem ridiculous.
gangster
He said that he would pray for William, which I appreciate, and then he quickly sat back in his chair as if I was the crazy one keeping the conversation going. I bolted.

Weirdos, Man. Yes, I could have rolled my eyes and kept walking but let’s not blame the victim, here! At least I am learning to tell people that their comments didn’t fly and make them feel uncomfortable back.

Even the nurses are starting to notice that people like to talk to me about their family issues and medical procedures. Clearly I need to work on my balance between being aware of my surroundings and staying out of conversational proximity.

Be careful out there, folks. People desperately want to tell you about their bunions.

On Building a Warrior, Broken Hearts and Bedtime

All the “experts” will say that toddlers need consistent bedtimes. Sleep is extremely important to these little tantrum-throwers and should be treated with utmost care! Schedules, routines, aides, oils, noise-makers, loveys, 1,000 drinks of water… these are the topics of many an article.

Let’s get real here about toddler bedtime.

By the end of the day many of us aren’t wistfully breathing in every picture-perfect moment in a spotless room as we tuck our darling into bed. We don’t always read a book, sing a song, say a prayer and snuggle blissfully. Most of the time I close the bedroom door and either sigh or do a silent happy dance while the tune, “At Last” begins to play in my head. I often count down the hours until bedtime. That’s okay. Really.

Then everything changed. Cancer happened.
People say they can’t imagine what it is like. I’m so pained that I don’t want to tell them. Here is the vulnerable, weakest part of my heart, on display. Be kind… because I swear I have friends and family members that will punch you in the throat if you aren’t.

Last week during bedtime, my Firstborn took my husband’s hand and put in over his heart and whispered, “Ouch”. When his daddy got up from the nighttime cuddle he would cry, “Wait! Don’t go!” I think about his separation anxiety, his frustrations and the challenges he faces. Every day there could be a report of a great day or a tearful, difficult day– but on both he clings to whichever family member is dropping him off. The pain is so searing, so engrained that I cannot think of my Firstborn without thinking of all the struggles he has endured in the last three years since William the Conqueror arrived. Deployments, hundreds of appointments, new schools, illnesses, stress, evaluations, not being able to create ANY stability at all despite my best efforts, all the times he has to leave classrooms because he can’t behave…and you know what? I cry. A lot.
Right now caring for one child keeps me away from the other. It’s a pain many parents know all too well. Quite frankly, it is hard to share because it is a vulnerable and painful part of my heart.
Why share? To prompt compassion for the child that is hard to handle.

This weekend was one the precious times when I could be at home.I could rejoice in the beauty of feeling the familiar. I got to pick up from school and get hugs and kisses. We played, practiced math puzzles, danced and laughed. It was glorious.
IMG_4615
Then there was bedtime. Sweet bedtime.
IMG_3605
We changed into jammies. I smelled his skin and his hair. We snuggled and built a pillow fort, laughed, said our prayers and he turned on his night light that projects stars. I was with him. I put my son to bed. He hugged me, kissed me and said, “I love you.” It was beautiful. It healed my heart.

I must cling to these Friday nights because Leaving Day is coming.
It’s like Deployment Day, which throws off life and sends kids into a tail-spin…except it happens every week.

It’s heart-wrenching and sends my little man into an emotional spiral. This morning we battled over not bringing a toy to preschool, which brought on his tears. He cried and grabbed my legs like a spider-monkey as I moved him to the van. He refused to get into his seat, standing in the doorway. He sobbed so hard that he sneezed, yielding the ugly-cry-snot that is so impressive that it stops the crying. Ready with wipes, I got that remedied and told him to sit again. He grabbed my hands and put them around his body and made me hug him. We held each other and I cried too. Sobbed, in fact. I told him the words I needed to hear. I didn’t need to hear what he was supposed to be doing, advice for correcting behavior or warnings about milestones he should be hitting by now and potential diagnoses. I didn’t need to feel like we were failing to meet expectations. No, I needed to hear truth when all of my feelings and fears contradicted truth. That is when we need truth the most.

“Baby, what you are doing is HARD. It is hard to grow up when Mommy and Daddy have to be away from you. I will be back after 5 times sleeping and then I will be back to you. -Sob- I love you and I know it is sad to go to school sometimes. -Sniffle- God NEVER hurts us to be mean. You are a rock, and God is turning you into a great sculpture that he will use. It hurts to be chipped away and reshaped. I don’t know why all this has happened to you so young, but you must be strong and courageous. God loves us, even when it hurts.”

I held my boy and broke. I held a helpless, sad kid that was struggling to grapple with all life has handed him in his first 3 years. I also held a strong warrior of a boy who would not yield when he wanted something, who loved us all fiercely, who learned about compassion through suffering in his earliest moments and who knew the value of an adult’s apology to a child. I held a warrior in the making…and broke. Then I resolved to FIGHT FOR that child.

Slowly, he let go. He looked at me and smiled. He got into his seat and we drove to school. Never underestimate the power of speaking truth and blessings over your children.
Once at school, the sobbing and clinging continued. Two months ago he ran to the door, waved bye and didn’t look back. Now he looked at me knowing he wouldn’t see me for days. This is the totally sucky time of fighting cancer.
I got back into my car and sobbed. Then I got out my phone and looked at Friday night.
IMG_4616
Perhaps the greatest unsung hero in my family is the one who struggles the most and is the most difficult to handle. Rock on, my son. What a warrior you will be.