As I cleaned out the closets one by one, I made my way to the upstairs room where most of the forgotten items are placed. The closet that seldom gets opened. Where items hardly ever seen or heard from are viewed. And as I opened it, and glanced at the door, this new year, I paid particular attention to the colors of the scarves hanging on the inside of the door.
My husband had so created specially designed hanger to hold every single scarf that been made, bought and given to me during my long battle with cancer years ago. I was struck by how many colors I saw, the diversity of patterns, the sheer volume of scarves there were. I gathered all the various scarves hanging there up in my hands, closed my eyes and then, laid my face up down in them.
Standing there, bent over, inhaling deeply I thought about the hands that had lovingly supported me all those months long ago. I recall the angels that had supported m, one by one, far too many to list. Memories that were priceless; Candida who made me homemade cards, and sent them out of the blue sporadically with special notes of encouragement. Suzanne and Janet, two dear cousins of my husband’s, letting me know I was as sweet as they candy they were sending me. Marlene in DC hand picking out the color of scarves to send me that she thought would bring the light back into my eyes at a time when all I saw was a lot of darkness in the inside of my bedroom. There was a beautiful basket of goodies two friends, Carolyn and Sherry had dropped at the hospital to me after one of my surgeries. They were my only visitors that stay in the hospital so I truly was touched by the visit! The basket was used to hold, for my entire treatment time, to hold cards I received. By the conclusion of treatment, it spilled over with cards from friends, family and people I did not even know with good wishes and prayers for a recovery. Then there was dear Marc, a Christian friend, who had his young church class praying for me, and yes I felt their young prayers weekly. I smiled with the blessing of it and looked over at my husband who smiled back at me. Holding all those scarves I knew what a blessing I had experienced.
With the passage of times, I no longer wear scarves but cannot bear the thought of letting go of even one of those scarves. I feel as if they are a part of the fabric of me. In remembrance, one year in celebrating my birthday with girlfriends, I wore one over my hair to a luncheon. One friend looked at me inquisitively and asked why I was wearing it. I said “To remember.” I think I need to do that more often. In fact, I challenge all women, wear a scarf one day a year, walk the walk of a cancer patient and see the world from their perspective. Having cancer is not a cake walk, the rest of the world, when a woman loses their hair, tends to look at your funny at a time when you already feel isolated and hurting inside. Do not judge that which is different or avoid it but try, through the grace of God, understanding and possibly embrace it. As I use to tell my children when they were little, a smile goes a long way. To a cancer patient, on a bad day, it is a sign from an angel.
As I closed the door of that closet, I cannot help but feel so grateful that my life has forever changed. So many people I have met, along this path of recovery, either survivors, care takers or those taken by God to everlasting peace have too. Some wonderful people have walked into my life, and some old friendships have been rekindled with the awareness the light of life on this earth is fading. I don’t know when the clock will stop ticking but I am certain one day, it will and I do have strong enough faith that I live void of the fear. But I also live feeling as if every day counts. I have attended far too many funerals to prove it. I just love my friend Carole’s comment to me at a mutual cancer’s friend funeral “I need to start hanging out with a different group of friends!” and yet, she is always near to those in need. That woman has a heart of gold and even when her husband was diagnosed with cancer, her faith seldom falters, what an example to others.
When our group of survivors meets, we always talk about how important it is to surround ourselves with healthy relationships, people that make us feel beautiful and whole. Anyone who tears us down or makes us feel part of a dysfunctional relationship is a threat to our physical and emotional health. This can cut our lifespan short. This is true for everyone. Boundaries are also important. Just like pulling the scarves out to reflect on them and then closing the door, we all must do that also with the ghosts in our closet. Not everything about those scarves brings back positive happy memories either, cancer is not pretty. Our pasts are usually full of some hurts and some unfulfilled needs. Take a look at them, ‘your scarves’ accept responsibility for them and then move on. It does no good to harbor resentment towards anyone, your parents make mistakes, and you make mistakes. We all must accept accountability for our lives, at some point, and move on. Live. Live healthy. Boundaries must be set and healthy relationships need to start there. Those scarves and the cancer do not define me, therefore, they do not need to be out front and center in our home, and they will never be placed prominently.
With a new year comes new promises, new hopes, and new tomorrows. But those scarves remind me of wonderful yesteryears and also of sorrows. Those memories make me who I am today. We can run from our past but should we? Part of who we are today is where we came from. I choose to look back, reflect, draw strength from what I did right, and from those that gave me strength and hope when I was weak, and grow from it. We all must live in the present and surround ourselves with those people that accept us for who we are and make us feel beautiful. The range of colors in that closet represent God's array of people, the diversity in His children, the assortment of gifts. I hope those 'gift givers' that contributed to the array of colors on the inside of my closet door like the view of what they see in me today....
Happy New Year and may 2011 be colorful and full of hope and promise!