I believe that challenges in life as well as difficulty and loss define the richness of our personal evolution.
As a child I believed that all things in life were wonderful, exciting, happy and reliable. I had a very secure and well adjusted environment which steadily lead me to this conclusion. If something upset me, it would quickly pass or be resolved, never changing my idea that life was dreamy and positive. I lived in Fairfield county and while I traveled far and wide with my family, we were traveling to places for vacation and staying in hotels with people from similar backgrounds.
I remember going to many islands for winter escapes and seeing the impoverished areas that people managed to live in. I saw many cardboard roofs that were taped up for protection, at times sealed with packing tape and any other materials that would prove somewhat durable.
Yes, there were beggars on the beach and poor people but they were not allowed into our resorts.
I was living in a different world and while I knew this, at the time I would say that I took it for granted. I recall briefly thinking about what life would be like for me had I been born to a family from one of those locations. That thought quickly dissipated as I was back in the airport luxuriating over the scents of beautiful perfumes in the Duty Free shop in the airport. A luxury that was only permitted for people traveling to and from the island but never to those who lived there.
Life would always settle back to easy and for the most part I knew I was lucky but at such a tender age, did not appreciate it. It wasn't until my Father was diagnosed with terminal cancer that I realized how difficult life could and would be. I was 25 and my father was 55, he was at the height of his professional career and sailing along successfully and happily. I think many doctors give very little thought to being the patient and when it happens, it throws everyone off.
My Father was the healer, he did not ever need healing. People came to him for all the medical direction and now I was watching him search for direction. It was a frightening and unsettling and I learned what it was like to feel like my life had turned upside down. I remember when my parents came to deliver the news. I had recently moved into a new apartment in my building in Boston. I was excited about it and naturally assumed they were coming to see it.
It wasn't long before my parents were sitting on my sofa looking at me. My Father began to cry and my heart sank immediately. "I have cancer" were the words that he managed to get out. I didn't cry and I told him he would be okay. My outer strength did not measure the immense pain and fear that riddled my body. I never cried in front of my father until I lay my head on his shoulder ten years later on the night before he died.
My world changed the night that the news of my Father's illness was delivered. How long did he have to live and what would happen to him I wondered. It caused me to be very pensive, all of my Grandparents were still alive at the time. I couldn't' believe this could happen in my perfect, beautiful and relatively carefree existence.
This experience changed me on so many different levels and I began to have an awareness for life and my surroundings that I perhaps took for granted. I also learned by watching my Father, his gentle acceptance of his fate and his perseverance for living was more than admirable. I have always smelled the roses, but now I have the appreciation that the roses may not always be there. They may wilt, they may not bloom and they will die. It is an aspect of life that has made me more aware and more gracious for life all around me.
Life is not easy, it is not always happy and not reliable. I learned that lesson in my twenties. Im teaching it to my children at a much younger age. I want them to relish each moment in which they are healthy and comfortable. I want them to know that they are lucky, that life can in fact change at any moment. It is important for me to show them that they are so fortunate compared to so many others in this world.
I want them to always be grateful for the simple things in life and most importantly their family and good friends. Without good health and good people around you, you have nothing.
Be gracious, be humble and be kind. Life will not alway be easy so be happy for the days that are uneventful. They will be the days that you long for when tumultuous times come your way.