"Nothing, in fact, is small." Les Miserables
One of the smallest events that changed my perspective in a big way happened in mid-December 1999. We wiped the graham cracker crumbs and sticky frosting from the rolling bedside table and put away the remaining candies used to decorate our gingerbread house mansions. My kids, Jamie and Micah, ages 9 and 5 at the time, were enjoying their visit with California cousins, identical 11 year old twin girls, Brittany and Tiffany. We had made another trek down from WA State to be with family, this time because the doctors found cancer cells producing on a chromosomal level in Tiffany’s bone marrow. She would need to spend a good part of December in the hospital for intense chemotherapy treatments in preparation for a marrow transplant scheduled for February. Like most kids, they loved creating, but after hours of navigating turn taking with the limited amounts of sugary building supplies, the cramped quarters of the hospital room workshop, and afternoon pre-supper grumpies, they needed a bit of space to regroup. My sister and I decided to let Tiffany rest while we took the other kids out for a quick bite to eat. Having overcome the witching-hour hunger hump, we spotted a dollar store nearby, arming ourselves for the next grand adventure, unaware that it would change each of our lives forever.
Back on the pediatric oncology ward, we prepared for our big entrance. Red, green and purple washable hair dye was applied to all heads in every imaginable combination and a can of silly string was uncapped and ready for each giggly attacker. On the count of three, the crazy corps of kids and their outrageous moms burst into Tiffany’s room spraying silly string and singing. Tiffany was given her own can of silly string and she wanted colored polka dots to cover her beautiful, bald head. The impromptu party grew after Tiffany pegged her doctor in the backside with a stream of silliness as he walked down the hallway. The nurses weren’t even upset, though silly string covered the monitors and hung from the IV tubing attached to Tiffany’s arm. For a brief 3 minutes, we all experienced pure uninhibited joy; the kind you feel deep down in your bones that infuse your whole being with laughter, love and life. Tiffany didn’t survive her bone marrow transplant, but the same Spirit of pure life that was present in that silly string covered room continues to show up in the most unexpected places.
Daily I realize how much this experience changed me and had a profound effect on those closest to me. My young adult children and I often recall that day with bittersweet sentiment. It reminds us to see beauty in broken places, to look for the unifying normalcy in uncomfortable situations, to love creatively, especially when the surroundings are less than ideal, to surprise others in extravagantly simple ways, to make memories today and not wait for that perfect moment, because right now is our only guaranteed right time. Vincent Van Gogh once said, “We who try our best to live, why do we not live more?” That simple and impromptu silly string party in the hospital room of a child trying her best to live, taught me to live life fully now, grateful for each fleeting moment of connection, compassion, creativity, and communion.
The above post was what I wrote as a guest blogger for Cara MacDonald Meredith, a friend and former youth who I was privileged to mentor at Calvary Baptist Church in the late nineteen eighties early nineties.. She has created the blog, Be, Mama, Be, dedicated to finding beauty in the most unlikely of places. Check out her soulful and significant writing at http://carameredith.com/ .