When I was 18 years old I got a tattoo on my ribs saying “Live. Laugh. Love”. It is a sentiment that I believe will guide me through life. It will help to remind me to live in the moment and live for the reasons that truly matter.
But at 18 years old it meant something totally different. It meant to enjoy life by hanging with my friends, to laugh at jokes and to love a cute boy. Shallow, it may have been, but I was young and naive. Life wasn’t real. It wasn’t hard.
As I grew up and matured, and life got hard, I realized my tattoo was something that meant a lot more. It was there to guide me. To keep me on the right track. And when it all clicked, it helped me.
So, what does Live. Laugh. Love. mean? Now, as my family and I are going through the hardest trial of our lives, that $100 dollar tattoo has a voice in my head. It keeps me grounded and it keeps me pushing forward.
To me living is about having no regrets. Making sure I spend as much time with my mom as possible. Making sure I keep making memories with her. Every day is different, there are good days and bad days, but each day is a blessing.
When the doctors said, time is limited and to be ready for the next step whenever that may be – I didn’t believe them at first. To me, I was still 13 years old giving my parents a run for their money as my teen years started. To me, I was 16 and still laid with my mom in bed at night watching our favorite shows. To me, I was 18, in college and wanting to come home. To me, I was 20, waiting for one more year to be able to enjoy a glass of wine with my mom. (I know I talk A LOT about wine, but how could you not?) To me, I was still a baby who needed her mom to rock her, tell her it would be okay and to kiss her before she fell asleep.
But, here I am, 24 years old, the roles have reversed and I am taking care of my mom. I am spending every day talking with her, because we never truly know when our time is up. I look at my mom’s diagnosis as a blessing in disguise – a puzzling disguise. Many people have no idea when their loved one’s time is up. But, we, we get to make the most out of every day. I have spent more time by my mom’s side than ever before. I have learned more about her each day – I have learned more about her strength, pride, dignity and love. And most importantly I have watched my parents fall more in love. My dad doesn’t leave my mom’s side and he takes care of her as much as he can. He goes home to eat, sleep and does it all over again.
So, we’re living to the best of our ability. Some days are harder than others, but we have each other. And when I go home at night, I thank God for the day.
We laugh, a lot. We laugh about the changes we’re experiencing.
We laugh about my dad learning how to do things on his own – except for dressing himself and knowing what size he is. He’s still not very good at that. We laugh about the food my mom is served at the rehab facility. Is it dog or cat food? We laugh about the “friends” she’s making – some may be nuts, but it keeps it interesting. We laugh about the crazy things that happen. But the best part is we laugh together.
In my last post, I talked about my mom’s infectious personality. She has always been outgoing and the loudest in the room. I always envied her ability to walk into a room and command attention. She could talk to a wall and laugh with a rock. She could make light out of a serious situation. She would crack a joke in the middle of an argument and I no longer could be mad at her. She would blow her nose and everybody would turn, look and just laugh. Because really, you HAVE never heard anything like it. I promise.
But I think that’s what has kept me strong 75% of the time is the ability to laugh. When I look at her I see the person who has taught me to laugh at my mistakes, the person who has showed me that life is too short to be anything less than happy, and the person who has told me over and over again to stop being so god damn up tight.
So as we go through these changes, we turn to laughter as a drug to cure our hurt, sadness and fear.
Love is strong. The love I have for my mom is indescribable. The love I have for my family could never be explained. So love is one of our drugs of choice.
When our worst nightmare became a reality two months ago, all I could say was that I wasn’t ready. My mom is supposed to be there for everything. I call her a gazillion times a day, asking her every question under the sun. I just love her so much. Our phone calls used to be lengthy and we would talk, now they’re short and there isn’t really anything said, but one thing you can hear is the love we have for each other. Things may be different, but our love has only grown.
About a month ago, we were sitting in her hospital room at Yale – Smilow Cancer Center and my dad and I were sobbing. My mom sat there composed and starred at the wall. We were begging her not to leave us any time soon. We were begging God to not let any of this happen. And I stopped crying for a minute. In that moment I realized, as hard as it is for us, it’s even harder for her. The one thing that could bring us through this was love.
I am the luckiest daughter in the world because my parents have inspired me every day. Growing up, I love you’s were said as many times a day as possible. Love was something that flooded through our house. And today, love is something that sweeps my mom’s rehab room. And every day when we talk and when I see her, I say I love you.