Raspberries. Growing up, this is what my mom would call the injuries I earned after a long day of climbing trees or riding bikes. No matter how bad the cuts or the scrapes where, they inevitably began to heal into dark uneven scabs that, with the right imagination, looked like raspberries.
When my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, I didn’t have to think twice about moving back to the hometown I thought I had escaped just four years prior. I had a long list of post-graduation to-dos and this had definitely not been a part of my plan. I constantly thought to myself, “Well, this is pretty inconvenient.” I was by no means the perfect daughter during my mom’s treatment: I was angry. I huffed and puffed and struggled not to make her sickness entirely about me.
At first, it bothered me that she was so positive. I was terrified; she never had a day of doubt. Her constant mantra was, “We are going to get through this; we can do this; we are strong enough.” My mom, unlike me, didn’t make this period of life revolve around her needs, although, if she had, it would have been completely justified. It has taken me years to be able to look back and realize that her selflessness and positive mindset, that baffled me at the time, had been the best medicine of all.
… her selflessness and positive mindset, that baffled me at the time, had been the best medicine of all.
I cried when my mom shaved her head. The next day when we went to pick out a wig, she exclaimed: “Finally! I will have the thick hair I’ve always wanted and no more grays!” I was numb when the doctor told her that she needed a double mastectomy. She shrugged and said, “Well, I’ve been thinking about getting a boob-lift anyways.” It was in the times that felt like the lowest that we learned you must live in the moment and look for the bright side in every situation, even if that silver lining is just a good hair day.
It was during the days in between treatments, that seemed to drag on and on, that my mom taught me the importance of finding the things that you love and holding on to them for the days that are the hardest. That winter, we tried to learn how to knit more than a few times, watched what felt like every show on HGTV, and we found out where all the best, greasiest, hamburgers in town were served. Looking back on those months, the days that I remember the most are the ones when we were intentionally seeking our own happiness.
The afternoon my mom came home with dyed eyebrows, we stood in front of the bathroom mirror and laughed so hard that both of us had to sit down. Gasping for air, she laughed, “I look like Groucho Marx!” There are days, no matter your situation, when all you can do is laugh. Life is pretty ridiculous. The moments that you feel most out of control you can either shut down or you can try to become the best version of yourself, black eyebrows and all.
There are days, no matter your situation, when all you can do is laugh. Life is pretty ridiculous.
Today my mom can call herself a “survivor.” But if you asked her, she would probably say that we are all survivors, because sometimes making it through another day is just as much of an accomplishment as another round of chemo. We will all experience more than a few raspberries in our lives, although some are bigger and leave deeper scars than others.
I learned a lot of lessons those months spent at home. But the most important thing that my mom taught me was that it is not whether you are able to heal completely from all of life’s bumps and bruises, but whether or not you are able to keep a smile on your face throughout the process.
Feature Image via Tiffany Lambert