After just celebrating July 4th, I realized how much more it has come to represent to me. I am the typical lover of Christmas, and Terry loves the 4th of July, but it seems like each of us like our holiday for many of the same reasons. We love getting the family together, enjoying lots of great food, and the excitement of the grandkids who know what’s coming. This past July 4th was no different, but it symbolized quite a bit to me.
When the call came on October 28, 2011 that Terry had stage 4 bladder cancer, the first thought that popped into my mind was that he had to be here for the 4th, and it turns out he was. As many men are, Terry is a little boy inside when it comes to some of the things that make him happy, and blowing things up is what it’s all about. We all look forward to getting together because our history tells us we’ll have fun. I cannot imagine a 4th without him, and know it’s what holidays and special occasions represent to us that puts the meaning into them.
In the daily living of chronic illness, any guarantees about a future are eliminated right off the bat. You then find yourself on that high wire, leaning this way toward living normally, and then that way toward ensuring you’re making memories, and living to the fullest. But you can’t do one or the other of them exclusively without having problems. To go about your regular life when a life threatening medical condition exists is to squander the opportunity to enjoy the little things in life and make memories. To live each and every day as though it’s your last, or the last day of a loved one is emotionally draining in the long run. After my husband’s disabling heart attack, I had no idea from one day to the next whether he really would be here, and found myself biting my tongue time after time about things I would have ordinarily said to him as my husband. It worked well for him, because there was no pressure and no accountability, but didn’t work for me. I had to treat him like my husband, which he was, but I also tried to make memories that I knew would be there when he wasn’t any longer.
Making memories has a double benefit. The joy experienced at the time is the appreciation of the situation and it’s what happens that’s worth the memories. The memories made are what sustain us when the experience can’t occur any more, and remind us of the fun we had and who we shared that fun with when they were made. It’s always a win/win situation.
To me, it’s important that the grandkids have the same excitement we do when it comes to getting together, and that’s how it seems to be so far. They know we’ll find something fun to do, and we know they’ll be ready to have some fun, so it always works out very well. I feel an urgency now, given what Terry’s been through physically, to make sure we make as many memories with the grandkids as possible. There’s little that’s more fun than listening to the reminiscing that goes along with getting together and sharing holidays. I know the day is coming when we tell stories of what he did on July 4th because he won’t be there any longer, and I want them to always remember the joy they shared with them.
Even if you don’t deal with chronic illness, you cannot go wrong with doing all you can to make memories with those you love. You’ll enjoy the moment as you live it, and you’ll enjoy it later when you relive it. I promise.