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  • Writer's pictureKatie Newbaum

Dear You

Hey You!

I know that’s a pretty informal way to start - like - a prayer. Sorry. But honestly, do you need any more pomp and circumstance? I’ve just never really found a good name for you. Juanita was the front runner for a while. Calling you “Divine” or something like that just makes me think of Bette Midler. Who IS a goddess, but, ya know. 

So - YOU it is.

I’m surprised, honestly that I haven’t been more mad at you. It never even really occurred to me to be. I guess I’ve already learned that life can be a lot more unfair. But when the woman on the other end of the line told me the biopsy was positive, there was a moment where you didn’t even exist. Nothing did. Only my shaky breath, my banging heartbeat, my tingling hands, and that woman’s soft voice were actually present - everything else was a mystery.  Not long after, when the necessary calls had been made, work had been left, and I was alone in my car - that’s when you were the only one there. The only one who could hold what I was holding and hold me too. Just for that moment, in the car, on October 21. That was a mystery too. How could I be mad?

I have actually found a lot of gratitude - an unlikely symptom of a cancer diagnosis, but very real. Nothing like your earth shaking beneath you to change perspective. I’ve noticed every time the sun is out, when the snow has stoically and beautifully rested on every branch of a pine tree, when a stranger helps another, when kids make adults giggle. I’ve had friends from all over my life show up for me from across the country - sending packages, food, cards, messages. Some people I might have met once. For example, a friend from grad school’s mom sent me a care package that had me undone in my kitchen. What is this grace? This outpouring of love from a practical stranger was too much to bear, my heart had to spill over onto my spatulas. 

My tendency is to think I don’t deserve this - but I’m trying to let go of that. It’s really difficult for me. But I’ve taken care of a lot of people in my life, and I hear you when you quietly whisper to me - “It’s okay. Let them love you. Let yourself rest. There’s nothing more to do now.” I think perhaps I have the most gratitude that I have done the work to hear that voice. To recognize it as you, as me, as my mother - to hear something like this is divinity within itself.

But, I do forget. Like we do when something is always there, we take it for granted. We lose sight of our thankfulness and get lost in the shuffle of day to day. Between the appointments, and work, and figuring out what is for dinner it’s easy to lose sight of you, or to think you have anything to do with that part. Aren’t you just there for emergencies? Do you really care about the sweet potatoes I need to buy? 

It doesn’t take long though, before I feel like I have taken too many grocery bags in one trip. Or I am trying to hold a large amount of tennis balls in my arms. This will not sustain. Lately, that’s when I’ve just started taking a deep breath and looking up. I know you’re not up there in a literal way, but it's helpful to look to the sky to cover your whereabouts - I know you're busy.

When I look up there it reminds me of how much bigger things can be, and how I don’t know everything.

People have called me a warrior, brave, resilient - and some days I do really feel those things. And on the days I don’t I look back up to you and that big sky, and I ask you for help holding the mystery. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Divine Miss Juanita.

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