Dancing Through the Raindrops

peginrain

Longfellow’s classic poem warns, “Into each life some rain must fall.”  But how are we supposed to cope when life seems to be a never-ending series of gully-washers?

A couple of months ago I took a trip to Washington state with two of my sisters, Carolyn and Libby.  A branch of our extended family migrated there 35 years ago and we were excited to see our cousins, their families, and the Seattle area.   Mother Nature was on her best behavior and it only rained once, despite the area’s well-earned reputation for drizzle.  Seattleites have had to master the art of dashing between the raindrops.

That sounds like a game plan for life.

Our trip to Seattle was both extra special and challenging to orchestrate because we had to plan around my sisters’ medical appointments.  They both have cancer.

That disease has brought more torrential storms to our family than anyone could have dreamt:

21 years ago my nephew Michael was diagnosed at birth with cancer of the eyes.
19 years ago my brother Pat, Michael’s father, was diagnosed with brain cancer.
9 years ago my husband Bill was diagnosed with melanoma.
7 years ago my sister Mary Kay was diagnosed with breast cancer.
6 years ago my sister Libby was diagnosed with brain cancer.
3 years ago my brother Bill was diagnosed with cancer of the tongue.
1 year ago my sister Carolyn was diagnosed with breast cancer.

This list doesn’t even include dear cousins, aunts and uncles who have also had cancer.  The big C is the big rainmaker in our family, but the bad weather doesn’t stop there.  2016 was also a banner year for non-cancerous deluges like my husband’s several trips to the hospital,  my dad’s failing strength, my niece Faith’s recurring health challenges, and my sister Terry’s house burning to the ground.

We need an ark.

For God’s sake, sometimes I think we should build an ark, march the people we love into it two-by-two, batten down the hatches and ride out the storms.  We could hide until the sun shines again and a white dove sent out as emissary returns with an olive branch in its beak.  Then we’ll know that dry land is near, and it will never rain again.  Except it will.

There will always be rain.  Life needs rain as much as it needs sun, and we don’t get to choose the weather; all we can control is how we handle it.  We can trudge through the rain in weary acceptance, head down, concentrating on the puddles at our feet.  We can dash through, blind to our surroundings and focused on a distant point where we hope to be safe and dry.  Or we can dance.

I want to dance.

I want to dance full out, arms a-twirling, holding nothing back.  I want to dance, not just between the showers, but right into the heart of the storm.  Life can’t be put on hold until we get the weather we want in some faraway future.  It happens whether we’re feelin’ it or not.  If we’re looking down or running blindly forward, we’ll miss the silver lining edging the clouds.  We’ll miss the sun peaking out at last, as it always does, turning the raindrops to sparkling diamonds.  We’ll miss the arcing promise of a rainbow.

We don’t want to miss any of it because, as I constantly have to remind myself, every moment of life is a gift worthy of celebration.

Libby, me and Carolyn. Up, up and away!

Libby, me and Carolyn. Up, up and away!

That’s why we boogied over to Seattle.  The scenery was spectacular, our cousins were fabulous, and we treasured every moment together.  That’s why Carolyn and I put on our dancing shoes again last month when she had a few weeks between surgery and radiation, beating the crowds down to New Orleans for a pre-Mardi Gras weekend tango.  We had a blast.

My family has had its share of sorrow, but we’ve also been blessed with silver linings enough to replate every tea service in Buckingham Palace.

We lost Pat when he was 35, but his wife and children are thriving, loving credits to him.  Michael will graduate from college this year.

Mary Kay, Bill and my husband are out of the woods and cancer free.

Carolyn had every possible nasty side effect from chemo and surgery, a track record we hope won’t continue during radiation, but her prognosis is good.

Terry and her husband lost almost everything they owned in the fire, but recently moved into a brand new house which is the envy of the neighborhood.

Faith, who was born with multiple health problems, continues to learn and grow.  At 6-years-old she has made developmental strides that many never thought possible.

img_20170124_120257459_burst002

Carolyn & I preparing to grab mint juleps and don hoop skirts at a New Orleans plantation.

Libby’s long-term prognosis is not great, but she responded miraculously to a new chemo last year and is still living her life.  She’s not giving up despite the challenges that have come along with cancer and radiation to the brain.   Libby makes every day count by helping others and seeking the Lord, and her determination inspires me no end.

Our family has drawn even closer through these storms.  The in-town siblings and our parents have gone above and beyond to help one another, while the out-of-towners have stepped up their visits and calls, pitching in wherever they can.  Witnessing this goodness is the brilliant silver shining through dark clouds, as are our children and now grandchildren who grow and flourish.  Life goes on.

None of us knows how many days we’ll get.  The weatherman is a notoriously lousy forecaster.  Life, with its ever-shifting patterns of joy and despair, is here – right here, and right now.  Whether we have thousands of tomorrows, or only today, whether in sunshine or in rain, let us vow to make every one of those days count.

Come on!  Let’s dance.

 

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I got a little present in the mail the day before our trip to Seattle.  It was a book I had been anticipating; “Beauty and the Breast” by Merrill Joan Gerber.

Merrill’s editor, Catherine, reached out to me last year to ask if they could use an illustration I’d crafted in Merrill’s upcoming memoir.   It was from a post, “Playing The Cancer Card,”   I was delighted to be included and not just because of the very kind plug she gave me in the book.  Merrill’s description of her journey through the strange, new world of cancer is warm and wise.  It’s by turn funny and despairing, but always heartrendingly personal.

Here’s an excerpt that showcases Merrill’s powerful writing.  She describes the moments right after her doctor said the word that changed her life forever:

“A nurse arrives with my husband.  “I have cancer,” I say.  He takes my hand.  He’s not the Joe he used to be either.  We are sliding on black ice straight down a steep mountain; we are about to crash and burn.”

Her story was all the more gripping because, as it turns out, Merrill had the same type of breast cancer as my sister, Carolyn.

This is a great read for anyone, especially those going through cancer treatment.    Don’t take my word for it.  Here are just a couple of the glowing reviews “Beauty and the Breast” has garnered from authors who certainly know more than I about good writing:

beauty-and-the-breast“An intimate, touching, moving portrait of the self in peril and in pain…” – Joyce Carol Oates

“I LOVE IT!! I could not put it down.” – Judy Blume

Click on the link to learn more about, “Beauty and the Breast” , buy it on Amazon, and travel with Merrill on her journey through the storm.  You won’t be sorry.

 

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About pegoleg

R-A-M-B-L-I-N-G-S, Ram...Blin!
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48 Responses to Dancing Through the Raindrops

  1. So glad this post was the first thing I saw this morning! A wonderful way to start the day. I have put on my dancing shoes.:)

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  2. Margy says:

    Excellent post – how right you are about finding a way to dance through the rain storms of life! I will never forget how devastated we were when our child was diagnosed with cancer, but I’m also grateful for the lessons we learned about celebrating the little things and learning how to put life’s events into perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nicole Roder says:

    How lovely and touching, Peg. I’m so glad I read this today. I hope you keep finding ways to dance through the storm!

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  4. The fact that you used the word ‘humor’ as a tag in the midst of all these challenges speaks volumes to the grit that you and your family are made of. And speaking of…are you saying you guys AREN’T triplets? Looks like it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • pegoleg says:

      A friend recently told me he figures everybody gets 5 pounds of crap in their life. Some get it doled out a cup at a time, and some get the whole thing dumped on their heads at once. Makes a nice mental picture, hmmm?

      We do have a strong resemblance, especially as we get older. Yet our brothers look nothing like the girls. Genetics are weird.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wouch! That’s a “wow and an ouch” combo word.
    Great post. My heart goes out to you Funny Lady. We have to see humor in this thing called life in order to stay sane and survive. Dancing is the best because music feeds the soul. So dance on!
    ( Don’t forget dark chocolate)

    Dark chocolate matters….. 🙂

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  6. Touching read Peg. We certainly have had too many strikes against the family the past ten years. Last year was a real test of our mettle and faith. Well said, as usual. Love ya!

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  7. marymtf says:

    My mother lurches from one disaster to another. As her primary carer, it’s my job to take her to her many appointments including one today. I can’t help despairing; my mind is so constantly filled with my own problems that I don’t have time to notice whether I’m alone.
    I can’t dance, Peggy, (don’t ask me). The dancing genes skipped a generation. But I can admire those who do, I can admire you, Peg.

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    • pegoleg says:

      And I admire you for sticking in when it is so tough. You can dance – rhythm is optional. Just wave your arms, tap your toes and sing at the top of your lungs!

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  8. judithhb says:

    What a great post, Peg. I always admire your upbeat take on life. This post puts my concerns from last year way onto the back burner. I learned a lot during that period, but mostly how to ask for and accept help.
    But my mantra is and has always been “If you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance”. Do you know this song,? They are going to play it at my funeral. And yes, Pollyanna is alive and well and living in Wellington, NZ.
    I can’t understand why some families get so much and yours seems to have an overdose; while others appear to be unaffected – but do we know what’s going on behind their “face to the world”?
    My very best wishes to your sisters and those of your family who are battling cancer and those who aren’t. Take care, my friend.

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    • pegoleg says:

      How nice to see your smiling face again! I think you’re right – we don’t see what goes on in people’s lives. Some people’s burdens are right there, in your face, and others are hidden from view, but I think everybody has a cross to carry.

      I love that song! Great funeral choice.

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  9. Oh my gosh, Peg!! What a heartbreaking yet inspirational post! Even with that dark cloud hovering over your loved ones, you are able to see the sun! Wish I could hug you right now!!! Sharing this now!! ❤❤❤❤❤

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Keep dancing, babe. Keep dancing. That’s all that matters

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  11. JM Randolph says:

    Peg- I’m reading this standing in line for the bus (with my boot and cane) after a 15 hour day, and just want to say thank you. Today we danced.

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    • pegoleg says:

      Oh my gosh, that’s right, you’re recovering from surgery. Just getting from point A to point B is probably enough of a challenge without tossing a tango into the mix. Maybe some chair dancing would be best for now?

      Liked by 1 person

  12. PiedType says:

    When I had cancer not quite two years ago, I read a lot of inspirational material and one line that stood out for me was “Learn to dance in the rain.” Sounds like you’re way ahead of me on that, but I’m working on it.

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    • pegoleg says:

      Good for you. I reread that line I wrote about how my sister Mary Kay, brother Bill and husband are all cancer-free and doing fine, and marvel at how glib and casual it sounds. As if anyone, having once had that scourge in their body, ever rests entirely easy again.

      Keep dancing!

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  13. Out of our control life events and the weather-could there be a better comparison? And how we react to it does make or break us. My family has had a lot of cancer too, Peg. Yours is bearing it well and prayers for all.

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  14. Sorry to hear your family has experienced such prolonged bad luck. There are times in life when we have a bunker mentality and put off allowing ourselves joy until after everything is back to normal. As parents and extended family get older I realize there may not be a time when everyone is in perfect health. There will always be a surgery on the horizon or somebody waiting for test results.

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    • pegoleg says:

      That’s so true. I don’t know if things really are worse, or if I was just blithely oblivious to all the bad things going on to people in my parents’ generation. Maybe youth is a shield against misfortune, and that wouldn’t be a bad thing.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Elyse says:

    Dear Peg,
    Wow. Your humor, grace and fortitude, and that of your family is a sight to behold, Peg. I’m sorry that you all have been through a continuous loop on the ringer, but I admire you immensely.

    And obviously you’re Irish. Because if you didn’t have bad luck ….

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  16. Thanks so much for this post, Peg. Your outlook on your family’s illnesses is a good reminder to be appreciative for what we have, while we have it, and to find small graces wherever we can. You know how they say, Dance like no one is watching? To me, that means be yourself and don’t worry so much about what other people think.

    Sending my best wishes to your sisters for their ongoing treatments.

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  17. Peg, I dance because I’m blessed to know people like you. Lots of prayers and love coming to you and your family. In the meantime, you can always call me or email if you need anything, or to just talk, okay?

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  18. Al says:

    Peg, I only know you as a blogging buddy and it’s always fun to see a post from you in the reader. I know I will get some good yucks and have some fun banter with you. That’s why it’s hard to read a post like this to know how difficult it is for you right now. But, I’m glad to are able to share it with us and take such a positive stance on the beauty of each moment with your family. It’s not surprising though, to see someone of such good humor dance around the raindrops during the storm. All good thoughts coming your way. Your pal, Al

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  19. You are an inspiration, Peg. Like you, cancer has been a member of our family since my Mom passed away at the age of 42. I was twelve. Since then we have lost many family members. Fathers, Aunts, Uncles, Nephews, Nieces, and a lot of friends. I had my run in with this dysfunctional family member when I was 35. I’ll be sixty next week. By the time my older sister was diagnosed it seemed like it was that old uncle that no one really likes but was always demanding a seat at the table. My sister’s daughter asked why we were all taking it so well. Her response was, “My family does cancer well.” I’d say the same for your family. So this is me dancing around my kitchen with one of my sisters who happens to be visiting in celebration of all those silver linings.

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    • pegoleg says:

      What a burden you’ve had, but what a wonderful outlook! I’m heading home next weekend for my sister’s annual St. Patrick’s day party. It will mark six years since her diagnosis and I will insist on a kitchen dance by all present. 😁

      Liked by 2 people

  20. David says:

    Praying for you. Love the title btw.

    Like

  21. Ehjay says:

    This gave me hope =) Thank you and praying for everyone in your family

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