2020 Does Not Get the Last Word

2020, amirite? I’m not sure a calendar year has ever so readily and thoroughly made itself the punchline. Years from now, those of us who’ve endured it will only have to utter those digits to immediately receive knowing nods and raised eyebrows from our fellow endurers.

And I’m not just talking about the big things — the pandemic, the election, the unrest. In my own life, 2020 has been a beast of a year. My father passed away in January after a several-year battle with Alzheimer’s; my sweet lunk of a kitty-cat, Hurricane, unexpectedly crossed the Rainbow Bridge in February (right on the heels of my beloved Golden Retriever, Pringle, who left us last October); his twin brother, Stormy, followed in June; to further add to the grief, Hurricane and Stormy had been residing with my parents the past few years and were keeping my 87-year-old mother company, particularly as she dealt with the loss of my father; just as Stormy passed, we learned that my mom has Stage-4 lung cancer; my 18-year-old daughter has finished her senior year of high school and begun her freshman year of college midst lockdowns and restrictions that make everything tougher.

I could go on, but that might give the impression that I’m wallowing in self-pity. I am not. In fact, I can look at that list above and point to the blessings that relate to each of them: I miss my “Dear Old Dad” very much and am heartbroken by what he had to endure in his last few years. Yet, I am grateful that God saw fit to bring him home in January, before the pandemic hit and we were forced to wrestle an even-more-complicated process of ensuring he was getting the proper care. I am grateful that we were able to spend last Thanksgiving together at my brother’s and my Dad was actually with us — he was present, aware of what was going on, able to enjoy the afternoon, to pet the dog, to sit and hold my Mom’s hand, to chat with me as I drove them home. I am grateful that we had one last Christmas with him, with all the family gathered around.

I miss my three fur babies more than words can say. Yet, I am grateful that the loss of Pringle spurred me to start volunteering at the shelter from whence he came. Those who follow me on Twitter or Instagram or are friends with me on Facebook are treated each Saturday to photos of the various “floofs” I have the privilege of tending to. Each tail wag, butt wiggle, goofy dog grin, and nose-snoof helps heal me in a way I’d never have expected, and I am reminded how fortunate we are to have these furry little angels who live among us and love us unconditionally. What a fine example they set. And though my Mom wasn’t certain she was ready for another cat so soon after we lost Hurricane and Stormy, we overrode her concerns and my niece found the perfect kitty companion for her — “Tiger” (highly appropriate, as my folks are both MIZZOU alums) — whose antics keep her amused and whose petiteness makes her efforts to be a lapcat quite tolerable and welcome.

While Mom’s cancer diagnosis was a gut punch that came seemingly out of nowhere (she wasn’t a smoker, never worked in an industrial setting, and there’s no family history of lung cancer), if it had to come, it did so at the right time — June. COVID had let up a bit and things were more open, which made getting the diagnosis and requisite treatment easier than it might have been earlier in the spring or currently. We were able to accompany her to her appointments — which was necessary, particularly for the radiation treatments she underwent. While she only had two weeks of that, it completely wiped her out. But she has since bounced back and has decent energy and strength. Her cancer turned out to have the right mutation, so there’s a relatively new medication she’s able to take which seems to be working well and without negative side effects. At her last scan, the mass on her left lung had shrunk by 30%, and the nodules on her right lung had essentially disappeared. No, she won’t ever be cured, but for now, she is doing pretty well, and I am so very thankful for that.

My daughter has had a rough time with all of these obstacles and setbacks and, as her mother, I have struggled with watching her hurt and wanting to be able to put some Bactine and a Band-Aid on it all and make it better. Yet, through it all, she’s finding her way. She weathered COVID in September. She’s maintaining good grades. She joined the same sorority to which my Mom and I belong and we were blessedly able to be there with her for her initiation last month as a very special surprise. (The enjoyment my Mom got from getting out of the house, going on a brief road trip with me, and being back in her much-beloved sorority house to see her granddaughter initiated was priceless — as was the look on my daughter’s face when she turned around and saw me, and then my Mom, there to share it with her.) She is working. And she is maturing into a strong, independent, capable young woman.

It seems appropriate, on this Thanksgiving week, to acknowledge the many reasons why, despite the heartache and upheaval, I am nevertheless thankful.

Above all, I am thankful to know that the God of the universe loves us all — myself included. This morning’s church service was about just that: Remembering and focusing on God’s love for each of us and how blessed we are, even in our broken, less-than-perfect world, to have that. I’ve shared links to our church service previously and am doing so again. I invite (and encourage) you to watch the entire service, but at a minimum, do yourself a favor and watch from the 1:20 mark on. Don’t worry — the actual service ends at the 1:30 mark, so it’s only about a 10-minute investment. I think — I pray — that you’ll find it completely worth it.

Remember: He’s got this.

I’m thankful for each and every one of you. God bless.