Entries from my book “Count It All Joy”

Monday, May 12th, 1997

I once heard that we read to know that we are not alone. I write to know that I am not alone.

In the age of computers and technology that changes faster than my boys change their socks, I suppose I could sit at a keyboard and type my story. I actually did sit at my son’s computer one day and attempt to enter a writing program. After 30 minutes of the little arrow moving all over the screen and not being able to “click on,” I gave up. Then I realized I never did like mice and decided that writing my story with pen and paper was more appealing.

Writing by hand, with ink, also seems a touch more romantic. I like scrolling my thoughts across a clean sheet of paper.

I am an incurable romantic. I look for romance every day and in every opportunity. Ahhh, it is soothing to wipe away a tear, to caress a furrowed brow, to smile at a stranger, to receive a hug. These loving and yet simple gestures are sure to bring Joy to my soul. It has been said many times that I am too sensitive and too emotional, and that I care too much. Why is that? Are the tears a symptom of my illness? Or was I always this sensitive? It has also been said that I should get a grip and snap out of it. Get back to reality. “What is reality?” I ask.

I wake up every day and ask, “When with healing come?”

Oh, if only major tragedies would stop occurring in my life. The emotional and physical trauma I have experienced have sharpened my senses. I have an increased awareness of human suffering. I know what pain is and what loss is. But because of these experiences, I also know what Joy is.

When the doctors informed me that Jason had leukemia, a part of me died. The agony of knowing Jason had cancer and fearing that would lose my baby was more than I thought I could bear. I cried almost every day. I was convinced I would never smile again or feel happiness. Life became very serious, and I avoided people who didn’t understand my pain. I was convinced Jason would die. My son had cancer, and I was a student nurse who knew what leukemia did to children.

Jason was diagnosed with T-cell leukemia on October 10, 1987, and it wasn’t until February 1988 that I caught myself smiling. I remember thinking, “How awful. How could I smile when my son was so ill?”

The pain is so intense, it is as if today is the day that they told me Jason had leukemia.

Where is the healing, the closure, if the wound remains open? Jason is still alive, but his cure came with a price. We still live every day knowing that cancer may strike again. We must also face the medical and emotional challenges that the treatment of T-cell leukemia brought to our family.

Deep within me there is a knowledge that if I accept the day as it is I will find some reason to smile. Maybe a tiny ray of sunshine will peek into my life and I will feel Joy.

I must accept that Jason will die one day. Death is a part of life. Until he takes his last breath, I will do everything I can to make him happy and to keep him safe. Today, I am still not ready to write about Jason’s battle for life.

Thursday, May 15th, 1997

Today I will look for Joy. I will take T.J. for a walk. I will work in the garden. I will talk to new people. I will not let fear, pain or loneliness creep its heaviness into my soul or let it lie upon my shoulders. I will drink a latte, look for flowers and gaze upon the beauty that surrounds me.

I tour the riverside of St. Albert, looking at all the familiar buildings, bridges and paths. Memories of long walks with my babies in a double stroller come flooding back. Oh what sweet, easy, promising days those were. We can never t=return to those days. Life was very different back then.

It is two years ago this weekend that I was hospitalized the second time for major depression. On Sunday, May 9, 1995, I took all the medication I had to stop the profound sadness, despair and pain. I was at my sister’s house for a few days to get some rest. I could not get settled and the tears would not stop. I no longer had the strength or desire to live.

I swallowed all my pills and laid my head on the pillow. I closed my eyes and waited for sleep to come. I was very tired but thought, “Maybe I should tell my sister.” It was one of the better thoughts I had. Because of the love of my sister and Dr. Silverstone’s belief in me, and by the grace of God, I am alive today. They would not give up on me and encouraged me to fight my illness. They believed that, given enough time and with the proper medical support, I would recover.

Friday, May 16th, 1997

I sit here in the local cafe bar with a heaviness in my heart, wondering where the Joy will be today. I say to myself, “What do I do? Where do I belong?”

My family is going camping. That leaves me alone with puppy, T.J. The ladies next to me are discussing sewing and iron-on patches. Normal living occurs all around me. I know that if I keep busy, keep connected with people, walk and garden, I will make it make it through to the next day. I will look for pink roses, bath T.J. and give him a hug.


copyright Sheila Ethier 2015

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