Today I begin sharing with the world. We are given one life of indeterminate length. I fear that too many people live life daily without taking this into consideration. I know this well. I was once one of them. Everything changed when I lost my 39 year old husband to cancer. I offer you my abbreviated back story.
I was marching through my goals and checking boxes. I had completed undergrad and graduate school. I had met my husband-to-be in grad school. We had a small wedding in a gorgeous garden in North Carolina surrounded by some of our closest friends and family. We thought we were invincible. We owned a wonderful home and had two bright eyed, beautiful, and healthy girls. We each had rewarding careers. I was trying to convince my husband for a third child when disaster struck. He developed chest and back pain and we were told the unthinkable. He was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. Stage IV lung cancer is a death sentence. To know the diagnosis and to look at him made it all seem that much more impossible. We froze sperm and rolled up our sleeves to fight. Twenty months later, I would be clinging to his wasted body as his life slipped away.
I could easily pause here and waddle in it. No one would blame me. Actually, I learned that I was almost expected to do nothing. Here is your resignation from life – sign here. Truth is- early on I did not expect anything from myself. God gave me a generous helping of peace and every day I took things moment by moment. I had two little girls that were completely dependent on me. I was thankful for the structure with which I had organized my life and I was able to follow my well-worn trails through days, weeks, months and years.
Initially, I put everything on pause. Foreclosure notices and threats of electric and gas being turned off caught my attention. I made just enough payments to keep them at bay. As some of the fog lifted, I started trying to make sense of my finances. I was working through my budget and gathering my resources with worksheets provided by my younger brother. He worked in finance. To lift me out of my financial briary patch- for him would have been effortless. I requested that he let me try. I was gifted a money book from one of my best friend’s husband that opened my eyes and gave me something to think about. My brother encouraged me to read additional books about finances and money to get a better more diversified picture. I read like a maniac. I consumed information with fervor. After processing a whole lot of information, I had a plan. It was liberating. I had blazed a plan to retirement that made sense for me and I felt like I had a little bit of control back in my world. What had seemed so difficult now made more sense. Through the process of working through my finances, I learned more about myself. To establish financial goals, I had to reassess my personal goals and balance my risk tolerance. Deciding what is important to me and working to that end was therapeutic. It was a great and challenging period of growth and self-discovery. It made me a better person- a greater mom. I had learned so much and I wanted to capture what I had learned for my girls. They were too young to really appreciate the details, so I started writing a letter to my girls about matters of finance. Then my girls asked me- "what happens if you die?"
Whoa. This took my breath away and gave me great pause. Let me think. Okay. This is a completely reasonable question. I did not really have an answer to it, but a completely reasonable ask, nonetheless. Why didn’t I anticipate this question? I won’t die! God would never! The thought of my girls being on this earth having lost both of their parents is chilling and sobering. I had to get more serious about writing and I needed to expand my scope from finance to life, in general. It used to drive me crazy when I asked my grandmother to attend an event and she would say “Lord willing.” I guess I kind of get it now.
I am glad my girls addressed my fatality and uncertainty. It was frightening at first but it opened up the seams of my original project that I started for them and made it bigger than I had ever imagined. My girls deserve to know me whether I am physically present on this earth or not. If I am not here-then this prose serves its purpose. Otherwise, could these words potentially be of any benefit to anyone outside of my girls? I thought that if I am able to write to my girls and maintain the authenticity of my message while offering it for public consumption and contemplation, then I would be happy to share with the world. If nothing else, I do believe that I am supposed to share my story. Still, this is a platform that I would not have, otherwise, sought. Traditionally, I have been a reserved person among strangers and sharing is far from second nature. Although I will never know the reason that my children and I had to endure this tragedy, I do have a sense that I have a story that I must share. We are given this remarkable yet finite time here on this earth. All of this happened to me for a reason that I will never know, despite that, I desire to be still enough and aware enough to appreciate the growth from the ashes of my personal tragedy and live to sing a story of perseverance and triumph.
The words do not come easy. Regardless, I have been forced to accept the realization of my power to influence the collective with my story even though I am not sure what exactly my influence will be for each person. To my girls, I want them to know that they are loved beyond measure and their potential is limitless. They are a mere five and seven years old and I am, already, so impressed with them. I have had to redefine everything in my life and while working full time and being a full time mother. I have successfully navigated from a very dark place to one full of sunshine and optimism. I actively choose joy and I find a sense of renewed purpose for my life in writing and sharing with my girls. To the world, I hope you can find a little bit of yourself in my story and find encouragement and/or perspective to help you along in your story and encourage you to dream big.