Creating Space

As part of creating space, I let go of my volunteer work for 5 nonprofit organizations.  For years after my daughter’s treatment (now 5) I was hoping to make a paid career out of helping others in the pediatric cancer world, but it dawned on me all of a sudden that I was extending myself beyond what I could sustain with limited financial resources, I likely needed more education to be paid, and that I need to focus on myself and daughter before I can take this on.  The one thing I did not let go of because it takes little time commitment is providing phone support to parents facing childhood cancer.  This is through a program called First Connection with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society where parents are matched with someone who has a child with a similar diagnosis to yours.

As long as I live, I will keep myself open to lend an ear to any parent who finds themselves dealing with the shock, visceral fear, anxiety, and even boredom of making their way through the childhood cancer world.  It is one of those things you have to go through to truly understand.  I recently participated in a survey about the impact of childhood cancer on families, and here is a link to the results, should anyone be interested:  https://acco.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=Ofv1ies0LKs%3d&tabid=1321

Because my spiritual understanding makes me view physical reality as illusion, I can’t help but think of cause and effect in a broader view.  Something happened during the year I lived at the Seattle Ronald McDonald House with my daughter that I cannot explain, and I truly believe I was put in the right place at the right time by forces unseen to me.  I was asked to write a speech (had never done so prior) and give said speech (had never done so prior) in front of 600 people at the Seattle Sheraton during the RMH annual auction, their biggest fundraiser.  After my 5-minute speech, $250,000 came in, the most after that segment of the auction ever raised in its 17 years and to this day.  I mention this not to toot my own horn, but because I struggle to relate to the part of me that manifested in that moment in 2005 and I believe a power greater than myself was working through me.  I would like to live my entire life as that sort of conduit, but it’s hard to figure out how to make that happen.

Often I find the external physical world resonates with my internal thoughts.  Today’s beach walk was one such time.  As I was contemplating how I want to always remain open to any parent facing their child’s diagnosis with cancer, I walked past many dead animals.  It may have been due to some deep ocean storm even though it has been calm weather on the surface, but this was rather unusual because here is a list of what I saw within 30 minutes, and amazingly all were baby/young animals:  A salmon, a baby seal, a coyote, a raccoon, a baby bird.  It is times like this that I cannot help but believe I am being communicated with by “the universe/spirit/grace/source” whatever you want to call it.  What are the chances of finding all those dead baby animals within a half hour?  It certainly has not happened any other time in all my walks.

Because it fits the theme here, I’m posting a poem I wrote at age 20.  It is my only poem about death and I promise not to focus on this topic the remainder of this blog.  It is truly ironic now when I look at it now because I wrote this before I was exposed to anything about Zen/Buddhist thought and many years before having a child or being thrust into the childhood cancer world.  This poem was published in a journal in Japan and in the US.

Salt Black

A large black sea lion

Rolled on shore

Might be nothing

More than death.

Circling the body

Step by step,

I satisfy some scientist in me.

Watching the blue-black eye

Turn white, I stand

One moment longer,

Noticing cowlicked hairs

Begin to catch

Sand grains in the wind;

Small ear flaps limp

On the smooth, bulky head;

Flippers pressed the wrong way.

I leave

The way I came,

Sliding up a dune

Through stands of

Salt grass bending.

I follow deer tracks

Until, knowing I am watched,

I stop

And turn my head right

To see a smaller gray seal

Shuddering cold

Against the dune,

Two black eyes questioning.

I step forward–

Wanting to push it back

Thinking the seal will surely die

This far from the tide–

Hesitating

When I realize

It was my eye that had moved,

Not the seal.

Letting a warm drop of salt roll,

Knowing

Driftwood cannot shake.

About Erin W

A sensitive plant, bamboo strong.
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