My Trip to Paris
In all probability, I will never get to visit Paris. The two C’s, cancer and covid, have deferred that dream, putting it at the very bottom of my bucket list, along with so many other plans. Like most people, I thought of time as an endless commodity, with days easily turning into weeks and months into years. I always imagined that tomorrow was ready and waiting for whatever adventure I might have concocted, and so I lived without a sense of urgency. I think that our human nature has programmed us to think of the infinite possibilities that lie before us, regardless of the finite reality of life. This is one of the many bits of truth that sickness has taught me.
A few months ago, I was whining about this very thing over a long lunch with friends. The women in my inner circle have graciously given me a safe space to talk about the hard stuff, to lament over what I have lost, and cry on their understanding shoulders. They listen with sympathetic ears, even when it is tedious or absurd or self-serving. Goodness knows, I can be dramatic, but that only amplifies how richly I am blessed by their patience. The ones who have stuck around, even when I am unable to come out and play, are worth their weight in gold. No joke.
You see, there are those friends who are available no matter what. They stand with you through the sunny days, and they are there to hold the umbrella when it storms. When you plaster on a smile and say that you are just fine, they know better. With uncanny clairvoyance, they know just what to do. Somehow, these women understand the highs and lows of life. And they willingly help others, especially those they love, ride the waves in the sea of life.
And so, a few weeks ago, when a couple of dear gal-pals appeared at my door wearing colorful berets, carrying baskets of wine and cheese and pastries, little did I know that I was about to be transported to Paris without even leaving home. They brought pictures and souvenirs, tasty treats to sample, all with a French theme. We sat at my kitchen table for hours, laughing and toasting, dreaming about the romantic destinations in this world. It was one of those simple, yet special moments. And it meant the world to me.
In my mind, I have always considered myself to be a giver. It is a cultural doctrine where I’m from: we are taught to help our neighbors as young children. But it is also a birthright, modeled for me by a grandpa, who grew a big garden just to give the bounty away and a mother who had elevated volunteerism to an art form. They often reminded me of how good generosity feels. But back in the day, folks used to be intrinsically communal. Not so much anymore. (And no, Facebook and Instagram don’t count.) Now, people tend to step up, to galvanize, to be there for each other mostly in times of crisis. But when the emergency has passed or the effort requires a long-term commitment, they slowly fade away and return to their safe place of noninvolvement. Wouldn’t it be nice if we truly understood that bringing other people joy brings us joy as well? I guess that question is rhetorical.
But certainly, in this season of my life, I am also learning how to receive, which often is more difficult. This has been a particularly hard lesson for me. It is humbling to accept help, to swallow my pride and admit that I need it. But dependence can be a lovely thing when it allows you to see the face of God through others. You see, when you receive, you understand that you are not alone. During the darkest of times, that is most reassuring because with a long-term illness, the loneliness can be ongoing and brutal. And so, my heart is filled with gratitude for those who have been thoughtful and attentive. We underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, or a listening ear. In fact, the smallest act of caring has the potential to change a person’s life, to ease pain and bring joy. It certainly has done that for me.
God sends us the people we need, when we need them. And some of those folks throw kindness around like confetti. They understand that we were meant to be interdependent, that life was designed to be a group project and that we were called to love each other in both big and small ways. May they be richly blessed, their goodness returned to them tenfold.
And now, I’m off to mix some tasteless potion, designed to boost my hydration and prevent further neuropathy. But I will be drinking it from my Paris cup. I may even wrap myself in my purple shawl, embroidered with Eiffel Towers, just for the heck of it. Both are lovely reminders of thoughtful friends, who want me to believe that there are better days to come filled with good times. And I do, I truly do.