‘Sometimes life brings you full circle to a place you have been before, just to show you how much you have grown.’
The Universe gave me an early Mother’s Day gift earlier this week, when it created a chance encounter with a mother who made a huge difference for us over the last year.
At 4:30 am on Wednesday, Brian, Ajay, and myself crawled out of our nice warm beds and made our way to the airport. For the last year we have been making regular visits to a children’s hospital for Ajay’s medical care and Wednesday marked another of these many trips.
As we waited in the security check-in line at the airport Ajay was busy hurdling the dividing ropes and I was busy being a mom and trying to get him to stop. My disciplinary activity came to a sudden halt when my attention was drawn toward a woman behind me who had on a pair of to die for shoes. As I was busy staring at her feet and coveting those shoes, I was startled to hear her say, “Annette, is that you?’
I looked up to see the beautiful face of Alexis, an old friend of ours. Her son Cooper had been on Ajay’s soccer team last year. In-between soccer practices and all of the other things a typical 8 year old boy does, Cooper was also battling leukemia. Alexis and I had become friends and their family held a special place in our hearts.
Upon seeing her, my first question of course, was to ask how Cooper was. Her smile spoke louder than her words, ‘ He’s wonderful- he finished his last chemo treatment on April 26th of last year….’ As she said the words, her eyes lit up with recognition and she finished her sentence by saying…. ‘Well you remember, you were there….’
As she spoke, the memories of what she was referring to came tumbling back. Last April a wayward immune response caused Ajay’s body to attack the muscles in his legs. He was heading into his third day of in-patient care and getting sicker when I had reached the end of my motherly rope. Unable to affect a change in his care plan I was reduced to tears in the hallway outside his hospital room. It was then, that I heard the same voice that I heard at the airport Wednesday, say the exact same thing ‘Annette is that you?’
As fate would have it, not only had life made Ajay and Cooper teammates- on April 24th, 2015 it had practically made them roommates too. Cooper was in the hospital room next to Ajay. As I was busy trying to navigate Ajay through a frightening medical event, Alexis was sitting next to Cooper as he received the last chemotherapy treatment he was ever scheduled to have. We were two moms on two very different missions with our sons, when we unexpectedly came face to face with one another in that hospital hallway.
This experience was a first in my nearly 25 years of motherhood. Other than the typical emergency room visits for bumps and bruises that are part and parcel to any normal childhood, none of our three children had ever spent a single night in the hospital. I was a virtual neophyte to the sense of fear and bewilderment that overtakes you when you have a sick child who is getting sicker. Well, if I was a newbie to this unenviable spot, Alexis was a bad ass-take no prisoner’s master – and after acquainting herself with the struggle for proper care we were experiencing, she was not pleased.
Like a veteran football coach getting in the face of a freshman running back going into his first big game- she grabbed me by the shoulders, looked me in the eye, and told me to wipe my tears and get out on the field. She encouraged me to push back- to use my voice to challenge the care we were (not) being given- and to fight harder for what Ajay needed. I did-and the scuffle that ensued between the hospital and our family doctor (who did not have hospital privileges) was more than a little uncomfortable. But just as Alexis had predicted, within a few hours, Ajay was on his way by air ambulance to a children’s hospital in another state.
That transfer is what changed everything. It placed him under the care of some of the best pediatric auto-immune specialists in the country… and now a year later, he is robustly healthy because of this. One of the last faces we saw before getting on that flight last year was Alexis- who waved us off with a knowing smile.Wednesday, as we parted ways and headed off toward our gate, I looked back- and again there she was -smiling and waving us off- just as she had last year. The deja-vu was staggering.
This last year has been an epic journey for our family- nothing at all in comparison to the type of journey Alexis and her family has faced, but for our little family, it has altered our lives in ways that we never could have expected. It has taught us that judgment does more damage than any illness ever can- and that kindness and understanding- like the type Alexis offered us last year- is the most powerful medicine there is.
This random encounter with Alexis at the airport could not have been more poetic- reflecting to us that we are exactly where we are supposed to be with Ajay- doing exactly what we are supposed to do. And a large part of how we got here, is due to the tough love pep talk Alexis gifted me with last year.
I never did get to thank her- but we have plans to have them over for a BBQ soon- and while Ajay and Cooper have a soccer throw down in the backyard, and our husbands crack open a couple of beers and watch them play- I will thank Alexis in earnest – for being the kind of mother that holds another mother up when she needs it- and for forcing me into the badass-take no prisoners-momma’s club that gave me the courage to fight for what we needed.
Here is to those full circle experiences that show us just how far we’ve come.
*Happy Mother’s Day to all of the moms out there… And especially to my Mom, Grace- whose name so fits her, and who has always given me a perfect example to follow. Thank you for the love and support you give to me and mine- every day 24/7. We love you so!