It was eleven o’clock at night, everyone else was in bed, the only sound was the steady ticking of the oversized pendulum clock that hung on the wall just over my shoulder. I’d just hit “send” on a mass email I’d spent a couple of hours putting together to update as many people as I could think of with the latest news: Zach had been diagnosed with osteosarcoma. Friends and family were clamoring for information and I was doing my best to get it out even as I was processing the news myself and trying to get my bearings in the new life that we’d been thrust into. A friend replied with a suggestion to start a CaringBridge Site to get the information out quickly and easily. And so began my writing career.
“…It was a time to wrestle some meaning out of it all and arrange it neatly onto the blank page before me.”
What started as simple updates of Zach’s medical milestones quickly turned into a reflection on the bigger things that come with a diagnosis like cancer: reflections of the spirit. I had known from that very first day, the day we heard the word “tumor” and our lives changed forever, that this journey would be so much more than just a medical battle. As our new life unfolded and the chaos of cancer became the new normal, writing updates on CaringBridge became a time for me to steady myself, to sit quietly in the eye of the storm and sort through it all–the whats and whys and the why nots. It was a time to wrestle some meaning out of it all and arrange it neatly onto the blank page before me.
Most times I would sit before my computer with no words ready, just jumbled emotions and muddled thoughts bouncing around in my head. Sorting through them, organizing them and writing them all out allowed me to untangle emotionally and survey our life from different angles, then somehow make some sense from the chaos our lives had become. Examining the joyful moments against the backdrop of darkness allowed me to see our lives, Zach’s life, in a new light. Writing became a way of reining in the wildness of the landscape of the cancer life, where monsters lurked around corners waiting to throw our lives into another tailspin, and somehow tame it and make it a little less scary. Writing became a way to pause in the midst of the battle and find shelter in the order of words.
“I found that being vulnerable and raw could be a catalyst to healing…”
I wrote with the intention of being open about our struggle, allowing the readers to enter into the battle with us. I found that being vulnerable and raw could be a catalyst to healing; like scraping a wound, it allowed me to shed the fear that threatened to fester and infect. Exposing these hidden parts of me onto the page felt risky at times; being misunderstood or judged is a chance that I took. But what I found was that it wasn’t just me who was healing through the process; the readers were as well.
So much of my healing came from the response of those who faithfully read what I was pouring out onto the page. The guestbook messages they would leave behind at times were the moments of joy I so relied on to get me through the tough days. From the gloom of a hospital room, a note from someone who has taken the time to reach out and let you know they heard you can remind you there is still a great big world out there–a world beyond cancer.
“Sometimes, on the hard days, I visit him in those pages and I find there is healing in the remembering.”
Now that Zach is gone, CaringBridge continues to aid in my healing. I continue to share the triumphs and struggles as our family progresses through the grief of loss and letting go. Reading through the hundreds of entries that I posted as Zach battled his disease, experienced the enormous success of his music, his dying and then the wonderful and beautiful things that happened after his death remains a comfort to me. Sometimes, on the hard days, I visit him in those pages and I find there is healing in the remembering.
Check out the SoulPancake video below to watch more about Zach’s story.
Laura tells the amazing story of how God used her son’s battle with cancer to touch the lives of millions in her book “Fly a Little Higher”. Read more about the book, Laura and Zach’s story on her website Fly a Little Higher.