Pain and joy exist simultaneously. I’d say I wish it weren’t true. I’d say I wish I could just have the joy without the pain, but then I guess the reverse would also have to be true.
I’d have to accept the pain without the joy.
Where would that have left me during my breast cancer diagnosis? Where would that leave you when your child comes home heartbroken? Or any other part of your life suddenly crumbles?
I definitely want the joy when the pain comes, so I guess that means I have to suck it up and take a bit of the pain when the joy is so evident.
I was sitting in my sweatpants wrapping Christmas presents over the Thanksgiving break. Boxes and ribbons and scraps of paper circled me. I’m certain if someone could have shaken the room, it would have looked like a snow globe.
I picked up the last present to be wrapped. My book. My new book. The first one I’ve ever written, but the one I’ve been working on for four years and longing to write for many more.
My dad was always the biggest proponent of my publishing career. For years he’s been asking, “How’s that book coming along? When are you gonna let me read it?”
I gently set the book down on the wrapping paper. Then I picked it back up. A wave of heat instantly formed in my throat and I involuntarily gasped. The tears came before I even knew what was happening.
He’ll never read it.
My dad will never get to read this book.
I could feel my mind desperately scraping for the silver lining, trying to talk me off the ledge. C’mon Nic, be happy! It’s your first book! You finally did it! Other people will read it. Who cares if your dad can’t? Besides he probably read most of these stories when they came out each week in your newspaper column.
My emotions were at war. I felt the joy and excitement of holding that book in my hands, but all I could picture was my dad, still sitting in the nursing home after suffering a stroke last summer. He can’t process information well enough to read– or even to be read to for more than a few moments.
I finally asked the question I never once asked during my battle with breast cancer.
Why can’t he read it, God? Would it really be so hard for you to give him back that ability? To let him truly feel the pride that I imagine he would have felt if he could totally process what this book means to me? To us?
I’m like a little girl again, needing to hear my daddy tell me I’m smart and talented and good at what I do.
Why God? Why can’t I have that?
This is all part of the grieving process, I know. I have been given the opportunity to say goodbye to my dad slowly, thanks to this stroke. I have been given the time to get used to him being gone, before he really is.
The joy of knowing people will read my words of kindness and perhaps cast a new vision for their own lives will win out. I know it will. But today, it still hurts.
In a strange way, I’m grateful to feel the pain that goes with the joy of this first book. I never want to get to a point in life where I forget that everyone has pain. Even those with the fancy Facebook photos and those who get the great job and those who write the New York Times bestsellers.
Because when we recognize everyone has pain, we are able to greet everyone we meet with compassion. And that’s the place where kindness lives.