Swiftly Kicked in the Stomach

*This is one of many posts that mentions our sweet friend Emily. I have made a separate category for the times I wrote about her. If you would like to read more about her, please click on the category “Sweet Emily”*

This weekend it began- spring sports. Joshua hurried off in one direction with Jude for 8:30am pictures and a 9 o’clock game. Meemaw would meet him there as they watched most of the game, then Joshua and Selah would move along to another field on the other side of town for 10:30am pictures and an 11am game. Joshua would coach because although he had specifically said he could not take on coaching this season, the head coach was out of town and so on opening weekend and picture day, there Joshua was, leading the little ones. He’d be the coach in the picture whether he liked it or not.

I packed Beau up and we were off to Play It Again Sports to cash in last seasons baseball pants and rummage for a new pair, a bit longer in width and wider in girth. I looked on, amazed that despite a leveled-off growth chart that had the doctors always murmuring, there we were, buying the next size up.

What a joy to grow bigger.

We arrived at his baseball practice and he barely allowed the van to come to a full stop before barreling out towards his new team. He was eager, the hop in his step undeniable.

How lucky we are to be alive right now, I thought to myself. I had a small window to run errands, kid-free errands- a novelty!, and hot tears pooled in my eyes as I considered what a gift it was to be this busy. Thrown neck deep into the demands of healthy kids all with their own sporting commitments. Years ago I recall speaking with another young mom and remarking, “I never want my entire weekend to be occupied by kids sports.” But today, I couldn’t be happier. The gift to have a healthy child, to be home in a local league…to plain and simply: be alive. Take all my time youth sports, TAKE ALL MY TIME.

This is healing.

(please check back in some weeks, this is clearly opening weekend vibes….but you get the point.)

Beau was thriving, Jude was thriving. Selah was…. well. Damn. Selah ended up playing her first official soccer game and getting a direct kick soccer ball to the stomach. The kind of kick that knocks that wind out of you. The kind of wind knocking that has an already timid 4- year old really question what in the actual hell society is concocting here. Despite reserved excitement all winter long, she is now no longer sure about soccer.

I strolled the grocery store quickly as all the kids were occupied and relished how sweet it was to be productive and settled (not yet knowing about the stomach kick situation). I drove back to Beau’s practice and sat in the sunshine while the boys finished up their drills. Beau was on fire: eager, ready. It’s not just the parents of pediatric cancer kids that understand how richly sweet this chance is, Beau gets it too.

A pop fly, caught! A tag of second base, he’s out! Beau had a single-handed double play on his first practice back.


Could this life be any more sweet? How lucky we are to not be in Philly, to not be riddled with cancer.

Right, cancer.

I realized that my dear cancer mom friend Lorin hadn’t texted me an update about the tests their family had had the past week so I shot her a quick check-in text.

Beau’s practice wrapped up and we began to drive home. He was a jabber-mouth the entire way detailing each teammate’s favorite position, which team they were on last year, and his predictions for how far they’d advance into the play-offs. I reminded him that despite his excitement, he had to buckle in and he resigned to leaning back just far enough to buckle the seatbelt before immediately leaning forward to continue on.

The text came through and I glanced to see who it was from. Lorin had replied. The cancer was back, many places, more than anyone had guessed. There were no more treatment options. They’d treat sweet Emily for comfort and plea for a miracle.

I gasped audibly enough that Beau stopped yammering and said, “What? What happened?” and looked around the road for a dead animal.

“Nothing. Nothing. What were you saying, the coach told who that?”

He continued on and I stared ahead weeping, as tears slid like acid down my cheeks. He didn’t notice. He didn’t notice that I cried the whole way home, that I didn’t say anything beyond, “Yeah…” and “oh….”

We arrived home at the same time Joshua and crew did and I was quickly pulled in to the ‘kick to the stomach’ debacle which had Selah weeping the big alligator tears of a preschooler who can’t make sense of why life has to be this way. Joshua held her as I rubbed her back and she yelled, “No! I want my daddy!” followed quickly by, “No, Mama, don’t leave!” when I removed my hand.

As she sank into her daddy’s chest, Jude detailed that his team had lost, but only by one, and he had had 3 shots on goal, but he was totally out of shape, and his legs burned, and he needed to do some running because he isn’t the fastest, and he wants to be the fastest, but it was ok they lost, and he got a snack afterwards, and maybe he’d go for a run after lunch, and what was for lunch…

Jude hummed his excited-self inside and we sat down to eat. I looked at my kids, healthy and sports crazed and couldn’t speak. Selah had calmed to sniffles and inquired, “Daddy, since I got kicked in the stomach, does that mean I lost?” No sooner the words out of her mouth than her sobbing recommenced. She hasn’t a clue how this whole soccer thing works, but she isn’t a fan.

The kids retreated to screen time and I updated Joshua on the text I had received. We both moved in numb ways the rest of the afternoon. It was too close for comfort and too painful to avoid. They were once our light at the end of the tunnel. It was our story but a different family. It is our dear friends. It is their baby. It was Emily.

I still can’t make any sense of it, and all the words I’ve typed out so far have been through tears. I want to have some poetic quip to wrap this up with, but I am tired y’all. Every moment that I drink in the sunshine and hurry to a spring sport practice and think about how fucking good survival is, means nothing when my friends are working though what it means to “treat for comfort”.

It means nothing, and everything.

We have nothing but today. I want to beg for tomorrow and be promised years from now. I want to open up and dream about Beaudin’s college sports career along with him or his wedding day and future offspring. And I can’t. Maybe not ever, but surely not now. For today, I can only drink in that his hair is entirely too long to not be held back by a hair tie for sporting, that Selah is entirely too pure to be kicked by competitive drive, and that Jude is entirely more committed to his leg muscles than video game time (a welcome change…).

Today, that’s all I have, and dare I believe, it’s enough.

The news of our sweet Emily is a direct kick to the stomach. The wind knocked out of us. There is nothing to say, or do, but hold the scared space that is the edge of the veil and to pray in moans. There is only weeping the big alligator tears on behalf of a family who can’t make sense of why life has to be this way.

Would you please join me in holding Lorin and Will as they walk into the holy space of moving closer and closer to the veil.

And now some Selah pictures because the rest of everything seems incomprehensible.

4 thoughts on “Swiftly Kicked in the Stomach”

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