We all stood huddled in the freezing rain and biting wind, steadfast fans of our softball-playing daughters. I felt my hair whipping wildly as rain stung my cheeks. I knew I looked like an absolute wreck! But I didn't care. Like all the other parents, it wasn't about me. We were there to support our girls.
Oh, but Camryn cared! I watched her (then) 3-year-old eyes scan me from head to toe, horror then contemplation as to how best approach me about how embarrassingly ridiculous I looked.
She raised her arms up for me to pick her up, cupped my face with her hands, her big blue eyes gazing solemnly into mine, and asked, "Ms. Marsh, would you like to borrow my hat?"
I have so many similar stories about this precocious little girl, now 6 years old - her outrage at being told she was required to take a nap in kindergarten ("Can you believe that lady?!?!?); her blunt opinions ("Um, your shorts are really short. Yes.... too short."); and our ongoing exchange over the years about "borrowing" my lipstick, which invariably became her lipstick, the pinker, the better.
An adorable little girl? Hilarious? Sassy, smart and absolutely wise beyond her years? Yes. But also, a child who at 8 months old was near death after many misdiagnoses of a rare form of leukemia. A child who battled for her life, toe-to-toe at Heaven's Gates, stuck full of needles and tubes, hours, days, weeks, months in hospitals, while her parents and five older siblings struggled with the business of Living Life, maintaining some semblance of "normal" and simultaneously being physically and emotionally present for her.
She is in remission now, but we never know when the venomous snake of cancer will raise its nasty head and bite again. Now, that would make the best, the strongest of us quit and live sheltered in fear and bitterness. Not Camryn! As we speak, she is in the hospital for yet another operation for problems with her ears, one of many side effects of all the heavy chemotherapy and radiation she endured at such a young age. She is scared, naturally, but she is a fighter. She is a believer in Living Life to its fullest. So instead of crying, she is holding the baby doll her daddy brought her and smiling big, bravely for her mom's camera.
Life is fragile. Life is unpredictable. It's easy to allow yourself to get weighed down by all the heaviness, all the "what ifs," to watch your every step, to limit what you do in a futile, false attempt to prevent disaster. It's easy to become hateful and pessimistic. It's easy to lose sight of goodness and hope.
It's also easy to find the wonder, the beauty and the optimistic side in our every day lives. Guess what? It's a choice. Camryn is living, breathing proof positive of that. Every time I see her, no matter what kind of day I'm having, I automatically smile as her whole face lights up and she rushes into my arms. She humbles me. She keeps me grounded and balanced.
A few years back, at a Light the Night walk to raise awareness for leukemia, little Miss Camryn was interviewed. In asking to tell her story and a bit about her life now, someone posed the question, "Who are your friends, Camryn?" Without hesitation, she answered, "Ms. Marsh!" I can't think of a greater honor.
No matter where we are, Camryn will always take my hand and gaily say, "Let's skip!" And we do, with absolutely no care or concern about who is watching our silliness. Life will continue to happen, whether we are trudging angrily or skipping merrily along.
Camryn and I choose the latter.