I suppose my high school English teacher would like to think he made the biggest impression in my life. He loved to quote Shakespeare, Bryon and Keats. He could whip up a gourmet French dinner in a few hours. He knew Latin and spoke Japanese. “Class, class, you’ll thank me one day,” he’d tell us as we’d groan about the lengthy books assigned for homework.
But the truth is, two decades later, I have another hero. My hero was only four, could not read or write and yet he taught me through his short life lessons no adult could ever match.
He taught me to spend time watching lady bugs and toads. They are amazing creatures and hold such vibrant colors.
He demonstrated humor through the jokes he’d memorized from a worn joke book purchased at a yard sale.
He showed me the strength in being brave and courageous even when the doctors poked and asked a dozen questions.
Sharing the stickers he received in the hospital, he educated me in the value of giving.
Through this boy’s life and death, he has taught me to embrace each day as if it were my last.
I have learned to hug those I love more often and to tell them how much they mean to me. Today. I may not have them tomorrow. I focus less on trying to get grumpy people to like me.
I have found graveyards to be quiet places of beauty because they hold a magnitude of experience from all the lives lived.
I have found sobbing with someone over a loss needs no words of wisdom. It is in the sharing of tears, healing begins. Likewise I have experienced that “grief is not a sign of weakness or a lack of faith, but the price of love.”
I have learned that the smoothly running car, the pay raise, the perfectly baked chocolate cake are not the norm but rarities and should they happen, to enjoy them, counting each one a bonus.
And most of all I have learned that even the smallest child can make the biggest mark in a mother’s life.
For this hero of mine is Daniel, my son, one whose smile produced more sunshine than that at a Carolina beach. A boy whose only enemy was the cancer inside his little body.
On cool open nights I sit on my porch and uncork the bottle of memories. The recollections of this small boy fill me with an indescribable warmth. I have learned that memories live on even after death and that in the remembering there is comfort and love. I allow my writing to continually reflect the depth of what this child taught me.
Because I did know him, I’m wealthy. It’s a wealth no one can ever steal.