I should say “don’t be precious about the wrong things,” but that seems like a cumbersome title for a blog post. I first started thinking about this last Saturday when I learned the sad news that my friend back in Canada, Stephanie, had passed away after a long, brave battle with cancer. I still can hardly believe she’s gone.
Stephanie and I were almost exactly the same age – I’m MUCH older by a whole 4 days. We lived in the same town as kids and had the same grade one teacher, a year apart (those February birthdays!). We both went to Red Deer College, even though we didn’t know it at the time. We were both in rehab med – she was an SLP and I was an OT. Our oldest kids were in the same class for several years and her youngest son was born between my youngest two. We met as parents at kindergarten orientation, worked together in that same kindergarten and in many other classes. She laughed at my inappropriate Gerard Butler jokes during dull staff meetings and was game for all the festivities we brought to the workplace. She supported my thrifting endeavours – participated in Black Out Style, came thrifting with me, came to my pop-up Backyard Boutique… Stephanie was a giving person and one of the things she said to me that I’ll never forget was, “Oh, I’m not precious about that.” I can’t even remember what we were talking about but it stopped me and stuck to me.
Precious means valuable, cherished, esteemed, refined, great, dear, costly, extremely, extravagant… There was a lot of wisdom in that simple phrase – wisdom I myself did not possess at the time even though I’m WAY older (!). As Stephanie fought cancer, she showed us all what to be precious about. Cancer is costly but that’s not what Stephanie was precious about; she endured rounds and rounds of chemo and the subsequent side effects including losing her hair and allergic skin reactions, but she wasn’t precious about that. I, on the other hand, would have been very precious about that, I’m sorry to say. You would’ve heard me complaining about it up and down the Internet. Not Stephanie. She was too busy being precious about her children, her husband, her parents and friends. Even after cancer had spread to her brain, she was making jokes and parenting like a boss. I wanted to take notes while I was visiting with her so I could remember what to do with my kids! The fruit of her precious life is a husband who is handling all of this with grace and strength that is simply astounding. Her kids are strong, loving and remarkable. Her daughter danced in the living room, danced in the hospital and will dance out her grief and tribute. She’s twelve years old. Can you just take a minute and imagine the courage and poise that takes? It stops me and sticks to me.
On Monday, I learned more sad news that my mother had passed away after a long but very different battle with cancer and a longer, very different life. I was not in relationship with my mother when she passed – “it’s complicated” and frankly it’s not fodder for the public sphere. But if nothing else, I’m real here in this little slice of world-wide web – from big panties to mammal foes to hurricane limbo and transition angst – and it just doesn’t seem right not to mention it. I am so grateful to Stephanie for being on my mind, for giving me her wisdom so I could have it at the ready for such a time as this to reflect on during this stage of weird grief. So I’m sitting here thinking, what am I precious about? To what do I attribute value, what do I cherish and hold dear? I keep coming back to WHO is precious about me and when I think about that, my whole perspective shifts. Instead of being precious (as in, bless your heart – in the Southern sense) about the wrong things with selfish, misguided, senseless over-reactions, I focus on how loved I am. I have friends far and near, old and new. I barely know my new friends here yet without fail they have said, we are here for you. That is precious to me. My relatives who have said, we see you and love you – you are precious to me! My dad who has checked in daily and said, be strong, I love you… My heavenly Father who calls me Daughter and covers me in grace, I am precious in His sight. Life is one big display of what we are precious about.
I hope I can honour Stephanie by being precious about the right things. I hope my children can say in reference to me, we are precious in her sight. She holds us so dear. She is here for us. She cherished us. I hope my husband feels esteemed in my sight and loved through and through. I hope my sister and friends know that you all are so incredibly precious to me. I’m not going to be precious about these goodbyes because they are not forever. About all the angst and wrongs and wounds, Oh, I’m not precious about that. I’m too busy being struck still by love and loving others out of the overflow.