I usually need to look no further for an inspiration to write than my class or my Twitter feed.
This morning, I read an article by a pediatric oncologist who wrote about one of his patient’s thoughts on dying.
“You know,” he told me the evening I admitted him. “A few years ago, I wouldn’t have cared if I made it. ‘Take me God,’ I would’ve said. ‘What good am I doing here anyway?’ But now you have to save me. Sadie needs me.”
He’d struggled with depression most of his life, he said. Strangely enough, it seemed to him, he was most at peace while caring for his mother when she had Parkinson’s, but she died years ago. Since then, he had felt aimless, without a sense of purpose, until Sadie wandered into his life.
Sadie was his cat.
The picture of the young, bald child drew me into reading this story. I never expected to see a reference to a child like this. One whose young body had been ravaged by cancer, a child whose physical state was so weakened that the author worried the weight of his stethoscope could crack one of his ribs.
The doctor-author continues by explaining that this child had found a reason for living. A reason for fighting. As an adult two-time cancer survivor, I can identify with the pain of treatment and the feeling of ‘being taken’; that pushing through this is hard. Very hard.
But, I can also identify with the finding of purpose making me strong enough to keep fighting.
You see, not only did I have a family to stay alive for, but, I am an educator. I spend my days working to make my students the best they can be by building their self-esteem through successful positive instruction that opens their eyes to the learning and exciting possibilities that await them through learning.
I think, that to some, that may sound… odd. Fighting to stay alive to return to the classroom? Isn’t that a stretch? Well, when my life was interrupted by cancer the first time, I was in graduate school. I had a vision of using my capabilities to make my school the best in the district. The best in its DFG. The one with the highest student achievement, the best climate, the place that kids and staff couldn’t wait to get to every day. It meant meaningful instruction, celebrations of success, compassionate leadership, empathetic discipline, connected parents. The whole enchilada.
I needed to get back to that vision. Getting back on track supported my children because they felt comforted by having their ‘mom’ back. Back doing what she loves to do: learn, grow and helping others do the same.
As I reflect on the story about the young cancer patient, I am awed by the strength children with life threatening illnesses muster. They haven’t had the benefit of building a life they want to get back to, as I did.
But sometimes, all it takes, is Sadie.
Finding Purpose for A Good Life: But Also A Healthy One