Today is my 47th birthday. I don’t know that I ever looked forward with excitement to the time this day would come. I don’t know that I had a vision or hope of exactly what it would look like, but I guess I didn’t think it would be like it is.
I typically share pretty much everything that goes on in my life like an open book…. but I’ve come to a place where the details aren’t mine and I just cannot share openly all that is going on in my life.
The most obvious thing people see as they look at the Culley’s is Levi, my youngest son, leaving for Honduras to serve the Lord for two years and the fact that his older brother and best friend, is battling cancer. To swallow just one of these life events is enough to choke a person, but when you combine the two it becomes an elephant…. Which clearly, cannot be swallowed in one sitting.
I have three amazing children and an incredible son in law. Four short months after my oldest daughter, Mallory, left to serve her mission, her brother Riley was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 17. It was a battle for her to decide to stay on her mission while knowing her younger brother was home fighting for his life. After much prayer and pondering Mallory felt peace and reassurance from Heavenly Father that she could do more good serving the Lord and the people of Brazil than she could do here sitting by her brothers bedside. I believe that because of the prayers and service of Mallory and everyone in her mission, combined with the prayers of thousands of people here and around the world, Riley beat cancer and was finishing up treatment about the time Mallory returned home.
Riley’s cancer was in remission for two years when a tumor in his lung was discovered. Riley again battled this disease for a year but was given a prognosis that didn’t offer a lot of hope. Science only knows so much…. There is a place were science ends and God begins. God’s ways are certainly not mans ways. Any scientist will tell you there are things that simply cannot be explained.
As Levi, my youngest son, was faced with the decision to fulfill his life dream of going on a mission to serve the Lord, he was also faced with his brother’s battle with cancer and what science had offered as far as the way things would go.
I cannot imagine what any one of my three children felt throughout this journey. Each of them have had to face and live through things I don’t know that I could have done at their age. I am certain each of them have felt emotions I will never know.
On Sunday Levi gave his farewell address. He stood and shared his very personal experience of the struggle it has been for him to make the decision to leave home for two years to do what he feels in his heart is what God would have him do. Levi explained the turmoil, the sacred moments of pleading with the Lord for a miracle in the lives of his family and specifically for his brother and best friend. Levi asked God for a miracle. After repeated bad news at every scan for a year, Levi begged for a miracle and had the faith to believe in the Lords will. One month after Levi fell to the earth in the quiet peace of the mountains and poured his heart out to Father in Heaven, we received the first bit of good news from Riley’s scan. The tumor had shrunk.
In the moment Levi shared his experience with hundreds of people last Sunday, I think I was in high gear…. In that place I’ve learned to develop and master through a lifetime of hard things, that allows me to put certain moments and feelings on a shelf to be felt later. There is so much going on in my life and so much in the very near future that I need to accomplish that I wasn’t truly present and didn’t allow myself to feel the enormity of what was being said. I’ve become a master at protecting myself from feeling and have observed that it typically takes me several days or weeks, and a few quiet moments alone, before I allow myself to feel what is going on.
I don’t know if this protection mechanism is a good thing or a bad thing. I’m not sure if it is something everyone has or just me. I don’t know if people around me think I’m over reacting or under reacting. I’m trying not to care. I’ve spent a life- time doing anything in my power not to feel certain emotions but because of my recent efforts at self-discovery and awareness I have an intense desire to feel everything and to realize with gratitude the gift of our bodies and our ability to feel emotion.
I’m extremely sad about Levi leaving. Period. My next thought here would typically be….. “but I know he’s doing what the Lord would have him do”…. Or “but I would never keep him from those experiences”…. Or “but I cannot change it so there is no sense in crying about it”. I believe I say things like this to myself to immediately keep myself protected from feeling the sadness. I don’t want to do that anymore. I’m trying to put some periods and pauses in between my thoughts and allow myself to feel the full experience of being human.
I look at my families current situation and it scares the hell out of me. To take in the next two years and try to guess what will happen is too much…. And…. We don’t really know. So in being true to the new way of living that I’ve adopted, I will make every attempt to stay present in today, allowing myself to feel every emotion as it passes through me. Tomorrow I will live in tomorrow and each day consecutively until I take my last breath.
I cannot control or change the future and anytime spent attempting to do so is a waste of the precious time I have in this moment.
I truly believe that I have been blessed with the four most incredible humans as my children. As I observe them and the missions they are each on, I am humbled and full of gratitude to have been given this front row seat. My children are incredibly strong and valiant souls who will touch many lives and will be examples of too many things to mention to everyone who knows them.
I will include a link to listen to Levi’s talk about his brother and the miracles that have come through prayers and faith.
Birthdays definitely change as we age. Gifts and parties become less important. I have all I need and my heart is full of love to overflowing for the gift of motherhood and the opportunity to share the lives and journeys of my amazing children.