Party Time!

It is my twins’ seventh birthdays. The celebration is a weeklong affair inclusive of two friend parties, two family parties, too much cake and lots of spent wrapping paper. The mood in our home is light, playful, energetically excited and jovial. 

“Alexa, how many days until October twenty-sixth?” Has been asked daily over the last month. It is finallllllly here.

The Vault

  Along with the presents and “Happy Birthdays”, however, it is vault opening day. The day that I open the waterproof, fireproof safe to retrieve the letters I wrote to my kids during the first year after my diagnosis- six years ago. These letters gave me peace of mind and assured my presence into the future, even if I died. 

“We need to buy a safe.” I’d quivered in Costco, desperately prodding my husband, Ryan. Not to protect our passports or for a stash of cash. The safe was essential to guard my letters to my kids. Maybe if/when I die my words will be enough. I couldn’t risk letting water or fire destroy them as cancer threatened to obliterate me. 

“Are you sure you really need this?” Ryan asked. He looked at the specs, “It only protects the contents for twenty minutes of exposure.”

“Ummm-hmmm.” I replied nodding my head. It was essential. My plan wasn’t fail proof, but it was the best I had.  

“Okay.” Ryan shrugged his shoulders, resigning to my wishes. Though his sigh clearly gave away that he thought the safe was unnecessary, he hoisted my metal-walled security net into the cart. 

“I am Scared”

Today, for the fifth time, it is vault opening day for my twins. And I wish it weren’t. Of course I’m grateful to celebrate with my twins, I’m thankful to be alive. But I just don’t want to turn the key in the safe, look inside, and pull out the cream and blue colored envelopes, carefully color coded and inscribed Happy 7th Birthday Allison, xo love mom and Happy 7th birthday Garrett, xo love mom xo. Nope. I don’t want to. I want to pretend that that safe doesn’t exist.

Why? Because my babes were only one when I wrote these letters. I was barely getting to know them; their personalities were just beginning to shape up. Because it brings me back to those days: gut-wrenching, sobbing, letter writing days. They were horrific and healing, like open heart surgery. My chest was cut open, my rib cages splayed with harsh metal clamps exposing the thumping, so close it could be touched. So vulnerable: my heart on display.

Part of me wants to pretend that those days didn’t happen. To go on living in the “non-cancer” world like I fully belong. Life, however, I am learning goes best when we turn and face, when I look my “enemy” in the eyes. So instead I whisper, “Hello letter opening day. Hello, painful past.” I notice that I am scared, my pulse quickens, my teeth clench and panic hitches in my chest as the words escape my lips. To be sure, these letters still scare me. 

There’s eleven cream colored letters left. Eleven blue colored letters left. Eleven. My breath catches in my throat. Eleven is a lot. I hope and believe I will be there to hand out each of these letters. But truth be told as I pause today, I’m scared that I won’t be. I’m scared because I love these little lives so much. I’m scared because I want to protect them from loss. Scared because life is fragile. And on letter opening day I feel the crux of my fragility.

Catching my breath

Breathe in two, three, four. Out two, three, four. I pause to catch my breath like we’ve been teaching our son when his emotions get away on him. One more time, in two, three, four. Out two, three, four. I remind myself, “Remember wabi sabi; the beauty in impermanence. Remember the power of memento mori (remember you will die).” I continue my pep talk, because these letters are too much. “Remember, Cheryl, that your vulnerability is what empowers you to love deeper, wholer, fuller. Remember that love, more love is what you want.”

“Cheryl,” I tell myself, “Be brave, grateful, broken. Grab the letters and go live and celebrate. Because this is life.” 

I recall the words of Ann Voshkamp in her book, The Broken Way. She talks about how we are made real, like the velveteen rabbit when we are weathered and worn and broken down. “Maybe,” Voshkamp says, “ maybe all this fragility is somehow breaking the broken hearted – into Real. Breaking us free?” 

As I reflect on Voshkamp’s words I know that I am being broken into wholeness, broken free. That my brokenness coupled with love is what makes me whole. Oh, let this Knowing soak right in, through all the cracks.
I pause.
How incredible is this?!

So, happy birthday Garrett and Allison. What a sweet, crazy, incredible, life you have given me. 

I love you
Your mom, 



PS. Kids, I just know that no matter what you’ll be okay (and so will I). Befriend and trust your hearts, practice using your wings, and sharing your voice. Let God, the waves of the Universe, your Knowing within you, guide you. You will be ok …And I’m so very proud of you both, the beautiful humans that you are and that you are becoming.


Thank you readers, for joining me on vault opening day. Your company is appreciated.