Lauren's Cow Painting (2008 or 2009)
May 3, 2016 Happy Birthday to the girl who loves cows ....
10 years ago in 2006, life was (mainly) bliss and free from fear. It was Lauren's 12th birthday, and the lively, enthusiastic, funny girl was consistently making a mark in the lives of all those around her. Life was sweeeeet to her and she made it sweeeeet for us too. We celebrated BIG, like we traditionally did in our family. It was our way of giving thanks for bounteous blessings.
There wasn't a sign, a notion, or a minuscule inclination of what was to come for her. It wasn't a "that won't ever happen to me" sort of thing, but not even on the radar of possibilities that her life was in danger. It wasn't even in the realm of our thoughts. I often tell people that at this point in my life, I didn't even know what an oncologist was. Naivety doesn't buy you freedom from devastating reality.
And, then the world as we knew it came crashing down. Venomous cells started multiplying without reason and without restraint and the hideous monster came like a thief in the night when we least suspected it, or knew to fight it. The perfect, innocent, angelic young woman was thrust into a battle for her cherished, appreciated, well-loved, sweeeeet life ...
She took it on like a warrior and I took it on sobbing in a fetal position ... but, holding on to her (for dear life), I was able to borrow courage I did not have of myself. I am still borrowing.
One of the things we learned in the next 3 1/2 years (besides what an oncologist was and that we had the best in the world fighting with us) is that Lauren had (has) an indomitable, unsinkable spirit. We had long noted her optimism and been blessed by her perspective which awarded us many smiles and much laughter over her short span of life, but now it was different. Now we saw something 'fierce' and intensely courageous behind her smile, her light-heartedness, and her contagious, quick sense of humor. Her catch phrase "Life is sweet" gained a tag line ... "Bring it on!" And, her collection of cows (which grew tremendously during her battle) brought on a whole new and deeper meaning.
Cows became a symbol of Lauren's perspective. She could always (and I mean always) find beauty or humor in anything (and, I mean anything). How else could she think to re-name Chemotherapy, Che-MOO-therapy? It is why, as a family, we continue to "collect cows". It is, simply put, a way of trying to live her legacy ... to find beauty and/or humor where others tend not to notice.
It enhances every day of my life to 'collect cows'. Yes, that means that the world over, I take photos of cows, and buy souvenirs with cows on them to add to the hundreds that still sit on her bedroom shelves. But, more importantly, it means collecting new perspective and experience in making life sweeter and more cherished. While not anywhere near her flawless execution, I've started raising my face to feel the rain fall on it, instead of bowing my head with my hands over head. I've started noticing the silver (or better said, gold) linings, and looked for beauty or humor in situations instead of succumbing to the 'stylish' drive for disillusionment so prevalent in today's world. I am nowhere near the level of my masterful daughter, but my perspective has changed (and is still changing) to recognize the sweetness of life and to live it to its fullest. Most importantly, in following my angel daughter's example, I am learning to recognize and give credit (and thanks) to the One who gave us this life as well as His Son who succors us in it, whether our current experience and condition is dark or bright.
It has even encouraged me to embrace my grief, to not put away my mourning. It has helped me to see it as an opportunity to raise my face up to feel it, rather than to hide that face in the fear of actually feeling and experiencing it. It has encouraged me to love deeper, which creates abundance in my life I cannot contain, and increased the impact of the hole that is so much a part of me now that she lives where I cannot see or touch her. With the gift of Lauren's perspective, even that pain (which is excruciating) can be seen as a privilege, for I could not hurt so deeply without knowing this incredible LOVE that goes beyond any of this mortal experience I wish I could rewrite another way.
I don't apologize for my tears, nor do I apologize for my smiles. They are both a reality of my experience.
Today, like every day, I'll try to collect a few cows ... find some beauty or some humor in honor of my baby daughter who graces my life still, ... long years after she slipped through my fingers to return home before me.
Maybe you could collect some cows in her honor, too. Find some beauty or humor and pass it on to someone else who could use the lift. That is Living Lauren's Legacy.
Yes, Happy Birthday to my cow-noticing, cow-collecting, cow-loving girl whose halo and wings may just have cow spots on them .....