Today’s guest post comes from Rachel Sullivan, who is the sometimes-calm, sometimes-frazzled mother of three delightful children and the wife of a busy engineer-by-day, MBA-student-by-night. She enjoys playing with her kids, snuggling with her husband, working on crafts, playing the piano, and singing top-voice into the key chain microphone she keeps in her purse. She writes about the joys of motherhood and her one-eyed adventures at monocularmom.blogspot.com.
It is September. The mountains display brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows, and cooler evenings whisper of the quiet contentment of autumn: cups of cocoa, leaf piles, parades of Halloween costumes, and General Conference. I try to prepare for a spiritual feast by reviewing past talks. Settling comfortably into my chair, I intermittently gaze out my front window as I begin The Race of Life, President Monson’s address from April 2012.
“In this fast-paced life, do we ever pause for moments of meditation—even thoughts of timeless truths? When compared to eternal verities, most of the questions and concerns of daily living are really rather trivial. What should we have for dinner? What color should we paint the living room? Should we sign Johnny up for soccer? These questions and countless others like them lose their significance when times of crisis arise, when loved ones are hurt or injured, when sickness enters the house of good health, when life’s candle dims and darkness threatens. Our thoughts become focused, and we are easily able to determine what is really important and what is merely trivial.”
I close my eyes and remember. It is Friday, June 5, 2009. We are joyfully expecting our second child—I have just entered my thirty-fourth week of pregnancy. Our son arrived two weeks early weighing just over nine pounds, so I tell my friends that if our daughter follows suit she might be born this month. We can’t wait to hold her. I have been busily gathering baby items, with only one or two items left. My husband has been finishing our basement, and together we envision the play room we’ll have there. It is an exciting prospect.
I have been having a little vision problem, so we visit our family friend who is an ophthalmologist. After a few minutes of cheerful chatting he dilates my eyes to look inside. He becomes gravely concerned and calls for another doctor. The other doctor confirms his suspicions: I have a tumor. He sends us to a specialist who outlines tests and procedures that will tell us whether I can be treated in-state and what my chances of survival are. We walk out of his office to an overcast afternoon, and my husband and I stand numbly by our car. I watch our sweet two-year-old innocently playing next to us, unaware of what just transpired, and picture how he will cope if I die. Will I live long enough for our daughter to remember me?
We plod stoically through the weekend until Monday’s round of doctors and tests. Family members and friends bring food, clean our yard, and work in our basement. I appreciate their thoughtfulness, but none of that matters to me now. All that matters is our temple sealing. All I care about is if I will raise my children.
I open my eyes and gaze at the autumn sunshine. I lost an eye to my cancer, but I am alive. June 2009 was a searing lesson for me in what matters and what doesn’t. Now more than three years later, I wonder sometimes how to apply the lessons. Food doesn’t really matter eternally, but my family still needs to eat. If my cancer were to return again, I wouldn’t care about my house being clean; but since I’m alive, I want to teach my children habits of cleanliness. Clothes, yard work, dance lessons—none of these things have eternal value. But since I am alive, I must figure out how to balance them with what truly matters. It is no small task.
I keep reading. At the end of the talk, I find this ray of light:
“It is the celestial glory which we seek. It is in the presence of God we desire to dwell. It is a forever family in which we want membership. Such blessings are earned through a lifetime of striving, seeking, repenting, and finally succeeding.”
There is my answer. I am alive and must deal with the struggles and complexities of mortal life. But my goal is a forever family—the only thing that mattered during my cancer ordeal. Through the minutia of menus, chores, carpools, bills, and errands, I can daily strive to establish family routines of love and harmony. I can seek opportunities to play with my children and spend time with my husband. I can repent when I make a mistake. Finally, through the grace of Christ, I can succeed.