Chemo Round 10

People thank me for being so open about the journeys in my life: miscarriage, depression, anxiety, faith struggles, and now cancer treatment. I know sharing is not for everyone, but for me it’s a coping mechanism.

Last week I came here and dumped out some of my depression. I put it out there in this space because it was like a garbage pile in my head. I wasn’t looking for sympathy or anything of the sort. I just needed to honestly throw some of that garbage out into the universe to get it out of my head.

And what happens when I do that is magic.

People pick up the garbage and turn it into something beautiful.

Some are tangible like cards and notes and messages. Others are no less real, but cannot be held in my hands like prayers. Some of you take that trash, that burden, and put it in your own backpack for awhile to lighten my load.

And it comes back to me as light.

The light of positive messages, of prayers and thoughts felt, of a student telling me I am gorgeous, of my daughter telling me I am the prettiest mommy. Of a student sliding this on my desk after he heard me admit that being bald is not the best for my self-esteem.

Chemo round 10 was like all the others except that my friend, G, came to visit and she was someone I needed to come visit me. I didn’t even know it until her beautiful smile was there, but I needed her. She is my sister friend and her presence next to my chemo chair made me so very happy.

And you can see my mom came. I love being able to spend so much time with my mom. Retirement for her, chemo for me means we get to have a couple hours of chat time in the middle of the week.

Love and light come each week.

Even when I feel gross and sad and overwhelmed. Somehow, sharing it–putting it out there–means it will come back to me as hope.

And I am thankful for that this week.

Round 10/16 DONE!

Chemo Round 9

Passed the halfway mark and took Round 9 of chemotherapy this past week.

It went fine. Not much to report. Doc said my blood counts look good. I have a weird rash she was concerned might be shingles, so she gave me a prescription for that. Then I was plugged in and got my poison and went on home. My mom visited with Cortney and I while I sat there again this week which was nice.

I’m also three weeks into the school year at this point. My PhD class started this week. The boys started school this week, and today Charlie had his first soccer game.

I am not doing well.

I was. I was fine. Well, I am fine. Physically fine.

But I am emotional and tired and not sure how to ask for help because I am not sure what to ask for.

The hair on my head that didn’t fall out (there is some up there) is growing, but it looks fuzzy and weird. My eyebrows have almost completely fallen out. I’m never fully comfortable about how I look, despite the kind words that continue to show up (although finding out from a parent at my school that two of my 8th grade girls think I look beautiful was definitely a pick-me-up!)

Did I mention I am tired?

Tired is hard for me. It makes me crabby and inpatient and, well…I guess most people get that way too.

I don’t know how to rest more. If I go to bed early or nap during the weekend, I’m not getting something done. But guess what? I’m usually too tired to get stuff done anyway, so I just lie there in the evenings watching TV. And if I do get a nap, my mind will work overtime at night and I won’t sleep then. It’s a pretty un-fun spiral.

Even reading isn’t fun to me right now.

I think that means I have a bit of the depression going on. I went from a TON of anxiety and being overwhelmed, to feeling like I could handle everything (maybe even well), to feeling tired and like it’s all too much.

And that makes me sad.

People keep asking me how I’m feeling, and I’ve started answering, “fine!” because I don’t know how to put into words what I’m feeling without it being a big therapy session that nobody asked for.

So. I am fine.

But also not.

But I don’t know what you can do about that because I have a great support system, words of encouragement constantly coming in, and random pies showing up (thanks, Gram!). It feels like something is wrong with me that despite all that, I still feel….off. I still want to cry and sleep.

So that is where I am right now.

Round 9/16 Done.

Chemo Round 5

Holy moly what a difference a new chemo drug makes!

This round was the first of the “second leg” of my cancer treatment tour, if you remember. The first “leg” was an A/C drug (don’t ask me to spell them right now). There were four dense dose treatments (in other words: super potent, crippling doses). The reason for this new drug (and up to 12 rounds of it) is because while the A/C treatment is super powerful, we want to make sure all the cancer cells get blasted.

You can think of cancer treatment as a sort of war on cancer. Each treatment type is a different branch of my cancer-fighting military. Surgery was the first surge. It wiped out what we hope to be all of the enemy. We wanted to be sure, so we sent in the second branch: A/C treatment. While chances are, those drugs got anything remaining, research shows that coupled with my new drug, Taxol, the eradication of cancer cells is even more successful. So Taxol is the newest branch of the cancer-fighting military we are sending in. The last will be radiation.

I got my back to school hair cut the day before treatment (it’s not actually growing, but it was looking patchy. It’s even shorter now)

The difference in side effects is almost inexplicable. A/C treatment made me feel like I was dying about 24 hours after treatment. It felt like I would never feel better again.

Before infusing the Taxol, they loaded me up with antihistamine and Benadryl (because pretty much everyone is allergic to Taxol–it’s an irritant. I got quite loopy from that, naturally. Then they pumped in the drugs. I had zero reactions, so I may be able to go lighter on the Benadryl next time.

The side effects are still hair loss (see that picture above), and sometimes nausea (I didn’t have any), low blood counts (because it’s attacking fast-growing blood cells), and mouth sores (none of those yet either). It can also affect my nails and give me joint and muscle pain. The only irreversible side effect is peripheral neuropathy, which means loss of feeling in my fingers and toes. That one they monitor super closely because they can adjust the med or skip one altogether to reduce that happening if I start to notice tingling. That is really my biggest fear.

Anyway, I got home Wednesday and took a nap while the rest of my crew headed up north to spend a long weekend with my parents at a cottage they rent with us each year. When I woke up, I felt great! So different then A/C treatment! I was refreshed and actually worked on school stuff Wednesday evening!

Thursday I woke up and packed myself up and headed to the cottage!

Grandpa and Grandma play some cards with the boys.

Saturday I even went to the beach! This is the first (and probably only) time I have been able to sit on the beach all summer due to my treatment. Chemo makes my skin SUPER sensitive to the sun. Cortney bought two SPF 50 beach umbrellas, I had my SPF 50 hat, plus I slathered in SPF 50 (twice because I reapplied) for the two hours we were at the beach, and I still walked away with a little coloring.

But it was worth it!

The kids could have stayed here all day! (Also isn’t my mom the cutest?)

She would not go near the water without her daddy.

She has mastered the art of relaxing on the beach…just like her mom!

See? Proof I made it to the beach this year!

Even though we couldn’t hit the beach for the entire time we were there, the cottage happens to be on a small, inland lake and the boys had almost as much fun swimming at the end of the dock.

Charlie and his popsicle “floaty” tricks

Eddie and his clowning!

I would say I spent most of the time in the shade near the cottage with my book or watching everyone play, but it made me feel like a real person doing real summer things to be able to even go. With the A/C treatment this weekend would have been impossible right after a round of chemo. I would have been comatose all weekend.

Yes, I still got tired quickly and sat down a lot, but I was there to watch my goofy kids have all the fun and live their best lives.

I don’t even know. These two were nut jobs the entire weekend.

And of course, to round out the weekend, my dad took us all out for huge ice cream cones for lunch on Saturday. Because is it really vacation if you don’t have ice cream for at least one meal?

I am so so so SO thankful for this new drug. I hate that I have to go through any of it, but since I do, feeling more like myself is the way to go.

I will be getting Taxol infusions weekly on Wednesdays until October 24 (we are hoping to get in 12 rounds total).  Please pray that my body keeps handling the meds well (my doctor told me that after all the A/C treatments, my blood counts were so good, you couldn’t even tell I had been on chemo! Keep doing that, body!)

This is my final week of summer before I go back to school (Eddie and Charlie still have three more weeks until their district goes back), so please pray for my anxiety and for my students as they get ready to have an English teacher who is out ever Wednesday and dealing with, well, cancer treatments.

5/16 done

Looking Forward

As my mom and Charlie would say, “Mom’s pep is back.”

Round 3 was hell. Monday I totally hit rock bottom. It was the perfect storm of fatigue, not leaving the house for 4 days, not eating properly, and a big dose of depression. I sobbed in the shower.

Then Cortney sat by me, affirmed my feelings were valid and just, and then told me to get ready because we were going to a minor league ball game with friends.

The laughter and adult conversation and fresh air did it. My smile came back.

Along with my smile, my ability to look forward to things came back with a rush. I realized that I only have a month before students will be walking through my classroom door ready (or not) for their 8th grade year of school.

Between now and then I will have my last dense dose chemo treatment, and two of the Taxol chemo treatments. In fact, because school starts on a Wednesday, I will be having a chemo treatment rather than meeting my students. I will be leaving a video of myself for the sub to play. I hate it, but I’m hoping to teach my students flexibility from Day 1.

This is the first summer I have not done an full inventory on my classroom library. I just haven’t been able to get into my classroom due to my health. I did go through my Book Check Outs and mark what was not returned and added those back to my classroom library wish list on Amazon. I also added some new titles that are either soon-to-be published or popped up on my radar as excellent.

When I don’t have chemo brain, I’ve also been reading a lot to try to make my own teaching better. Some of my main goals this school year are: better student engagement, more student-teacher conferencing, and more student-to-student talk. A classroom library goal is to make book check out smoother/student led, make my library even more inviting, and offer more options (audio books, magazines, etc.). I created a separate teacher wish list on Amazon for those things along with some other school supplies that we tend to go through super quickly.

I’ve saved up and ordered my favorite lesson plan book (it should be here on Monday!), and have already started planning the first few days in a notebook. I getting super excited about a new crew of 8th graders, trying new routines and strategies, and just being back to work.

So many people have asked how they can help me through my journey and I honestly don’t know other than prayers and positive thoughts. So rather than me, you could bless my students if you want to check out my wish lists. I will be out every Wednesday for treatment through October, so they will be affected by all this too. I’m looking at it as a lesson in empathy and flexibility for them this year. It can be a super positive experience for them if I can manage to put that spin on it.

Thank you all for having hope and strength and faith when I hit the pit. Thank you for always supporting my family, and the extension of that, my students. Because to me, they become little families each school year.

Peace in the Storm

I know this may come as a shock, but I would rather be the helper, then be helped. I’m not good at asking for assistance with anything.

In my marriage, I have had to learn to ask for things because, surprise! Cortney can’t read my mind. I’m still not always good at asking because many times I don’t like to admit I can’t just do things myself. Since having kids and going through depression and anxiety, I have learned strategies for knowing when I am getting overwhelmed and need to reach out. I still battle with feeling shame and apologizing when I ask for help.

Even in my career I have a tendency to take everything on. I love planning and scheming up awesome things to do, but when it comes to doling out responsibilities for making it happen, I will usually do it all (or most of it) myself. I know this is not just bad for me, but bad for my relationships with my colleagues too because we need to have a trust that we can rely on each other to make the awesome happen. I’m working to be better in this area, and honestly I have some of the best teammates in the world, which has made it easier.

When life turns crazy, and we journey through a storm, I get even worse. When other people are going through hard times, you can count on me to send cards, gift cards, and meals. I want to help. I want to make the storm less stormy in some way.

I am learning to accept–and even ask for–help during our storm.

Because as positive of a spin we are trying to put on it, chemotherapy is definitely a storm. I’ve only had one treatment, but having it wipe me out of commission for at least 48 hours is no joke. I lose energy quicker than usual, but can suddenly find myself dealing with insomnia. I can get sunburned while it’s cloudy and raining (ok, maybe that’s hyperbole), and my immune system is not as hearty as it used to be.

This affects my whole family, not just me, as you can probably guess. I would say other than me, Cortney is probably affected the most. He has to navigate how to pilot our family through the storm on his own for those days when I am pretty much just sleeping. Those waters can be rough, friends.

It means feeding the children, getting them to childcare so he can work, making sure my needs are met, and managing all his other normal obligations to our team. It’s a lot emotionally.

The kids are also affected. Mom looks normal (for now), but can’t stop sleeping. She seems normal, but needs to be careful of public places and germs and being outside too long.

I can’t speak for Cortney or the kids, but I have found peace in this storm in a way I didn’t think I would: the help of others.

Cancer takes a ton of control away. It feels like it should be life stopping, but the thing is, life does not actually stop. It keeps moving even when you want to push pause to be able to work through what cancer and treatment all mean. Life laughs at stopping.

So a storm brews.

And the only way to weather it is to reach out and know there are people there who will love you right through it.

My close friend, The Pastor (not to be confused with the Pastor’s Wife who is not the wife of this particular pastor. Follow?), said to me, “Create a meal sign up. Ask for help. If you take charge it will be empowering for you.” She was right. Naming the things that would help, helped me to feel at peace.

But it didn’t stop there. People saw those requests and went beyond.

We have received meals, yes, but we have also been blessed with

  • a prayer shawl from the knitting ministry
  • books and devotionals
  • coloring books
  • treats for the kids
  • treats for the adults
  • head scarves
  • gift certificates to food the kids like
  • gift certificates to get frozen yogurt
  • bluetooth earbuds for chemo treatments
  • notebooks
  • and other care package items you are all so creative to think of

I have been daily learning the power of reaching out and the power of letting grace and love surround you. They bring peace.

While our life is anything but calm, leaning on others and letting their prayers and good thoughts wash over us has brought soothing waves of peace.

Thank you.

We feel you standing, sitting, and walking with us.

 

 

Support my classroom or my classroom library

Being Brave

Cortney and I often tell the kids, “being brave doesn’t mean that you aren’t scared; it means you do the thing you have to do anyway.”

I often tell my students, “being brave doesn’t mean doing stupid stuff for glory; it means doing the right thing even if you are afraid.”

Doing what you have to do. Doing the right thing. Even if you are scared or don’t want to.

Everyone lately seems to be telling me that I am brave. I keep denying it. No, no. Not me. I’m just doing a scary thing because I have to. It’s the right thing to do. I want to be around for my kids for a very, very long time. I don’t really have a choice.

I’m just doing the best I can with what I’ve been dealt: cancerous crap in my breast and lymph nodes–all gone now, of course, but I don’t want that junk back.

I’m just doing what I have to do because the doctors told me to, you see.

Nothing brave to see here.

But then I heard myself, again, telling one of the boys that they are braver than they think. That just doing the necessary thing is brave. Being afraid, but doing it anyway.

Chemotherapy is necessary. I am definitely afraid. But I am going to do it anyway.

So I guess I am being brave.

Although just like my kids tell me, this is not what I thought bravery would feel like.

10 days until chemo starts.

The End & The Beginning

I hit “post” on all my grades by noon today, thus closing the book on the 2017-18 school year. My 15th year of teaching is in the history books–all in the same district. I taught 11 years of high school and now 4 years of middle school.

And in case you can’t tell by that photo, it was over 90 degrees in my classroom this morning. So sweaty.

Usually I work like crazy so I can get out with the kids and go have lunch/drinks with colleagues. This year I didn’t do that. I did finish up my grades really quickly, but I decided to use my afternoon to organize and straighten my classroom library–something I usually come in and do the week…or a couple months…after school gets out.

This summer is going to be different. I don’t know that I will ever really feel like coming in to do all that lifting and work, so I did it today.

Usually I’m all, “WOO OOO OOO SUMMER!”

Not today. I walked out of my classroom today with a heavy sigh. Yes, I was ready for the school year to be over. I mean, we have been in school since August 20! But closing my classroom door for the last time means it’s time to turn and face the next adventure: chemotherapy.

Honestly? I’m finding today rather tough. I don’t want to move past today, but I don’t want the school year going any longer either.

I feel like I could crawl into bed and sleep for days, but I also don’t want to because when I wake up, I’ll have to face the music.

Some days are tougher than others in this waiting game for it all to start. I worry a lot about the pain, the sickness, and the inability to function. And I think about my hair a lot.

I told a few teachers yesterday that 90% of the time I feel pretty good about everything. Well, not “good,” but at peace. Today is part of the 10%. I’m not in fully meltdown and cry mode, but I feel crabby and lacking in the joy department.

I’m thankful that the school year is over though, because it means I can slow down a bit.

Treatment

On May  15 I got my pathology report back.

My cancer is in remission because they believe they got it all out. However, one of the three lymph nodes they took out to biopsy had a bit of cancer in it. This means I will need chemotherapy in addition to radiation to make sure the cancer does not come back.

As I said in my last post, we have been processing this news and it’s been causing some anxiety for me. This past week  Cortney and I met with my surgeon and oncologist to discuss what my treatment will look like.  The recommended plan is 16 rounds of chemo followed by radiation. Because my oncologist is extremely thorough, she told me about all the testing I could do to predict if the cancer would come back, but ultimately it is her recommendation (and that of the tumor board they took my case to), that no matter what the testing said, because I was so young, they all thought chemo and radiation were my best bets for it not relapsing.

I trust my doctors.

This means I am looking at getting a port surgically put into my chest on June 8. The first four rounds of chemotherapy will be a dense dose and be the “worst” as far as making me feel like garbage. They will start on June 13 and be every other week through the end of July.

Starting August 8 I will have weekly chemo sessions of a non-dense dose that are supposed to ravage me much less than the first four.

I’ve had lots of questions about losing my hair. working, continuing my PhD program, and what people can do to help. I’m going to try to answer some of those here.

Hairy Stuff

I’m going to lose my hair.

I’ve had a TON of people suggest something called cold capping that basically freezes your scalp during treatments and can save up to 80% of your hair. After consulting with various docs and nurses who have witnessed it, people who have tried it, and trusted cancer websites, we have decided that it won’t be worth the cost or extra trouble for absolutely no guarantee.

Serendipitously, after Cortney and I decided this, two separate people affirmed my decision in powerful ways. One was a very close friend whose mother had gone through the process when he was a teenager, and the other was the wife of one of Cortney’s business partners who just went through it all.

Both mentioned it being a ton of work that I wouldn’t want to deal with plus extra time at the treatment center, but they also–without knowing each other–said to me that my bald head is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. That this is part of my journey and it is my badge of survival. It is powerful.

That struck a deep chord with me, and basically affirmed our decision.

My hair is something I love. My salon visits have become my steady form of self-care since I began therapy 8 years ago for depression and anxiety. My daughter loves my hair. My sons are afraid of me looking different.

But in the end, it really is just hair. It will grow back.

Teaching and Treatment

I am absolutely going to be back to school for the 2018-19 school year. However because I will need weekly chemo treatments, I will be taking every Wednesday off for the first marking period (at least). This means I will miss the first day of school which happens to fall on Wednesday, August 22. My principal could not have been more supportive. He told me we would try to get the same sub every Wednesday so the students had some consistency. He even came up with the brilliant idea for me to create a video to show my students the first day of school explaining everything and then having them write to me.

I work with the best staff in the world as well. Because my co-teacher and I are the best team in the world, she has been invaluable this year as I was out for surgery. My fellow 8th grade teachers have all been supportive and kind and helpful. The staff sent me an awesome basket after my surgery for Mother’s Day that included snacks for the whole family. I am eternally grateful for the love I am surrounded by at work, and I am so thankful I can stay a part of the team.

PhD Program

After consulting with Cortney, my doctors, a friend who went through cancer treatment while getting her PhD, my grad school director, a trusted professor who is like a mentor to me, and a friend in the program, I have decided to go ahead and still take a class this fall. There is an elective available that is a hybrid class (online and meeting only 4 times) which seems like it was dropped in my lap for just this reason. All of the required courses are on campus (which is an hour commute one-way), so the fact that this one is not only a hybrid, but meets closer to where I live is almost too perfect to pass up.

I was also reminded of how lucky I am to have such a compassionate and understanding grad program. They want me to be successful in my program. And honestly, I can’t not at least try. I don’t want to put it off and look back and think, “I could have done it.”

I have to at least try.

Part of doing my PhD is that I want to have the option to change my career to university-level teaching. But another part is to show my own children that we can do hard things, and it doesn’t matter when we do them in life. We can look at a challenge–even an ENORMOUS one–and tackle it.

Ways to Help

This one is hard for me to answer. For one, I have a hard time accepting help for myself. Secondly, I really don’t know yet. I can go on what people (docs and other survivors) have told me, but my journey will be individual and I honestly don’t know yet what we will need.

Cortney is going to try to be at as many of my chemo treatments as possible. June and July will be rough from what is predicted. We are going to try to get a little more organized with food that people want to bring. For one, my kids are picky and weird. Secondly, I like to prepare meals for my family and will be able to do so sometimes, but not always. When we have a better idea of when the meals would be most needed, we will put something together.

I have more books than I can possibly read, I have Netflix and Amazon Prime, I have someone who cleans for us every other week. Cortney enjoys getting groceries. We have grandparents and daycare and (hopefully) playdates for the kids for when I am feeling unwell and can’t parent so well.

There is just so much “wait and see” about how I feel and what we need. It’s stressful for me because I really want to plan everything out and have things set, but that is not possible with this.

So the most you can do right now is continue praying for us–all of us. It’s affecting all of us in different ways depending on the day. Sometimes Cortney and I feel like we are in a good place with all of it, but the boys are falling apart. Other times the boys almost forget about it, but I am having a meltdown about how this can’t be my life.

As it approaches, we just want to feel strong and ready. We want to feel like we are making the right choices for our kids and each other.

Chemo starts on June 13 and will be done in October.

Four months.

Forty

I have tried to write this at least a dozen different ways, but nothing sounds right.

What I have to say is this: Today I am 40.

As my dad says, “it’s better than the alternative,” and I guess he is pretty right. I would rather be 40 than dead.

I don’t feel 40…or at least, I don’t feel like what I thought 40 would feel like. Which is dumb, because how did I know what 40 would feel like?

My mom is who I compare myself to the most (she would tell you I shouldn’t do that, but it is what it is)

She had a 15, 12, and 7 year old when she was 40.

I have an 8, 6, and 3 year old.

She was going back to college to get her BA while working full time, momming full time, and wife-ing full time.

I am going back to college to get my PhD while working full time, momming full time, and wife-ing full time.

She kept the house so clean you could eat off every surface, but she would yell at you if you ate anywhere but the kitchen. And she would find your crumbs.

My house is barely picked up. We have a cleaning lady every other week, and I am sure she thinks we are part bovine. I think my mom probably cringes coming over, but she will never admit it because she loves me too much (but I have found my stove top scrubbed after she has been there watching the kids).

I don’t ever remember my mom caring about her age. She always shrugged if off if we tried to tease her about getting older.

I’m trying to be like that too.

I don’t really care.

Not really.

But a little I do.

A little bit of me gets panicky at getting older…being that much closer to not being.

But I have an anxiety disorder and my mom does not.

My mom has always made me feel less anxious.

Even now that I am forty.

I am going to have a very good decade.

Forty is going to be great.

I will just keep telling myself that.

Forty.

 

The Memory Tree

I wonder a lot about life after death. In fact, sometimes because of my OCD, I get obsessed and can’t stop thinking about it.

Anxiety disorders are fun.

Anyway, I have done more thinking about not being alive than the average person. It usually starts with the fear of “not being” because I can’t prepare for it. Lack of control or knowing what to expect is a giant anxiety trigger for me.

I know as a Christian, I am supposed to “rest in the salvation of Jesus” knowing that I will have eternal life if I follow him.

But as someone who is not just anxious, but also has a severe case of doubt, that is a hard one for me. I want to believe that when we die, our conscious souls dwell together and we “see” our loved ones again forever. Sounds great.

However I lay awake at night often trying to imagine not being. I think about how there was a time before me, and there will be a time after me. But since I don’t remember “where” I “was” before I was born, I get a bit freaked out about where I will “go” when I am gone. Or will I just be gone?

People often say they know there is life after death because they can “feel” their lost loved ones. I don’t know if this is true or hopeful thinking. There are times when I feel something, and it makes me think of those I’ve loved who have passed on. Is that them? Or is it just a memory of them? Is the memory actually them? I don’t know.

Since having kids, my fears of death and what happens have deepened since I worry about leaving my kids without a mother. I worry they will forget me, and that if I am just “gone,” there will be no way for them to feel my love once I am gone.

As my children get older, however, I’ve started to have a different view. I’ve often referred to Eddie and Charlie as “old souls.” They are such different personalities, but both have a way of thinking that is downright profound. If you follow my #SluitersReadHarryPotter hashtag on Facebook, you already know this. But something they said last week made me pause and wonder about the age of their souls and the depth of their wisdom.

Thursdays I pick the boys up from the after school program around 4:15pm; last week was no different. As we were getting in to the car, Eddie nodded toward the corn field that lies adjacent to their school property on the parking lot side, “Oh. There’s that construction truck.”

There was a parked van in my way of seeing what he had referred to, so I said, “what? construction? where?”

“Over there. They took the big tree down. I miss it. It held my memories.”

I looked at him quizzically as I buckled Charlie in. “What tree are you talking about?”

“The one that was in the middle of that field,” he said indicating again with his head.

Now that I was getting into the driver’s seat, I could see the large yellow back hoe in the middle of the field where I assumed they were extracting a stump. “There was a tree there?”

“Yeah. It was big and old and held my memories. Charlie, you probably don’t remember it because it was taken down at the beginning of the year.”

“No,” Charlie says, “I remember it. It was there at the start of this year. I remember it in that field before they cut it down. You are right, Eddie. It did hold my Kindergarten memories too.”

“Yeah,” sighed Eddie, “and now it’s gone.”

“Wait a minute. That tree held your memories? What does that mean?” I asked.

“Mom. Trees hold memories,” Charlie told me completely annoyed that I didn’t know what they were talking about.

“Yeah, you know. Like in the leaves or something. I don’t really know how it works,” Eddie tried to explain. “I feel like mine are in the leaves. But maybe not because those fall off each year, but the tree keeps the memories. You know, like the tree in our front yard. That has my whole life’s memories.”

“Yup,” Charlie added, “I think the memories are in the branches. But maybe that’s not right either, because I have more memories than how many branches our tree has. But they are in it. It holds them.”

“But you guys, your school memories aren’t gone just because that tree is gone,” I explained.

“Hm. Maybe,” Eddie shrugged.

And that was it. Neither kid talked any further on it. They went on to talking about other, more kid-related things.”

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that conversation, and how they both sounded so serious and wise and sure of themselves–not like little kids being goofy and making stuff up, but like elders who tell you about the way the world moves and works.

If there was anything in this world that gave me an indication about life after this world, it is my two boys. The wisdom that comes from them  feels like they pulled it from generations back. That they are somehow connected to those generations in ways that I am not. That certain things aren’t just “new” to them the way they should be for an 8-year old or a 5-year old. I’m not sure how to explain it.

Whatever it is, it brings me comfort. And so does their assertion that trees hold our memories. Perhaps this is why I cried when my dad cut trees out of our yard and/or woods when I was little. Or maybe it’s why I feel so connected to the tree that we planted in our front yard. In fact, no one in the family wants to leave that tree behind when we move some day. Maybe it’s because it holds all the Sluiter Family memories.

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