The Gift in the Sadness

This week’s blog was written by Michelle Belsey, High5 Leadership’s Chief GSH Officer.

One year ago Christmas Eve my mother passed away from a very short battle with cancer. Often people comment about how sad it is that she died at Christmas time. Frankly, it would have been less than awesome regardless of when it occurred.

My mom, Sandy, and I were very close throughout my entire life. She was a single parent from the time I was seven years old, and my brother, who is five years older than I am, wasn’t around much. It was just my mom and me for many years. We spent a lot of time together going to movies, eating our favorite Chinese food and snacking in bed while we watched T.V. What we had most, and what was the best part, was a lot of laughs. Sure, we had conflict. What mother and daughter doesn’t have that? It didn’t define our relationship though. Often, we were each other’s favorite person to hang out with.

When my mom was diagnosed with colon cancer on November 14, 2016, it was a kick in the gut for both of us. She had been really healthy until she wasn’t, and neither of us saw it coming. In retrospect, there were signs, but we weren’t thinking that way. Upon diagnosis, I figured we’d get through it like we got through everything else – together. She went into the hospital on December 13 and never left it. We didn’t have much time to go through anything relative to her illness. Then, suddenly, we weren’t going to go through anything together again. It was an immensely lonely feeling.

I think it’s safe to say that many people would have fallen apart at that time. I absolutely took some time to feel the sadness and cry. Everyone needs to allow themselves time to feel their emotions in any situation. Trust me when I tell you that if you don’t, that s*#t will back up on you in ways you couldn’t imagine. However, then I chose to reframe it to find the gift, or the positive, in all of what had just happened. You may ask, “Michelle, how in the world do you find positive in your mother’s death at Christmas time?” Well, let me tell you.

The universe always conspires for our success.

It was actually a positive that it was all over so quickly. There was some scary stuff that happened, and she was very sick. However, it wasn’t a long, protracted treatment that would have made her more sick and further limit her abilities. Additionally, my brother and I never had to have conversations with her about taking away her independence because she wasn’t able to take care of herself. That would have broken her heart. She was fiercely independent.

For the first time, probably ever, with my mom, my brother felt needed. My mom was a staunch feminist and anti-man for many years. She was also very strong and never asked for help. I imagine it was tough to be a boy in her world. I’m sure he believed he had no value to her. When my mom was sick, he got to step in and help her. He spent time with her at the hospital feeding her and holding her hand. He fixed her covers and put socks on her feet. I believe he needed to be needed by her, and that was his opportunity.

Another positive is that my brother and I have had to communicate and work together consistently for the last year on estate issues. It’s brought us closer and given us a new-found respect for each other. Everything has gone very smoothly, and it’s been a chance for us to see what we’re really made of.

Finally, every Christmas Eve, in addition to the family festivities that are part of our holiday celebration, we will celebrate my mom. She won’t physically be with us, but she’ll always be part of our holiday celebration.

The point of all this is to illuminate that everything High5 Leadership teaches is real. Life is all about choice. I hear so many people say it’s impossible to choose to be positive in life-changing, sad events. I’m here to tell you, it’s absolutely possible! When negative shows up, positive is always available. Would I rather have the opportunity to enjoy another Cosmo and belly laugh with her? Of course I would! However, I’ve had so many great memories and positive opportunities because of her that will give me a smile and fill my heart until we meet again for that drink. As Dr. Seuss wrote, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” ~Michelle Belsey