My mother struggled with colon cancer for 17 months. What took three months to diagnose cost her surgery to remove a foot of her colon, months of chemo, and ultimately her life. To be perfectly honest, my family has been blessed with good health for the most part. Hospital stays for us were never overnight (sans giving birth) much less experiencing a life threatening and ultimately terminal illness. Thus, her diagnosis in the early Summer of 2011, when my youngest son was just four months old, rocked our entire universe. She was everything to me but even more prominently she was the world to my children.
With the birth of my first son, Djoser, my mother arguably lost all good sense when it came to taking care of this child. She bought him everything she could, spent oodles of time with him and even took off of work in order to watch him if we needed a sitter. All in all she was a model grandmother, the type little boys and girls dream of. What’s interesting is that she wasn’t just this way with her grandchildren, she was this way with my brother and I as well as other children in our family. She had a heart of gold and always, always, always put her children before herself.
But my tale to you is not just of how beautiful this woman was but instead of the magical resilience that children have. We struggled with allowing my children to see Grandma ill. My parents would sometimes ask that we not bring them around when she was very sick to spare them worry. Djoser, however, at the tender age of 3 was always very in tune with his surroundings and the feelings of people, especially Grandma. We said, and still do, that Grandma was Djoser’s favorite person in the entire world. When my mom’s plight began and she was recovering from her emergency surgery Djoser automatically knew something was wrong. He begged and he pleaded to see her all the time. And she shared the same desire to be with him, her first grandchild.
I recall Djoser saying “Grandma, I’ll be your doctor. I want to take care of you.” He would watch very quietly as my father dressed her wounds and administered her medication. This happened regularly until she passed on July 19, 2013. Throughout those months of treatment and bouts of illness Djoser maintained that he was in fact my mother’s doctor. When the chemo started to take a toll on her and she couldn’t get out of bed Djoser would crawl in next to her and lay really still. We’d call him out to eat or play with the other children and he’d say “I just want to stay with Grandma.’ I definitely had concerns about exposing him to too much too soon. But I knew my mother wanted to see him just as much as he wanted to see her.
The day before she passed, the last day I’d hear her voice, my son drew his Grandmother a stick figure drawing of our family. When he handed it to her, as she sat in her wheelchair under heavy medication, unsurmizeable pain and weeks of minimal sleep, I saw her smile for the first time in a long time. She said “You love me too!” Those would be the last words my boy heard from his grandmother.
The next morning my mother took her last breath. The last 17 months that we’d lived were the hardest we’d ever faced, and it all culminated in that one moment that was the saddest, most devastating moment we’d ever come to face. For my son, 17 months out of his young life to that date were filled with sights that likely concerned him and he certainly had many questions along the way. But those experiences also showed him compassion, patience and LOVE. His love for his grandmother and his good heart showed his resilience in the face of hardship. My boy lost his favorite person that day, but until the end he proved to be the best doctor … and the best medicine … my mother could have.
One year later and my son still talks about his Grandmother. He misses her but he doesn’t cry like I do. He talks about her being with God and watching over us. He remembers the things they did together and the places they went. He even calls out where she worked when we pass by her old workplace. His memory is filled with wonderful images of a woman who loved him with her all her heart and that can never die.
I hope that our story helps someone out there, who may be struggling with the decision to let their child be close to a sick relative. The passing of a loved one is the toughest hurdle to cross. But children are resilient and they overcome. They handle crisis better than adults most often. So if you should be going through hardship and are facing a difficult choice of allowing your children to see a close loved one who may be near death, I’d encourage you to allow the visitations. They do a world of good not only the patient but for the ‘doctor’ as well.
Travelling for business, as with every life experience, has its ups and downs. As a parent, time away from my children is far from easy. When my first son was born travel was excruciatingly difficult for me. I cried; I barely slept; I could barely eat. I was so focused on not being with my child that I didn’t enjoy my surroundings. Five years and two additional children later, the time I spend away from my children while on business travel still isn’t the easiest thing for me to do, but (as with majority of mommies and daddies) the option of staying at home with my children as a stay at home parent isn’t a viable option. So how do I cope? What do I do?
Friends Will See You Trough
My job requires me to travel 50%+ of the time. Crazy right? I spend so much time on the road with these people they’ve become my friends. For the times I travel alone I take the pleasure of getting to know new people. Some become great friends that I see at different events, some I never see again but keep in good touch online. Either way, friends are God send when homesick.
@JasonEng and I have become great friends. Though business beckons us only several times a year we talk daily and getting to see him in person is a blessing.
My job has taken me to many places for the first time in my life and/or has offered me unique opportunities that definitely qualify as bucket-list-checker-offers. In these times I soak up every moment and focus on being appreciative of the gifts travelling to new places brings.
My first time to DC. I spent a few days in the city for a blogger’s conference
Eat, Drink and Be Merry
I’ll admit it – I’m a foodie. I love me some great food and drink. So when on the road and living on a per diem always make a concerted effort to research new restaurants and try new dishes. Especially when you’re in different parts of the world that offer special local foods not available on every menu, it is the perfect opportunity to give in to your food-loving tendencies. BONUS: you don’t have to feed your co-workers!
Happy Hour is always a possibility when not dining with children.
For me, I choose to focus on the present and enjoy the gifts around me. The key word being ‘choose.’ We’ve all heard it, read it, maybe even said it before – happiness is a choice. There is nothing wrong with choosing to be happy when you are separated from your little ones, in fact, it’s healthy. Who wants a tired, grumpy, poorly nourished employee … or parent for that matter? NO ONE. So don’t be that – instead choose to take advantage of the gifts you are provided while on the road. So the next time work beckons you to be away CHOOSE to be happy you deserve it, and so does your family.
I love my job. I do. But it’s more than difficult to get over the sadness of saying goodbye to your children time and again for work .. for days at a time… for weeks at a time. How do I do it? Like everyone else who does it, I just do. Fortunately (or unfortunately as the case may be) I travel a little over 50% of the time for my job. Due to the sheer frequency of my travels I’d developed a few ‘strategies’ to cope with the separation period.
Having smaller children its even more difficult to say goodbye because they don’t always understand the concept of time. How do you explain to a two year old that you will be back in three days. They have no idea. Children need stability and routine. Having one or both parents who work outside of the home and travel often makes it hard not just on the child but on the parent.
I’ve learned to cope with my own loneliness of leaving my children by putting their feelings first. If Mommy is sad they too will be sad. Thus, though it is heart wrenching for me to leave them for days at a time when I say goodbye I try to make it a joyous occasion. I give them things to look forward to — like what Mommy will bring them when she returns home, or what we will do together when I get back. When I am out on travel I make it a priority to bring them something unique each and every time. When I went to New York in the Fall I brought each back a pillow with their favorite Disney characters that had a New York theme. When I went to DC recently I brought them tops from the Smithsonian that I knew would keep them busy for hours. The gifts don’t have to be expensive or large. As a matter of fact because I am flying they can’t be large and because there are three of them they can’t be expensive. But understand, that it’s is the simple thought that counts to children that matters – they are just so very appreciative that Mommy (or Daddy) thought of them while they were away. When I get back from a business trip I take the next day (regardless of jetlag) to focus only on the children. We will eat breakfast together, play in the park together, BBQ in the backyard together … the key is being together – a privilege we don’t have as often as other families.
For my own sanity (because travel w/o my Aces is in fact painful), I remain thankful and mindful that there are other families that do not have as much time together as we have (even though there are other families with more) and I am thankful for a job that allows me to take care of these children and provide them what they want to grow up to be happy, healthy, well rounded individuals. I hope that my positive attitude and my gratitude about our current familial situation will translate down to my children so that they too grow up to be mindful adults with rational perspective.
How do you deal with traveling without your children for business? How do you manage your children’s expectations of what will happen when you leave and what to focus on when you return?
One of the easiest ways to keep snack time simple, yet interesting, healthy and a sure hit with your to
ddlers are wraps!
Wraps, a lighter alternative to the sandwich, offer a neat snack that
Turkey, lettuce, carrot, cucumber with balsamic vinaigrette in a tomato wrap.
TORTILLA: An easy and healthy wrap solution is to start with a flavored tortilla – many chains carry spinach or roasted tomato-flavored wraps and display them right alongside the traditional tortillas or in the deli section.
MEATS: turkey, chicken (rotissiere, taco seasoned, bbq), tuna etc – OR NOT, nothing wrong with a veggie wrap!
VEGGIE TOPPINGS: lettuce, spinach, carrots, cucumber, cabbage, onion, cilantro, bell pepper
*Julliene all veggies to the same matchstick size so its easy to layer and roll your wrap and keep the filling within the tortilla when eating
MAKE IT WET: Once you have your wrap you’ll want either a dressing, a sauce, or a flavored mayo to introduce a little moisture / binder.
The cool part about wraps is that there’s no one way to do it – so I never do it the same way twice!