When my co-worker’s daughter was diagnosed with cancer, the whispered phrase that followed her from every room was:
“I could never…”
Two years later, one of the whisper’s three year old daughter also developed cancer, many a parents greatest fear.*
I theorize the reason we say, “I could never…” is we are trying to tell God-the-universe-and-everything:
“Don’t even try it,
because if you do,
And you don’t want that do you?
Give that burden to someone stronger than me,
someone with more faith.
Someone who’s not me.
Because if you, God-the-universe-and-everything,
place that burden on me,
you’ll have only yourself to blame
when I snap in two.
It’s very much like when Marcus was born and there were a lot of uncertainties surrounding his health. There was a heart defect, the extent of which was not yet known. There was talk of life-flight to another city. Someone breathed baptism.
Oh Hell No. I thought.
To me, the symbolism of baptism was giving your child to God and some weirdness of marking him as OK for entry into heaven. I was NOT doing that, for two very logical reasons. Number 1) I am not done with this child, if I don’t baptize him, he’s not God’s and therefore cannot die. And number 2) Obviously God would not be able to keep this beautiful child from heaven if he were to die, therefore he cannot be blessed for heaven until I’m ready for him to go.
Don’t knock it, it worked.
Nora’s mommy made her own deal with God, “You can have her hair, just let me keep her.” Thankfully, that worked too. But the, “I could never handle…” trick, I guess it’s over-used. Everyone’s tried it, so it’s lost its punch. God-the-universe-and-everything says,
Even people handling what others say they can’t handle have spoken limits of what they can handle. (Follow that?)
I have another friend whose son has Bardet-Biedl syndrome, it was a long scary time getting a diagnosis and treatment because it’s just rare enough doctors didn’t know what they were looking at. There have been some terrifying moments along the way and, as is the case with the human condition, the future is unpredictable. This mom owns a business awesome creating awesome custom rhinestone shirts. One night at a party she was explaining to me that she had to do this super rush custom order for another mother’s charity walk, and said, “Her son has one of those syndromes that the rest of us look at and go…Oh, I could never do that!”
I nodded. I knew what she meant.
In all honesty, when my son was diagnosed with Down syndrome I thought. Well, if it had to be something, I can handle this. I don’t know if that’s weird, maybe it’s a coping mechanism of some sort, but it’s also true. I mentally ran down a laundry list of diseases/disabilities that are much worse than Down syndrome and thought, Oh yeah, this is way better than that—
I am thinking about this right now because of team NOJO in the Cure-Search walk. Cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in children and Cure-Search mission is to cure childhood cancer. Of course that is, more than any other, a parents greatest fear: our own child’s death. At the Cure-Search walk I attended, there was a point where parents/families of children Lost to cancer took the stage.
Each child’s name was spoken into the microphone.
Golden balloons floated into the sky while the gathered crowd stood in silence.
I stared in amazement at their courage to stand, to walk…to be.
Every parent witnessing their walk to the stage wished, prayed, whatever – Please, don’t lead me to that stage. Please, I could never…
But the deals parents strike with the universe don’t always work. And that sucks.
Marcus’ has faced health issues that were life threatening, each one paralyzed my heart with fear. Thankfully, those days feel like a galaxy long ago and far away. Do I feel better able to face and handle the “I could never…” because of past difficulties? Hell No. But they’re all out there.
What about you? What’s your – I could never… And have you anyway?
*PS, I know parents should be parent’s – But Google and I are having a tiff about it.
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This #TBT post was originally published in June of 2013. *Check out the Current “Team Nojo” – going strong!
I thought “I could never do that” when Marcus was born with DS. Then when I was pregnant, I thought–I could do DS…but not some of the other stuff.
Then we got an autism diagnosis. I wasn’t sure I could handle it…but somehow, we muddle through day by day. I think we all need hope in our life.
Praying for all of those you walked for and in honor of.
“God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle”. We’re told that often. I believe it so much I got it tattooed where I could see it and remember it (1 Cor 10:13). But I still find myself thinking: I wish I weren’t so strong. Maybe if I was weaker, if I was like everyone else, I wouldn’t have to go through this.
Great blog! I think it captures what many of us think, but few articulate. And with that being said, I couldn’t possibly put out into the universe that thing that I couldn’t handle.
So real. You captured a sentiment said and probably thought by many people very well. Thanks for sharing.
I can’t think of an “I could never” for myself. When I decided to homeschool my middle grader…and granted it was a choice (understandably different than what you’ve written about). I can’t tell you the number of times parents said to me “I could never” It amazed me because…if you feel it has to be done, if there’s a calling…”yes, you really can”. I suppose in some ways this is the same. You will be surprised by what you “truly can”.
You know it’s funny. I used to be able to read/watch/whatever this kind of stuff and not be affected by it. Now that I’m a parent, I can’t do it without at least nearly coming to tears anymore.
Great post Mardra! My mother and brother had cancer within 18 months of each other and Dad died way too young. Not sure there is an “I never could…” after that. But I understand the feeling because with the second cancer, I definitely felt that way. And now that I’m a mom, I would do anything for that little girl. People can handle way more than they think they can because frankly, what’s the alternative if they don’t?
I think we all say “I can’t” as a matter of reflex when faced with something we know will be hard — in theory or in reality. But we are so much stronger than we allow ourselves to believe. The hard stuff, the tough stuff, the heartbreaking stuff, sometimes it’s just what we get, and it’s in us to handle it. Way to take a deep look at this though — and way to be tough 🙂
I’ve been faced with a number of moments that I thought “I could never” handle. Those are some of the defining moments of my life, of my character. I would not wish for them, but I’m grateful for what I’ve become as a result.
I try not to say “I could never,” because it’s like that jinx that brings it down on you (sort of like saying “what else could go wrong?”). A friend’s 3-year old was diagnosed with AML Leukemia, and it was a nightmare for so many in so many ways. But she’s now a vibrant 8 year old (she and my son had the same due date, which is how we came to be friends in the first place), and she’s a little star, bringing attention to childhood cancer in myriad ways. She’s done television interviews, been in magazines, been the face of childhood cancer all over, and she’s a tiny amazing spitfire.
They do the reading of names at the Miracle Party each September, a party meant to celebrate children with cancer, to give them a carefree night. It’s a wonderful event. But every year my heart breaks for those little ones who didn’t make it, and even moreso for the families they left behind.
Shannon at The Warrior Muse
I’ve dealt with a lot of death in my life, so the idea of it happening seems so real. I’m terrified of losing my children. Everyday. But I forcibly shove it out of my head and let them have a life. Instead of saying, “I could never…” I usually say, “I can’t imagine…” But I can, and do…knowing what I imagine is nowhere near the pain of the reality. So, I do what I can to keep them safe. And Live.
This is good. We all have those thoughts, I guess. What bugs me is when people confess them to my face: “I could NEVER do what you do”. Really? What? Parent? Fight for your child? LOVE your child? Which part?
But again, anger is my default setting. 🙂
On the one hand, I agree. I think, really? You couldn’t love and advocate for this guy? Or your own?
And then, sadly over the last few years I’ve seen examples of people who, well, don’t. And I’m shocked and confused by this.