To me, to celebrate life is the only way to live it. I celebrate life because I was predominantly raised by a walking angel on this earth, my extraordinary Grandma Tierney. She’s a cancer survivor, a premature widow, an adoring mother who raised a handicapped son into his sixties, and then buried not one, but two adult children. A real tear-jerker, huh? Yet Grandma Tierney considers herself one of the most fortunate women on earth – yes, for having survived cancer, for having married that incredible man, for being “blessed” with a mentally-challenged son who was “so much more pleasant than some of the others you see in the grocery store”, and for living two blocks from the granddaughters (lucky me included) who outlived her precious Margo. Talk about a glass half full! What a gift to have navigated life thus far with a mentor like Grandma Tierney.
Let’s just say it’s in the DNA. That’s right, Dad’s side of the family has been emblazing their names and initials on things as long as leather tooling machines, paper presses and ink have existed. I’m quite sure my cavemen ancestors had their monograms painstakingly (yet, fabulously) etched upon the stone entrances to their caves. These are people who knew how to properly monogram a baby blanket long before Pottery Barn offered that atrocious, Times New Roman title-case stitching on theirs.
Check out Grammy Langdon in her monogrammed, crocodile purse back in the day. In our family, if there isn’t a custom cup commemorating the event, it might as well have not taken place. I take great pride in coming from a line of people who are so proud of their name they’ll engrave it, stitch it, carve it or print it onto just about anything.
Oh yeah, well, back to the whole “celebrating life” thing. Like many people, cancer has had a profound impact on me. Grandma Tierney is a 30+-year breast cancer survivor. My dear and vibrant mother was diagnosed with brain cancer at 36, entered a nursing home at 46, and passed away at 54 shortly before my wedding. It remains the most profound loss of my life. Other loved ones have been afflicted, too. One of my best friends lost the battle, a few have claimed victory, and others are fighting for dear life at this very moment.
Suffice to say in 2008 I was already really freaking mad at cancer. Then my own seemingly perfect life – a big job on Capitol Hill, a still-new husband, a seven-month-old baby, a little dream house with an American flag…it all came to a screeching halt when I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer (fibrosarcoma, for the curious). The prognosis was grim. While the mystery tumor was flown around the world for inspection, my sister flew in to help box up clothes for Goodwill. I didn’t want my sentimental (aka: packrat) husband to have to make decisions (or see the size of my fat jeans) after I was gone. The prognosis got better, and after putting life on hold for three months of treatment at MD Anderson, the outlook was really good. Two years later, we had a miracle baby girl.
While life is sweet these days and I’m more fortunate than most, the experience leaves scars and fears that only others who’ve been there can fully appreciate. And the blessing in it all is a keen understanding of the fragility and preciousness of life. Life is short. Life is rich. Life is to be celebrated. Thanks for celebrating with it me!