LYAS (TTYL)


For five years I have hosted an online chat room for kids with serious illness. It's been my job since 2002. And last night was my last night. My final shift.

"Why are you leaving?'" they kept asking and I froze. I didn't know what to say because how do you tell children you have loved for five years that you're leaving them? How does one say goodbye? Especially when they say, "But we need you... Don't leave us!"

I didn't know what to say last night and I still don't. It took me five and a half hours to say goodbye and it would have taken longer if Hal didn't insist I close my laptop. I could barely see I was so upset. Like breaking up with someone you love because the timing is bad. Breaking up with dozens of someones.

I couldn't sleep last night. I felt horrible guilt because the reason I was leaving was for myself. Because I couldn't work a night job anymore. Because I was sacrificing family time. Because I needed the extra hours to focus on my career. To write and work and promote. Because there isn't enough time in the day to do everything. I left because it was time but how could I say that? How does one type these things without feeling like she is abandoning friends? How does one say farewell to those who are paralyzed, only to run off on healthy legs.

For the past five years I have watched many of the children grow. Graduate High School. Come of age. Go through remission. Heal. I've mourned those lost who fought until the end. I've virtually held hands. Hosted dance parties. Made best friends with those I was lucky to get to know in person: two of the most important women in my life. Lifelong friends. Heroes.


I'm pretty sure my experience working with the children was the reason I was so fearless about becoming a mother. Because I knew I could be a good one. I was confident in my abilities to mentor and guide. I was excited by the prospect that I could one day raise someone just as incredible as the children I got to spend every day with.

I learned a great many things about myself and about life and the world and the goodness in people. I learned that death is not such a scary thing for those who truly live. I learned that helping someone is the greatest way to help oneself. I learned that miracles can happen and great obstacles must be overcome in order to succeed, inspire, mentor, help. I learned that areas of weakness with time (and work) can end up one's greatest strength. I've learned that laughter is the greatest way to heal a broken heart or bone or body. That health is ephemeral. That life is beautiful. That people underneath it all, are good. Nurturing. Inspiring with the most amazing of hearts. Hearts that pump bad blood good. I've learned that the most fragile of bodies are by far the strongest in spirit. I've learned to acknowledge illness as a part of life. Death as a part of life. That our time on this earth must be spent doing things we are proud of. Whether that means providing for a family or following a pipe dream in the dark. Whether that means starting a blog or writing a script or a book that no one will ever see or starting a band or going back to school. I've learned that children and adults aren't so different from one another. And that the only way to earn someone's respect is to give it, first.

Most of all I have learned to be fearless. To turn toward experience and never away. To say yes. As much and as often as possible. To live in the moment. To appreciate.

I don't know if I would have had the confidence to parent, if it wasn't for the last five years working with such amazing children and teens. I do know that I am a better person because of them. I'm a better mother. I have faith in the power of the positive. In love and friendship and the human spirit. In life and growth and what it means to be a child. A teenager. Curious and desperate for adventure.

I'm pretty sure I'm repeating myself now. Because once again, I don't know how to end this post, wrap up my thoughts. I'm ambivalent. And sorry. And excited. And sad. But most of all I'm grateful for everything and everyone. It's been an amazing experience. The very best.




GGC

(HostSBWBecca)

18 comments:

sweetney | 4:33 PM

you so rule. i feel like i've just made a friend, you know? why did it take so long for us to find each other??

Phoenix | 5:19 PM

I love it when I learn something new about someone. I never knew what you did for a living, well besides writing a book.

You rock. For what you did for years, for the kids whose lives you touched and for knowing when to move on.

Scarlett | 5:36 PM

i love you. Don't worry, you can always come back and host a dance party. And I'll come too and we will do the David Palmer until we're too tired to dance anymore. xox.

MomTwoBoys | 5:40 PM

Wow...Those kids were lucky to have you, and so are we! You've inspired them, as well as us, with your writing, be it in a blog or chat room. And you will continue to inspire them, regardless of whether or not you can chat with them on a nightly basis. Archer is lucky to have such a kick ass mama!

Binky | 6:18 PM

I kept reading the line about hearts pumping bad blood good over and over. That is a magnificent turn of phrase (as usual).

I can see why your kids will miss you.

gillian | 6:45 PM

I LOVE YOU!! first of all, i'm super upset i missed your last night. i wrote it down and everything. and your post made me cry. you don't know how much it means for you to host when you did.. now you DESERVE to have more family time and stuff. you have done so much for me, not to mention everyone else. and soon, soon, soon we have to hang. thanks for being so incredible. loveyou!!

Aline | 7:31 PM

xoxo

lauren | 9:34 PM

i love you like the moon if the moon was made of ribs. you've been one of the only constants in my life since i was seventeen years old and that makes me want to cry in a really happy way. thank you for being the most gracious of hosts.

thank you for being you.

Liam's Mom - Gina | 10:11 PM

This was a beautiful post. I am so happy to hear what a positive influence you were on those kids and more importantly how positive their influence is on you. What a gift.

You are a talented and rare woman.

the weirdgirl | 10:27 PM

Thinking of you. Hugs.

Shawna | 5:55 AM

What a beautiful tribute to the kids and to your attachment to them. You are truly an inspiration.

Jaci | 5:59 AM

Isn't it so hard to know when it's time to move from one chapter of your life to the next? But it sounds like this is in fact the right time to devote more time to your writing & your family. I know it must be hard, but feel good about what you have accomplished and the relationships you formed. Now, you've got millions of mommas to reach out to through your writing...the world is yours baby!

Kendra | 6:34 AM

What a great post! Truly a tribute to the kids you touched and who touched you.

It's not often that I read something and words jump out at me. I work in a pediatric hospital and I think you summed up the past 16 years of my life in this: "I've learned that the most fragile of bodies are by far the strongest in spirit."

Thank You.

barbara | 6:59 AM

i'm very proud of you. that's all i can think to write except to say thanks for sharing this.

Tiffany | 9:48 AM

Spending five years helping other people is something to be truly proud of.

Taking time out for you and your family, even if your husband questions Arthurs bloodline, is something you need to do.

I think you are an amazing person.

nancyt | 10:24 AM

Sacrifice is a powerful thing. It's so hard when you have to give up something you love in favor of something you love more. I'm a high school English teacher, and I freaking love my job. And I traded it for the year to be home with my little guy. And sure, there are those moments that make it all worth while--hearing him happily talk to himself in his crib after his nap today, and walking in and watching him gradually notice me, and break into the hugest smile--I still miss my job.

And I gotta say--I know you're going for some pretty awesome dreams, but if the literary life ever leaves you feeling unfulfilled, consider a career in education, because you'd make a kickass teacher. But then again, you'd probably be a kickass anything...

kittenpie | 3:17 PM

I don't even know what to say, hon. It's amazing for you that you have so much to turn to, I'm happy for you about that. But I think it must be terribly sad and guilt-making, too, as you say. I hope they can find someone even close to you to pick up where you leave off.

heather aka heatherpearson(sbw) | 4:19 PM

Becca.. I love ya soo much. we are gonna have a big party when u come to visit next time.Thank you for the 2 years you have been there for me and the other teens..SUper HUgs to you and your family.cya next time....Big smiles to you