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Archive for June, 2013

The magic of some simple words,
All written with a smile,
To cheer a friend who’s feeling down,
At least for just a while.

A million smiles that will be shared,
The best that I can give,
Always there to mean so much,
For every day I live.

The magic that just can’t be seen,
But you know is really there,
In all the stories we have told,
As with the world we share.

Last of all importantly,
One thing you’ll always know.
Your friend he always will believe,
The future it will show.

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‘You’re too heavy!’ the little girl in pink overalls hollered to the Adult sitting vaguely on the downside of the see-saw. The bright sun glared into the Child’s wide blue eyes, blinding her into even greater frustration. “I-can’t-get-down!!!” she wailed. By now she looked as frazzled as she felt, pink cheeks hotly flushed and pink bows coming loose, long sweaty strands of dark hair spilling onto her warm forehead.

The woman was utterly distracted. She couldn’t hear the Child screaming frantically above her or see her legs kicking wildly. Angelica’s mind was saturated with the news of her diagnosis. How could she possibly process all that was happening to her? A thousand medical appointments. A million medical professionals, each one wanting her to read this, sign that, test for this, decide that, start this, finish that. Now this. Then that. Panicked, she had begun to run, desperate to escape all that this illness had begun to take from her and suddenly demanded of her.

All morning, her feet had pounded the ground: left-right-left-right-this-that-this-that. But when she passed through the thick forest and neared the bright playground, her long adult strides slowed into small, simple, child-like steps. For the briefest moment, she was no longer a cancer patient, but a healthy, blissful child once more, dancing in the sun. Relief washed over her, and Angelica eagerly scanned the playground to find the little lost girl – a younger, healthier version of herself.

Past the slippery slide. Past the swings. Past the flying fox. What Angelica needed desperately was something that would help her to find her balance again. Finally she saw where the Child sat expectantly on the old wooden plank. Her eyes sparkled with anticipation, longing to be raised high into the air. But the very moment Angelica had thrown one leg over the see-saw, her tired mind retreated in despair. ‘This MRI, that biopsy, this chemotherapy, that radiation …’

“No!!!!” the Child screamed. “You only just got here!” And while Angelica’s body was on the see-saw, the little girl knew the Grown Up’s mind was already elsewhere, spinning wildly on the round-a-bout of this-that-this-that-this-that. Panicked, the Child closed her eyes and began to chant a desperate prayer of colours. “Blue-red-blue-red-blue-red.” She squinted through long lashes and spied a faint flash of blue, then a bright blur of red, moving through the forest that surrounded the playground.

Angelica was beyond exhaustion. Overwhelmed. She closed her weary eyes, tempted to pray for some kind of miracle, but found herself too depleted to open them again. The Child glanced quickly down at the Adult, then began to chant once more: “Blue-red-blue-red-blue-red.” She kept her eyes scrunched closed but knew in her heart that the colours were moving closer. Her feet no longer flailed wildly but began to swing lazily in the gentle, magical breeze.

“Blue-red-blue-red-blue-red,” she began to giggle, the fear leaking, then pouring, out of her heart. She could see the colours starting to glow brighter than the hot sun through her closed eyelids. And as Angelica issued a silent prayer like a petition to some distant physician, she knew in her heart that all she could do was just sink down into the fullest depths of her despair. Just slide off the see-saw and into the dirt. Just disappear into the mud she would make with the million tired tears that promised to drown her. There was no point fighting it anymore.

“You’re here,” the Child whispered, slowly opening her eyes to see a strong boy wearing a long blue coat and a beautiful girl with eyes like the clearest rubies, balancing their way with arms outstretched up the plank towards her. The three children straddled the high end of the see-saw, their weight still insufficient to raise the almost lifeless adult. The girl in the red dress smiled calmly while the boy reached deep into his pocket. Something seemed to flicker softly in his hand. Then just as her darkest thought prepared to consume her, Angelica felt a soft breeze brush against her face, then another by her ear as though something lighter than a snowflake had landed on her shoulder.

Though her eyes stayed closed, she knew she was being flooded with colour and she sensed the sequence strongly. ‘Blue-red-pink. Blue-red-pink,’ she whispered over and over again. The colours felt like butterflies, hundreds of them, landing on her shoulders, opening and closing countless wings again and again to cool and soothe her troubled soul. “Blue. Red. Pink,’ she intoned even slower still, breathing into her lungs each colour’s unique magic: ‘Strength. Clarity. Hope.’ Angelica’s heart had never felt lighter, and the lightness began to lift her off the ground.

When she opened her eyes, they were dazzled by the intense mosaic that covered her shoulders, arms and legs like sunshine streaming through a cathedral’s stained glass windows. Her disbelieving gaze followed the exquisite creatures in their thousands up the full length of the see-saw, now splashed with bright splotches of colour. The decaying wooden plank had become a living rainbow, a blissful bridge between adult illness and child-like awe and wonder.

When Angelica’s eyes reached the end of the bridge, she found herself gazing into the faces of three small children who sat in perfect balance opposite her on the see-saw. She watched as the boy released endless butterflies from the pocket of his long blue cloak. Strength. Clarity. Hope. The words did not spin round and round inside her head like this-that-this-that-this. Instead, they soared blissfully up then delightfully down, then blissfully up again.

From that point, Angelica’s feet only ever touched the ground for the briefest of moments before being carried skywards by the gentle rainbow of butterflies. Yes, she would come down to earth for this surgery or that chemotherapy session, but the butterflies would always lift her again. She surrendered herself completely to the mosaic of life and light and hope balanced delicately on her shoulder, as it lifted her weightlessly skywards once more.

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The girl in the pink overalls stood staring, transfixed on the vision before her, with her heart trembling at the thoughts that filled her mind. The warmth of the setting sun bathed her in its orange glow and reached deep into her cold body. Nearby a dragonfly, iridescent blue, hovered as if watching her every movement, thinking her every thought, compelling her to reach out with her tiny hand and without a word spoken, beckoning it to join her.

She watched it intently as it remained still in the air, and then darted sideways ever so agilely, always keeping a gaze upon her. She gathered her last bit of strength to raise her arm and as she sent out a thought, it moved close and lighted upon her now outstretched tiny fingers, with its large eyes full of a thousand reflections of the little girl. He sat quietly, staring into her large blue eyes with the sun reflecting and sparkling in them like the stars on a warm summer’s night, and looking deep into her mind he could see every thought she now held. Within her eyes he also saw the reflection of all that he was, truth, trust, respect and courage, but was that what she saw, he wondered to himself? She smiled as if they had met before in some distant dream, and then, as if by magic she felt his strength seep through her fingers and into her fragile body. They stood now drawn together by whatever power had brought them to meet, just a dragonfly and a little girl,  nothing more, nothing less, like two friends so unique, yet so important in the fabric that life had now woven. He would give her the strength and wisdom she needed to grow strong once more and lift her up if she should fall. She would protect him, but would never hide.

As the sunlight reflected from his wings, it painted tiny rainbows of hope upon her cheeks and with that, belief.

In life the greatest gifts are sometimes those that are the simplest, the ones we expect the least. True friendship is one of those and it will stand strong, regardless of the adversities faced.

I am little, yet I am strong. Know my words as I have come to know and trust yours, and understand that though the journey you now face is long and difficult, each day is a day closer to the time when all your dreams will come true and you will be well once more.

 

Dragonfly Silhouette

 

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Today I saw a paper boat afloat upon a stream.

The sight of it transported me inside the sweetest dream.

It carried me from where I stood, on muddy banks nearby,

Towards the bright horizon that divided land from sky.

 

The soul inside me lifted from the dark place I had been,

Cool water washed over my mind, and all that I had seen

Was now infused with life and light where turmoil once had reigned,

And at that point I knew my life should never be the same.

 

Where once each thought was plagued with doubt, now certainty had come.

I watched now as the paper boat turned slowly for the sun.

It sailed its course relentlessly, whatever waves may crash,

And I too set a forward course with no more looking back.

 

How can a boat of paper navigate the ocean wide?

How can a fragile child like me find courage not to hide?

A dim and distant silhouette gives me the hope I need

That paper boats can surely float across the wildest seas. 

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It had been a while since the first paper boat had returned, and the days moved slowly as the future unfolded like the most intricate origami butterfly. Today they found themselves on the dark path that wound its way through the forest as they walked together sharing words of the many things they knew. She walked rather slowly, still struggling to find the strength that once resided within, and he walked carefully nearby ready to offer assistance if needed. The sun moved low in the bright blue sky like a radiant orange orb on this sharp winter’s day with the mix of cool air and warm sun being just what the young girl needed, stirring life into her that had been a while coming. The light played upon the path as it filtered through the leaves of trees so unfamiliar, far away from the safety of the tree they knew so well that they would often climb. As they left the path and walked towards the bench that overlooked the expanse of water, the wet grass lay tiny droplets on their shoes, like little diamonds that glittered in the mid morning sun that had not shone so brightly for many weeks. The hard timber bench, worn from the many people that had come to this spot to look upon the glistening water, at least offered some respite from the climb up the hill, which had become more difficult since she had begun this latest of journeys.

They sat quietly overlooking the lake, with the sunlight warm on their faces. In the distance, ducks could be seen as they swam gently upon the silvery surface below, cutting a path through the slightly ruffled water. She sighed and then spoke. “I wish I was there,” she said mournfully. He continued to watch the playful ducks and without faltering he responded. “You can you know.” She turned and looked puzzled. “Yep, you just send them your thoughts and you will be there.” She smiled because she knew his words were full of wonder, and then she sent a wish that the duck would come into the shiniest part, so calm and mirror like as if it were how she longed for her life to be, and at the same time she did so, the young boy sent a thought. She watched on as the duck cut a path through the surface. “He is nearly there,” she whispered excitedly, as it moved side to side as if testing her resolve. All along the boy was thinking the deepest thought and sending it out. “Come on little one, you will be safe over here.” He imagined in his mind. Then he smiled as it swam towards them and the ripples that formed on the mirrored surface where it now floated radiated like tiny messages calling the others to its side.

She shrugged and smiled, not knowing whether he really did have some sort of magic, or whether it was just fate that made things that seemed so magical happen. In the blink of an eye, a large dragonfly zipped on past them on the breeze that carried the many sounds across the lake. Its blue body and faint blue wings reflected the light like tiny candles on a frosty winters night or rainbows in the rain on a warm summers day, and the speed, strength and agility at which it moved astounded them both. “I like dragonflies a lot,” he quipped as his gaze followed it. “Yes, I notice, and I like butterflies, but there are none here today,” she explained, as she searched in vain to find her favorite winged wonder. The dragonfly flew around them as they sat mesmerized, stopping mid air in front of them for a short while, fixed in their gaze, and then it landed on his shoulder and looked at them for a little while more before it disappeared, vanished in the blink of an eye. She did not ask why or what it meant, but just accepted that it would have some meaning in the time to come. He on the other hand knew the significance and that the days would come when it appeared and disappeared again.

They talked some more and then they stood slowly, stepping away from the bench and the marks she had etched with her shoes in the damp dirt, and they made their way back down the hill, taking time to follow the path that wound its way around a small pond. As they walked they continued to talk and he reminded her that he believed many things. Most of all he believed that believing itself was one of the most powerful gifts a person could ever hold. “You know I believe that you will overcome all the fears of what lies ahead and that at the end of this you will look back on this day and remember all I have told you. There will be times when you will falter, but you will never fall, you see you are truly strong and so many have so much to learn from all that you will do.” He did not say, but something told him that one day she would change the way that people think, and he believed that the world would be a far better place from all that she still had to do for many years to come.

They made their way to the entrance and as they did it was as though some of what she feared had been left behind, then as they stepped through the barrier between then and now, they vanished from view. In the next moment, they found themselves sitting next to the girl with the smiling eyes. Her ruby lips spoke of more wonders than they had thought could be, and the smile she gave her love, the white haired boy, was as warm as the thought she sent to her friend with the tiny pink bows in her hair. The day finished far from where it had begun, and it brought the promise of magical things to come. As the white haired boy reached his hand to touch his shoulder, he knew that now and forever the power of the dragonfly was captured with in, and that his magic was far greater than even he could explain, there for a chosen few to see and understand.

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She sat staring through the thick glass that separated her from the world she so loved to explore. The hard mattress on which she lay, with its stark white sheets, devoid of the colors that for so long filled her life with happiness, seemed fused to her body like a leaden coat. As she looked on, the sun rose and painted the wispy clouds that drifted aimlessly in pink and red hues. It had been so long since she had ventured from the confines of her room with its plain pale walls that held her like a prisoner in a tower she remembers from not long ago.

Outside, upon the cold window ledge, obscured from her view sat a single blue dragonfly, with its iridescent wings gleaming in the glow of the morning sun. It sat staring at her intently as she stirred, and a tear formed in his eye, before falling upon the ground below. Upon his back he carried a bright red ladybug, which whispered in his ear, “she looks so sad.” He nodded as only dragonflies can and turned to look at her as a tear also formed in her eye. He gently flapped his wings and raised themselves to where they could be seen. The sunlight reflected in the girl’s eyes and a tiny smile fell upon her face, but she was tired, and as the smile fell away so she drifted off to sleep.

Shortly a pale butterfly landed on the sill, and the dragonfly lighted down momentarily. The butterfly, so weak and frail, climbed upon his back, where the ladybug took her hand and gave her a smile. Ever so gently he turned and taking off they flew into the sun’s gleaming light with the warmth that bathed them offering respite from the chill that the morning air had brought. The butterfly knew not where they were going, and the anticipation of the journey was far greater than each day she had spent alone outside the room. In the morning light they moved swiftly, until the smell of salt air and the sounds of distant waves could be heard as they rolled upon the sandy shore.

They landed carefully on the waters edge, and as if by magic, three children now stood staring as the light danced upon the water before them, as if inviting them to play. The sound of rough pebbles reverberated from beneath their feet, and as they looked down they noticed they were standing amongst a treasure trove of the tiniest shells. They sat in a circle facing one another, each lifting and inspecting the most wonderful shells they could find and placing only the best in their tiny pockets. Each selected four shells to keep, and as they did they showed the others what it was that they had found. The girl with her hair tied in pink bows smiled as if she had not been on an adventure for ages, and as the other girl brushed the sand off her red shoes, she smiled, because she knew it had been too long, but that magic had brought them here.

The boy in the long blue jacket smiled at his two friends as he watched them sharing what they had found. He took his shells and gave them to the girl as she straightened her braces on her pink overalls, and the girl with the ruby red cheeks did the same. “Our gift to you, in memory of the times that were, and will now be once more.” She smiled in return, which was a greater gift in itself. “Come now, we must leave,” suggested the boy. “Time is of the essence and there are things to do, places to go.” They looked at him with sadness in their eyes, because they were enjoying this moment like so many before, from long ago, but they somehow knew he was right, as he usually was. He took their hands and they closed their eyes, then in a moment Angelica woke, with her tired eyes adjusting to the dull light once more. She took a breath, and then blinked in thought, as the smells that had filled her day were no longer apparent, replaced by a familiar scent from many days past. As her eyes adjusted, the special chair that she had bought many years before formed its shape before her eyes.

This was her room, her home, her sanctuary. Had it been a dream, had it all been a dream? No, it was not all a dream, she still felt the discomfort that had accompanied her over the last two weeks, but she was truly home. She gazed around the room, and on the bedside table she saw a heart shaped box, stained glass with a Rose and a Dragonfly intricately woven within its colorful glass pattern. She lifted it carefully, and as she opened it she saw twelve tiny shells, exactly as they had appeared in her dream. A tear formed in her eye, because not only was she home, but the magic of dreams had come true. She glanced up, as a flash of light reflected through her window. There she saw a bright blue dragonfly, a red ladybug, and the most majestic pink butterfly all hovering outside. She strained with the pain she still carried and climbed out of her bed, slipping her feet into her golden slippers that sparkled like her friends eyes. She shuffled her way, slightly hunched to the window, just in time to see them fly away.

As she stared out the window into the broad backyard that lay before her, with the golden glow of the sunrise bathing it with its warmth, she thought for a moment that she caught a glimpse of blue, and red, and the flicking tail of a red fox she had met once before, all running towards a large tree that now grew where it had not before. As she thought to herself she heard the echo of childish laughter from behind the hedge row, and the familiar, whoooooo hooooooo, yeeeeeee haaaaaaw, weeeeeeeeeee, that she had heard so often before. She smiled and gave a little laugh of her own, because she was home and she knew once again that she was surrounded by the magic that had so filled her life with joy.

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Angelica turned uncomfortably in the bed, but without the sense of disorientation that had steadily dissolved the longer she had been confined to sleep in this plain room by herself.  Twenty one long days and restless nights had somehow started to feel ordinary, and whatever world had continued to spin without her outside the hospital seemed nothing more than a faint, sweet dream between the endless, unscheduled meetings with doctors, surgeons, nurses, pathologists, specialists, counsellors, dieticians, physiotherapists and more.

In the haze between asleep and awake, Angelica became vaguely aware that some distant light was just starting to bathe the landscape painted on the other side of the large window, well beyond her reach. Today would be no different. The endless stream of nameless faces would soon begin to flow through her room to remind her of her poor health and utter helplessness.

Slowly, as though stepping from one level of consciousness to the next, she woke more fully to realise, no – this day was NOT just like every other. She could not find any words inside her tired mind to explain how today would be different, but the dawning day somehow seemed  infused with greater anticipation than Christmas morning.  As Angelica’s eyes focused and refocused from the ascending steps of sleep towards greater clarity, a surprising addition to the bright mural on her hospital room wall commanded her attention …

Of course, there were the massive tree with its widely outspread branches – stronger than ever, thanks to an amazing friendship  that could survive even life’s darkest hours – and the silhouette of the three children whose unique joy gave the tree its life and colour. Angelica and her friend had painted this mural with their words over the past three weeks, a fanciful escape from the banality of the stark walls that had become her prison.

But now the mural was made of more than words and daydreams. It seemed to have transcended the realm of imagination, and now it appeared to be painted permanently across the long wall that had  previously taunted her with its stark, mind-numbing bareness.

Brushing her fringe from her eyes, Angelica sat herself slowly up in her bed, (for she was not yet completely strong or quick), donned her soft dressing gown and made her way gingerly towards the mural. ‘What kind of dream is this?’ she wondered, as the sterile stench of antiseptic evaporated, giving way to the lush smell of moss and bark and freshly fallen leaves that filled her lungs with promise.

Angelica ran her hand across the tree trunk in the centre of the mural and marvelled at how the wall’s flat matt paint transformed now under her palm, filling it with a solid, round metal handle. She turned it slowly, feeling the trunk door creak slowly open, inviting her to leave the confines of the hospital room, to enter a world infinitely more inviting and familiar.

Peering through the door into the dreamworld beyond her room, Angelica felt a glowing warmth against her cheek, infusing it with a pale pink flush that had not been present for some time. Yes, she could feel the sun on her face, and she inhaled the fresh air greedily as though it was hers to breathe for the very first time.

But the warm glow was layered. Somewhere between Angelica and the bold, bright sun, there was a small, square table covered by a bright blue cloth. The table was adorned with a large metal tree, beautifully sculpted by some master craftsman, each of its sturdy branches showcasing a small leaf-shaped candle.

‘This is exquisite,’ she whispered to herself, ‘I wonder how it came to be – a tree within a tree?’ Then there was the subtle smell of fresh cut roses, and a gentle hand rested upon Angelica’s tired shoulder. ‘Don’t you know what today is?’ the kind, familiar voice whispered back. ‘This is no ordinary day, my friend.’

Then somehow – in a way that can only happen on the most blissful days when one is filled with the most potent sense of hope and belief – the cobalt cloth seemed to transform itself into a long blue cloak. And there he stood before the two girls – the magical white-haired boy. His face beamed towards his friends in the flickering light of the candles that glowed upon the metal tree.

‘This is no ordinary day,’ the boy spoke, echoing the words his love had uttered only moments before. ‘You found the handle I painted for you on the trunk of the tree. But you haven’t yet realised that the door only opens in one direction. Now that you have left your hospital room, there is no going back my friend.’

The beautiful girl who smelled like roses sighed gently. ‘We  lit these candles to keep vigil for you until you could return. See how they have brought you back to us?’ Her smiling eyes sparkled like rubies as they always did when she felt things deeply.

Angelica’s mind flooded with a wash of wonder. Was any of this real? Somehow, everything had the quality of the sweetest dream, and for a moment she shut her eyes, fearful that she would awake back in her hospital bed if she dared to open them.

But moment after moment, this world became more real, and Angelica’s heart filled with a potent certainty that the hospital room she had inhabited for the past three weeks had begun to decay into little more than a dusty delusion.

She opened her eyes, and immediately they were drawn to the shiny silver tree with its small collection of glowing candles. She counted them curiously. Eleven. And recounted them – eleven again. Why did this feel so … strange … as though there was something she must somehow fix?

Perplexed, she pushed her fringe from her eyes again, then rested her hand deep inside the pocket of her long dressing gown, only to draw it out again quickly in an attempt to determine the nature of the object she had unexpectedly found there. She rubbed her fingers again and again over the small, waxy object before understanding what it was and why today would truly be no ordinary day.

Slowly, she discerned the reason the room that had contained her for close to a month had dissolved this morning with the tentative turn of a tree trunk’s handle. She made her way towards the metal tree on the table, finding the one solid, silver branch she had not noticed before which was not yet aglow. Resting the tiny, leaf-shaped candle upon the small flat of the final branch, Angelica began to remember the significance of the day – June 13th – and closed her eyes, preparing to make a wish.

No – it was not her birthday, but she drew breath and blew gently towards the twelve candles, finding them all now lit and glowing brightly rather than extinguished when she opened her eyes again. The faces of her two friends appeared before her, magically luminous in the light and warmth of the twelve glowing leaves, now burning with all the intensity of Angelica’s relief that she had managed to free herself from the stark, sterile hospital room for such a momentous occasion.

‘My friend,’ Angelica addressed the boy in the long, blue cloak, ‘ Today is no ordinary day. Yesterday you were eleven, but today you are twelve. I light this candle to honour you on your very special day.’ A rare tear began to form in her eye, as she realised that her confinement had prevented her from finding a suitable birthday gift from her friend. The lovely rose girl standing nearby squeezed Angelica’s hand gently, reassuring as always. All that she said to the white-haired boy was also true of the beautiful girl who now stood so closely beside her.

‘My friend,’ Angelica continued, ‘You have given constantly to me in my time of need the things I needed the most. Loyalty, encouragement, inspiration, wise counsel, a listening ear, positivity and strength – in summary, you have offered the truest, purest friendship I have ever known. You have been there beside me in the darkest moments of my life, and have always been there to celebrate with me in better times, as you are truly here even now.’

‘I can never repay your friendship,’ Angelica sighed, feeling slightly inadequate as she sometimes did. ‘All I can do is offer you my deepest friendship in return.’ Her two dearest friends smiled at each other, knowing that sometimes she felt a little overwhelmed by all that she had been through and all that was still to come. Like trees, they each reached their branches towards her, filling her with their compassion and strength.

‘I do not quite know how to leave the bare walls of that stark room on the other side of the tree trunk behind me. I do not know how any single moment of my path will unfold as I reenter this magical world of colour and life and light. But the two of you have taught me many important lessons, and this is one that I shall never forget.’

‘Today is unique and tomorrow will be too. Each day will present challenges that may threaten to overwhelm me, but when I lack strength, you two will lend me your strength and help me to climb. This I know with certainty and is something I shall never doubt. I only regret -‘ Angelica lowered her eyes momentarily from the warm gaze of her friends, ‘that on your birthday, I could do no more than add the final candle to your birthday tree.’

‘You still don’t understand, do you?’ the boy in the blue cloak spoke gently, moving towards the twelve tiny candles that danced like tiny, shiny stars from the silver tree on the tabletop. ‘When you awoke this morning, you saw the mural I had painted for you, and you found the handle on the trunk to leave that other world behind you for good.  I don’t need to blow these candles out to make my birthday wish. That was my wish, and see how it has already come true?’

Angelica felt her courage grow stronger within her, coursing through her veins like strong, milky sap through the sturdy trunk of the tree. She knew that she had sometimes worried too much and perhaps at times even worried about the wrong sorts of things. She closed her eyes and felt the warmth of the twelve tiny candle leaves glowing onto her face once more.

And though the candle wishes were not hers to make, she knew that her friends would understand. One by one, she blew each of them out, wishing for peace, courage, acceptance, patience, strength, laughter, health, lady bugs and dragonflies. She wished for friendship that would never falter and that her precious, eternally young friend would have the best twelfth birthday he had ever had.

Angelica counted and recounted these wishes in her mind. Eleven. There was one more wish to be made, the most powerful wish of all, saved until last. She closed her eyes once more and wished with all her heart that this would truly be no ordinary day.

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