Well, I did it. I let go of him. I let him walk off, and blew him one last kiss as he rounded the corner out of sight.
Yes, it was terrible, and yes my heart was screaming, “Stop! Don’t go!” Even though somehow, my face managed to say, “Go show the world how amazing you are! Remember you are loved, and I’m here if you ever need anything. I love you! I love you!”
He didn’t say anything back though. What he did was better, and in turn invited an indescribable peace to wash over me.
First he hugged me tight. And then…
Not just any smile. He smiled wide and proud, and ready, and excited…and joy. There was joy there.
And there was Ryan in his face. Ryan always jumped into things, even scary things, with pure excitement. I never saw how much he was like Ryan until that moment.
And then a gentleman who was appointed as his host threw his arm around his shoulder and said, “I like him already. He is going to do great things! He’ll love it here!”
After that, Ryan’s reflection, bravely grinning, turned and walked away.
And just like that…(blink) my son was a man.
As I swam through the emotions of the week, my mind kept returning to that smile. It communicated more than anything he could have said. The night before, he tried to tell me how he was feeling inside, but he said it was impossible to put into words. That smile was the best vocabulary he could have used.
I was thankful after the fact to have distraction. I got to hang around my parents, my sisters, and their children. (Note to self: Babies are exhausting, good job for taking care of that part while you were young.) And then after, I ventured into the big city to visit a bunch of strangers I met on the internet.
One would think that getting together with a dozen or so people you met online would be daunting, but in a bizarre twist of fate…every single one was completely wonderfully practically perfect in every way.
D parents. I don’t care who you are. I love you.
How is it I can sit down with people I’ve never met in person before and feel like we’ve been best friends forever?
How is it these people can know me better than anyone else?
How is it they know exactly what to say?
How is it I already miss them terribly?
I am blessed to travel this globe and come in contact with just, good people. Walking arm and arm with D Moms in Salt Lake’s Temple Square was magical. I’m sorry. There just isn’t another word appropriate enough to exactly indicate what I was feeling.
Magic! There I said it again.
The men and woman I met in Salt Lake have had hard lives. Some of their stories you wouldn’t believe if I told you. But their smiles were brighter than a fresh bottle of insulin.
Big. Bright. Smiles.
And those smiles, like M’s, have affected me.
We can have hard lives and still find the joy around us.
One of the friends I met with was Dov. He is a father of a child with Type 1 Diabetes. Also, he has cancer. He’s been beating the odds for 6 years now…every day is a big fat fight. Do you know what made him decide to keep fighting? Do you know what turned him around from depression and anger?
Smiling, skipping and roaring like a lion in the library with his son. That was his turning point. That was it. And because of small wonderful moments just like that one, he smiles, and fights, and spreads laughter wherever he goes.
He’s making the very best of every moment of his life, and so is his wife, and the many D Moms I had the privilege to hug and walk with that night.
All these experiences I’m having. All these people I meet that smile in the face of adversity, it makes it all clear to me that happiness is our job.
Diabetes can’t take it away unless we let it. Cancer can’t take it away unless we let it. Saying goodbye to my son for two years can’t take it away unless I let it.
Finding the courage to smile during hard times? Letting our faith supersede our fears? THAT’S what life is all about.
It’s THE secret. Through M's example, and through your stories, I’ve cracked it: Contorting a few face muscles in the name of happiness. That's it.
Find your smile. Find your small moments. Find a minute to count the bazillions of blessings in your life. Here, I'll start for you: Insulin... Home... The sun... Recess Peanut Butter Cups...
Try smiling, laughing, connecting, and embracing the little things.
And maybe, like my friend Dov, try skipping.
See if you can do it without smiling.
And if you can?