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It’s Not What You Get in Life

The words I heard most often from my mother are, “It’s not what you get in life, it’s how you handle what you get.” These words have shaped my life and become the essence of what I believe.

My mother faced so many challenges in her life: the birth of a severely autistic child in the era of blaming mothers for that diagnosis; breast cancer resulting in a mastectomy; a wayward husband and divorce; a serious hand injury following an automobile accident. But somehow she managed to keep her jealousy of others at bay and appreciate her own joys in life.

At first I applied her maxim to relatively minor disappointments, like not making the cheerleading squad or a disappointing test grade. Over time I came to face my own serious challenges in my life: diagnosis with breast cancer twice and endometrial cancer once; major surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy; significant developmental issues with one child and serious health concerns with the other. Through it all, my mother’s words have guided and shaped me.

My experiences have also led me to develop a personal corollary to my mother’s belief. I now believe that, while others can support us in meeting the trials of life with love, caring and listening, we must truly meet these trials on our own. Despite having a loving and wonderful husband, I have learned that I, alone, must make the journey to acceptance of my situation and move on. There are no words another can say, no tasks another can do, nothing money can buy that will carry me across the line between grief and acceptance. I need to make that passage myself.

Yes, the process is painful, exhausting, scary and lonely. But the end result is that, after my loss, I’m able to rejoin the world with more strength and joy in the life I have.

Elizabeth Ross
Raleigh, North Carolina

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6 thoughts on “It’s Not What You Get in Life”

    1. Elizabeth F Ross

      It is true…a tough learning but a rich one! I hope you feel pride in making that journey to awareness…

  1. So true. I don’t have cancer but I have a debilitating illness that has trimmed my life back considerably. Yes, friends help but the losses are ours to deal with alone.

    1. Elizabeth F Ross

      Pris, all of our losses create the opportunity for this realization….I hope your life is full and that you know how strong you are…

  2. Dorothy Harsen

    Elizabeth, your theory rings true for me. It is good to have a support team, but no one can do our work, our living, or our dying, for us. I think it is easier to have cancer than to love someone with cancer. “Journeying with” takes its own special strength.

    1. Elizabeth F Ross

      I agree…my husband had the hardest job and handled it with remarkable and amazing grace. I think the recognition of my personal experience saved me from trying too hard to make someone else “feel better”…journeying with someone is a truly vital role….

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