"You are Wonder Woman. You know that, don't you?" The nurse in the recovery room kept her eyes on a drowsy Daniel but I knew that she was addressing me.
Me, the mom with an eleven-month-old son in a stroller, a child of unknown gender in my belly, and four-year-old Daniel in the hospital bed, about to wake up from his third radiation treatment.
I only smiled.
"One tough mama," she said. "You are amazing."
My daughter would have smiled at me had she been in the room, but she was in first grade learning to write about her brother Daniel. He and I like to red funny books. He has a boo-boo in his neck.
Daniel opened his eyes and looked around the room. "I had a nice nap," he said.
The nurse and I laughed.
This scene is only a memory now, a memory I have recalled over the eighteen years.
Eighteen years ago I did not think that I was a wonder woman. I was merely doing what any mom with a kid with cancer would do----one foot in front of the other, moving forward. It was a season of getting my three kids to where they needed to be when they needed to be there. For Daniel that meant getting him to radiation treatments every day at 6 AM for three weeks, and to the hospital once a month for week-long cancer treatments.
Tears? No. Sentiment? Who had time for that? I was one tough mama.
Eighteen years ago I was thirty-six, and believed that if you prayed hard enough and dreamed big enough, you would never have to live a life of heartache.
When Daniel died at age four, people told me that they didn't know how I did it. They used words like brave and strong and inspiring.
But now I wonder if they would understand that eighteen years since my little boy's body could no longer fight the battle, I'm a crumbling mess. I cry because at The Home Depot a tool set has been reduced to 1992, the year Daniel was born. There's a car in the parking lot with Dan on the license plate.
Days before my Daniel's birthday (he would be 23 August 25th), I am reduced to an ache so large that I wonder if the years have stitched up my wound at all. I recall his death and his birth and the four tiny years between the two events as I prepare dinner for the living.
My kids don't mind tears in the sauce. But they also know that I won't become sad when they head off to college or leave home for a dingy house with a group of boys before completing high school. They know I value the "normal" things kids get to do as they grow older and find their paths. I cherish them and that they get to grow up, fall down, get up, and try again. (And am grateful that the middle child did graduate eventually.)
This is who I am, this is the life of one tough mama.