“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

“Call – good news and bad news.” [SMS from Mom; 4:56pm]

“Bad news: I have breast cancer,” my mom states when I call back. “Good news: My hair will finally evolve past the ‘80s anchorwoman hairdo.”

I close my eyes and inhale deeply, searching for words. Mom reassures, “I know this is a lot to process, but we have a plan. We’re going wig shopping next weekend.”

My mom resumes her normal schedule. She zips from home to work to grandma’s house with pit stops for chemotherapy.

Each night, my mom gently feeds and bathes grandma. They hum along to Big Band tunes and play rhyming games to slow Alzheimer’s encroach on grandma’s brain. 

Grandma struggles to string together words, but a fire lights in her eyes each time my mom reminds her, “This is the day the Lord has made. Rejoice and be glad in it.”

My mom embraces others with positive energy. She doesn’t dole out fake smiles or empty reassurances that “it will all be ok.” Rather, she helps others to recognize moments of joy.

I find joy in lingering at the table long after the check has been paid. I am energized by the nod of a fellow runner on a brisk morning. I am comforted by the smell of slightly-burnt homemade lasagna oozing with layers of love. Like my mom, I will pause to allow myself and others to absorb the fullness of these hidden moments.

— Julie Ann Haldeman