Before 2013 was over, literally 2 days before January 1st, I went onto The Giving Keys site and ordered a key. I wanted to remember and embrace what 2013 taught me.
It was a hard year. June - July were the hardest. A week after Father's Day, my dad suffered a stroke. The medicine administered to reverse the effects of the stroke caused hemorrhaging in his brain and two weeks later while still hospitalized and in physical therapy, he suffered a minor heart attack. Apparently cancer patients are prone to blood clotting due to treatment options. This all happened within a month.
For a month my family and I found residence in the hospital's ICU, taking turns staying at his bedside day and night to make sure he wouldn't hurt himself and encourage him to fight for recovery. I will never forget the fear, the sleepless nights, the tears, or the struggle. But most of all I will never forget holding my dad's hand and how he held on just as tight, even in the moments when he wasn't himself. When I held his hand I thought I was comforting him, letting him know he wasn't alone and just holding on to the hope that everything will be okay. What I was really doing was lending him some of my strength. I never considered myself a strong person. As the youngest of 5 and at odds with my dad, no one really expected me to step up. I've been known to crawl into my shell and shut out the world when things get hard. But not this time. I stepped away to let myself cry, then I'd take a deep breath and wiped the tears away so I could be there for my dad. For my mom. For my brothers and sister. My family has always been my strength. And now I realize that I am a part of their strength, too.
My father is well. He is recovering physically and emotionally while still battling his cancer. He's mostly, if not completely, dependent on us to care for him with not only his medicine which includes injections of a blood thinner, but with his day to day basic needs. Our lives have forever changed but the strength of my family, as a unit and individuals, remains as solid as ever.
This "Strength" key will hang around my neck to remind me of that strength I discovered over the summer of 2013. When I feel weak or face another hardship, I will look down and remember that I am a lot stronger than I think. There will come a day when someone will need the message on this key more than I do, and on that day I will give them some of my strength to carry on - just like I did for my family.
I am a lot stronger than I think.