I took this photo exactly three years ago. My husband brushing my hair.
He was brushing my hair because I couldn’t brush my own hair. I couldn’t even get out of bed by myself. But I think there was so much beauty in that moment because it was one of the first times that I was willing to admit I was weak. And that was me at my best, at that moment, because the mornings were the worst, so as the day went along and I was able to slowly get out of bed, walk around the yard a little, maybe take a shower, I was ready to go to bed again and start the process over again. And at my best I still was unable to complete a simple task like brushing my own hair. But my husband brushing my hair was so raw and tender and loving and I couldn’t find an ounce of fear in myself at that moment. We were both just fully there, grateful.
Anne Lamott says that “the search for meaning will fill you with a sense of meaning.”
I searched high and low, and I found meaning everywhere.
I still do.
And sometimes the meaning is probably all in my own head but does it really matter? Recently when I was in that car wreck, I told a woman how I’d seen feathers flying around in slow motion as the car spun around. Her response was: you didn’t see feathers. And I was like: yes I did. And she snapped back: no you didn’t. I can assure you that you did not see feathers. And for a short moment I thought to myself maybe she’s right, maybe I didn’t really see feathers. Maybe I’m delusional? Maybe I hit a chicken? But then as they were towing the car away there were no feathers to be found. But I saw the freaking feathers people. A burst of feathers, at the moment the car was hit. And they were suspended in the air, frozen in a millisecond of time, catching my attention from the horror of what was happening. And I was able to find some meaning in that.
“When you learn that your life is threatened, you can turn toward this knowledge or away from it. I turned toward it. It was not a choice but an automatic shifting of gears, a tacit agreement between my body and my brain. I though that time had tapped me on the shoulder, that I had been given a real deadline at last. It wasn’t that I believed the cancer was going to kill me […] No. What struck me was the startled awareness that one day something, whatever it might be, was going to interrupt my leisurely progress. It sounds trite, yet I can only say that I realized for the first time that I don’t have forever.” –Anatole Broyard, Intoxicated by My Illness
I think this post will end the series I labeled The Cancer Chronicles three years ago. I don’t really want to write about cancer anymore. There’s probably some meaning in that too.
Stephanie T says
Hi Ashley–so happy for you. You must know that those Cancer Chronicles have helped and will continue to help countless people in the years to come. In fact, I just recommended them to someone who’s in a battle right now. Such a good, unselfish deed you’ve done.
He is a good man. I remember our late nights chatting when he’d fill us girls in on the days events. You’d mumble stuff at him and he’d type it out. We’d all laugh because it would have that Brett spin to it.
Your guardian angel was with you Ash. I have been following you for three years. You continue to live your life to the fullest.
possibly you saw angel feathers 🙂
Cathy Cortes says
gosh your writing is so good. thank you for sharing this part of your journey with us. i’ve really admired your view on life while you battled & recovered from cancer. thank you.
Jamie Holloway (@jamienholloway) says
Your cancer chronicles captivated me from the beginning– I always admired your attitude and how you handled such a difficult situation. I remember thinking, in such an abstract it-will-never-happen-to-me way that I would hope to approach cancer in the same way. If I ever had to. Which I never would. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago, I reread every post and watched your Rite of Passage video more times than I care to admit.I became a bit of a groupie– my kids decorated my bald head, I wore my Choose Joy bracelet, and my Fear Will Not Rule tee is still a fave. (I wish you still sold them, it’s getting a bit worn out!) I have to admit, part of me is sad to see the Cancer Chronicles end because it makes me feel like we are friends, like we walked this journey together– separated in time and by thousands of miles, but still together. Yet I am encouraged by the fact that you are ending it. You have reached a closure that feels so far off to me, and seeing you get there helps me see that I can get there too. I am glad that you don’t feel like you have to write about cancer anymore. But I am so grateful, that for a short time, you did.
Marlene Hoffman says
Love your honest Ashley…thank you for sharing all that you share. Your heart…your thoughts…your life-experiences…your sweet family and your beautiful photos. Love that you CHOOSE JOY! Xoxoxoxo
Deanna Adams says
I agree you saw angel feathers – how sweet and special in such a traumatic moment.
Brook Thurman says
I am so glad you are feeling better, in so many ways. I agree, angel feathers must have been what you witnessed! You are such an inspiration Ashley. God Bless you and your family. I am so blessed to have found your blog and to be enlightened by your experiences and your words.
So happy to know that you are officially removing Cancer off your things to worry about. I have been here with you all through your journey praying, crying, smiling and laughing! You have brought so much inspiration to my life and still do. Now that you have closed that chapter it’s like, it’s officially done! No looking back. You Rock!
Of course you saw the feathers, they were falling from the angel wings protecting you. We’re never truly alone.
I followed your cancer chronicles faithfully. I prayed for you and send good thoughts your way and rejoiced with you when it was over. Your post today brought it all back to me. I guess because at 3 p.m. today I received a call from my own doctor that the cyst in my kidney is suspicious and complex and we need a 2nd contrast MRI. I am so scared, Ashley. I thought of you and then read your post. My god. How ironic. Please pray for me and hope that my own story will have an outcome like yours. Your friend, Karen
Praying for you Karen. xoxo.
Barbara Kiphart says
I am praying for you…please stay brave and ask the Lord to help you. He’ll never leave your side when you reach out. ((Hugs))
What a beautiful picture and memory to end your cancer chronicles on and a sweet memory to keep instead of all the painful ones.
You always have a way of touching my heart!
Brenna Kohlhase says
I believe you were protected under the shadow of HIS wings. Sometimes reality is imprinted with the symbolic pictures laid out for us in the Word…I think that’s why there are so many word pictures in the scripture. We humans can then relate to what God promises and He sometimes reminds us like this.
Hi Ashley, I just wanted to congratulate you on reaching the milestone of closing the chronicles. I’ve been a regular reader for those three years, and have shared some of your worries and pain and hopes from a distance. So happy for you that you are able to focus fully on the next part of your journey. Thank you for sharing, hugs from Australia
Thank you for being raw in your cancer chronicles. I have shared it with others starting down that path. I cried right along with the rest of your readers as you told your stories. Your right of passage video brought me to tears also! You have been a blessing to many by being transparent. Thank you!
Your honesty in sharing you heart always inspires me.
Lauri Ladd says
No one can ever take away your own reality unless you let them. During my car crash 5 years ago, I saw my children (who were not even in the car with us), and my husband floating up in a bubble during the 10 seconds it took to have the crash. Insurance doctors tried to make me feel like I was crazy for saying that, but a really kind (and qualified) doctor told me that it was likely the force of the airbags during the crash…and my mind going to where I needed it to go to be protected. She was the one who helped me keep my own reality. I’m glad you have the support of a family, friends and all of us who love to follow you to tell you that, yes, if you believe you saw feathers, then yes, you did!