Monday, February 29, 2016


I am picking her up from work. She gets in the car and closes the door. “Hi, how are you?” I ask. “I had a hard day,” she answers. That’s it.

In our family, a car is like a magic space. Sometimes, we like to take road trips and blast music while we all sing along. While we sing, everything falls away--there is no pain or injustice, even if it's just for a moment. At other times, when anxiety hits and I don’t know how to support her, we get in the car. Driving creates space that we don’t find in the confined boxes of homes or businesses. Driving loosens what is tying nerves into knots. We notice nature. We talk about trees, sky, and water. We talk about the big stuff. Sometimes the car has the magic ability to create the space and comfort that I want to offer her as a parent.

Then, there are times when the car makes me feel the hugeness and pain of the space that separates us.

When she shuts the door, I know that this will be a quiet drive. Still, I take the parkway where I feel the trees and water offer their assistance to me through my memories of their comfort and connection.  I point out how the clouds make the sky look striped. She remains silent. I feel like if I say another word, it will probably trigger frustration-she needs quiet. So, I say nothing.

She comes in the house and goes to her room. Closes the door.  There are so many days lately when she closes the door to her room. I get it, this is the life of a 19-year-old, and still…. I want to put her back in the car and run away forever. Drive to the edge of the most beautiful place on earth. And live, live, live with her! Instead, I am on the other side of her closed door.

I can feel her broken heart from the living room and I can’t save her. My cancer is a huge part of the brokenness of her heart and I don’t know what to do. This experience might be the most painful part of my life right now. I know what I can do about cancer—it is specific and measurable. When my problem is the infinite space that separates me and this precious human--the closest living thing to me--I feel clueless. It feels like everything and nothing is both possible and needed. I haven’t got a clue how to bridge love and separation. Sometimes I feel like my sum total is hurt plus more hurt.

I think about turning on the TV. I wonder, will it help? How long until it will distract me from this reality?

Sometimes, all I want is to connect and watch my daughter enjoy the freedom of following her own passions with or without me. Sometimes all I want is to not feel like I am the only one who washes dishes in this house. Mostly, I want to know what to do with this space between us. How to honor it, challenge it, accept it, and change it. Paradoxically, I can’t change it, and I refuse to accept it.

I decide against the TV. I knock on her door and ask if I can snuggle with her. After a few minutes of silent settling in, I realize that right now, our physical contact is the most beautiful place on earth. This is not a metaphor. Sometimes, it doesn't take our car to make magic. In my family, sometimes this is what living looks like. 

Post Script: Tonight, after reading this, she came out of her room (where the door was closed) and said, "I'm mad about the dishes part." She came to me, fell into my chest, and sobbed. Eventually, through tears she said, "I am so tired of cancer." I told her: I know, me too. "No. I don't think you know how much I hate it." We cried. I love her. She said she loved what I wrote. Sometimes telling stories helps us break through the silence and space between us. <3


  1. Oh, Colleen....I can't even begin to tell you how much your posts mean to me and to so many other people. When I was a teenager, while I still had a dad, we bonded so hard on drives...he would get distracted by our talks and we'd almost drive to Iowa if Lyndale could go that far, just talking and talking. I'm so glad you share this with us. For me, it's a window into what might have been if people in the 80's had been as verbal and sharing and vocal, and if they could share their lives with so many more people.There is a healing in all of it. We all wish we could take your cancer away, but you feel that way too and you already know that. Thank you for sharing the hard stuff that no one can fix but what we can try to bear with you. <3

  2. You beautiful humans. This hits so close to my heart. I was her. I'm weeping about the perfectness of that snuggle. Wishing I could redo snuggles. Wanting to tell you both you're doing it all OK, and pretty sure you already know that, and that if she doesn't know that yet, she will in time, because you have grown her up to understand that. So much deep love for your whole family, and especially the two of you.

  3. The insights you experience and share always take me to a new and deeper level of understanding. Breathtaking really. Your writing is richly moving. I know that my connection is not the objective but I hope you gain deep levels of peace in the sharing. We can view some moments in life or strive to look for the truth of them. You share the most enriching truth and honesty of anyone I've ever met. Thank you for sharing and helping us all expand. My prayers and appreciation for you are forever.

  4. Oh, this reader, mother of a 19 year old, feels this so hard. Thank you for writing, and thank your daughter for allowing you to write honestly.

  5. Beautiful piece, Colleen. I've been thinking of the physical distance that has grown between Louis and me as he has matured and this has given me additional food for thought. We're a physically isolating society and illness just adds to the distance in most cases. You should be proud of yourself and C that you can -even if occasionally- get beyond that.

  6. As I cry silently in my marketing class this morning, I can't help but imagine that life that both of you are living. As my growing daughter wrestles inside of me, it makes me appreciate life even more. Thank you for your beautiful words. I'm sorry that you and Kiara have to experience this. You've raised a beautiful girl who will carry the very essence of your being within her. You're legacy is beautiful. Even when it hurts. I hope today is one of the better ones. I love you lady. Xoxo