Growing up in a family of four kids, it's easy to feel like your parents don't pay enough attention to you. That was never the case for me. My mother always made it a point to make each of us feel individually special. Whether it was a certain song she had with one kid or a certain food with another. Mine was a time. 11:11. Every time it was 11:11, my mother would look me in the eye and say, "kiss the clock and make a wish, Kate." and we would. It was her own little way to make me feel special and safe and it always worked.
I was a freshman in high school when I found out she had a brain tumor. Seeing as how my entire knowledge of the medical world came from the tv show E.R., it was safe to say that I had no idea the severity of the situation. That, mixed with my mothers optimism. I remember her always saying, "If you start telling people that you are sick, they will start treating you like you are sick, and then you will start believing it. The mind is a powerful, powerful thing." So I just went about my life as if it were just that easy.
About a month after we had found out, my church youth group decided to go caroling to the people in the congregation who, "might not make it to the next holiday season." We met up at the church and split into groups. Each group was given a piece of paper with the names of the people we would be singing to and a little information about their condition. I started skimming the page, thinking about how terrible it must be to know that this would be your last Christmas. And then I saw it. The very last name on the list. Annette. My mother.
I tried to keep my composure but my inner dialogue was screaming. "WHAT!? My mom might not make it to the next holiday season?! Why hadn't anyone told me?" I tried to calm myself down as I read the paragraph. It explained that this was a very high risk surgery. So high risk, that neurosurgeons in our state, and the surrounding states had refused to do it because of its complexity and the fact that they really just didn't know how. It continued to say that we would be going to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota on January 22nd, the day after her birthday, to have the surgery, in which she would only have a 2% chance to live. A 2% percent chance.
I was in shock. I had no idea. The worst part was, I was on my way to her house to try and cheer her up by singing Christmas carols. We stood in the living room of my mothers house and sang. Well..they did. I stood, clenching my best friends hand, eyes locked on my mother, sobbing. How could I have another Christmas without her?
The next few weeks were a numb blur but finally, the day of the surgery came. We were all restless from the attempted family birthday party from the night before. It seemed like suddenly, optimism was the last thing on everyone's mind. The weather was a direct symbol of everyone's mood, cold, cloudy, harsh.
We waited patiently in the waiting room as the doctors were preparing my mother. After what seemed like hours, a nurse came in and told us that it was, "time to say our goodbyes". We all walked like zombies into a back corner room where my mom sat in a hospital gown. We cycled through the hugs and tears and soon enough, it was time.
The goodbyes were over and she was off to the operating room. We walked back to the waiting room and I put on my headphones to try and mask the eerie hospital silence. I sat down in the hard seat, and looked at the clock. It was 11:11. I was suddenly overwhelmed with the most amazing sense of peace. Tears began to roll down my face, I closed my eyes, kissed the clock, and wished as hard as I could.
Twelve hours later, the doctor came in and told us that she had survived.
Now when I see 11:11 on the clock, I don't just make a wish, I realize how precious this life really is.