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Smell the roses by Annie Maria Cofrancesco

Smell the Roses by Annie Maria Cofrancesco
What a year!
The season of the depth of despair; doctors, treatments, knowledge, anger, lashing out, blaming, binging, wet and dry tears, grief, acceptance, growth, faith, hope, and love. Dec 20, 2018, was the most horrific day in our lives. My husband, Paul was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer (3 lesions on the brain and several lymph nodes) and given a year to live if no treatments. Today he is still with us and he made a huge milestone this year. However, I believe every day should be a milestone in our lives.

Life! At conception, we are given life with the only guarantee of death. Death comes in many forms. Sometimes, it takes lives too soon even as babies, ones who suffer from diseases, mental health, accidents, heart attacks, strokes, misfortune situations, old age, etc. It is unpredictable to everyone; good, bad, young, old, poor, rich beautiful, ugly, sick, healthy, orphaned, loved, abandoned, homeless... I don't believe most of us know when we will die. Doctors dealing with cancer patients or other illnesses can give an estimated time. There are also those struggling with mental illness and can no longer bear the burden of the world, They often harm themselves by sometimes committing suicide. They plan; whether within a week, a day, today or tomorrow. Most of us take tomorrow for granted and although we think that we deserve it we do not.

There are 86,400 seconds in a day. It could be quite long when the outcome is not what we want or desire. Personally, taking two steps forward at times takes me 12 steps backward. The emotions are up and down and even side to side. My beautiful Aunt said to me when I cannot get through the whole 86,400 seconds in one day; instead, go for 180 seconds at a time.

Sleepless nights where the mind wanders off to what if, why, if only, with no answers only to watch the digits on the clock change. There should be a switch to turn the mind off and on. Finally, when sleep step in there are awful nightmares where I am told I cry at times. I was the jumping rope queen. I made it look so easy. Now jumping rope for 3600 seconds feels like forever. When I was the queen, my feet barely get off the ground by an inch or less while the rope goes over my head and the feeling was like a hawk gliding in the air effortlessly. I was once a beautiful woman in the inside where my smile showed my true beauty. Looking at the mirror my reflection is dull and ugly even with makeup. Days where I cannot recognize who I am because my heart is heavy and wants to jump out from my chest and my soul cannot bear the burden of feeling useless and helpless. Then, there are thousands of seconds where I simply do not want to do anything or go anywhere. I loved spending thousands of seconds in the garden where it brings me peace and tranquility and these two words are foreign to me.

I used to lie in the hammock for hours looking up at the blue magical endless sky. And as the hours begin to darken and the clouds begin to take many forms of shape in radiant colors. I can pretend to see Angels as they begin to appear from behind the sky's clouds with the stars glistening giving them pure lights to dazzle their wings. And if only the trees under the hammock were tall enough, I could climb and reach to the stars. If there is a full moon while lying in the hammock under the mango trees I would see how the leaves can light up and bring such perfect art (the shape of a heart or a pear), how the branches sway from a gentle breeze into a slow dance and cover the moon for a few seconds or when the clouds cover her for a few seconds as she spun out unique colors. It would be grand to have such a painting painted by Leonardo DaVinci. Finally, I say to the angels to guide me with their sparkling light from the darkness to a mysterious beautiful life that I will surely enjoy tomorrow and every day and that it will repeat itself knowing I know tomorrows are not a guarantee. My Imaginations...

We take so many small things for granted. Not all of us have the opportunity to listen to the sound of baby pigeons crying "I am hungry" and think it is a piece of delightful music to the ears. To watch a bee on a sunflower is a beautiful sight. A hummingbird flaps her wings so fast to suckle from a sweet flower. Children playing with old sofa cushions lying under the sun giggling and talking with the cool breeze blowing on their innocent faces with no cares in the world. High in the sky flocks of birds flying during the day and if you follow their flight path you are lucky to see their reflections on buildings and on the ground from the magnificent sun. When the sun is about to bid us goodnight, she lets the birds sing to us a soothing good night song as they settle in their favorite trees. And then she says good night to us with her beautiful sunsets. Her sunsets are one of a kind every day as a new storybook each night. At times she teases you as she swiftly shows her beauty as she enters the ocean to rest. Some days she is not so bright but she lets us know she is there and give us another perspective of gray colors which if you can see its beauty she is there.

Isn't nature divine with or without imaginations? Before the sun makes her grand entrance after her peaceful rest, alarms go off coming from the birds saying time to rise and shine. Go to the beach and sit on the sand and wait for me. She lets you ponder for a little and then finally emerges from the grand ocean showing her beauty to have a sparkling day. Flowers open up slowing as she fully emerges, bees and butterflies enjoying the sweetness from the flowers. I like to follow the butterflies so they can touch me to bring good wishes. These little things in life are there and priceless so enjoy while your health is good. However, when you are sick from illness and in pain, unfortunately, it is not such simple luxuries. Seek it while you can and be proud to explore and imagine.

Who writes handwritten letters now? Who remembers the days of pen pal letters or the days of love letters from sweethearts? Receiving a handwritten letter brings a warm smile to your heart. The best part you have it and go back and read many times as you want because the effort put into it and hands that touched it is priceless. Don't be afraid to show your love or write how you feel. Isn't love free with no boundaries? We all need love to live this life.

For many of us, today can be a day of sadness, happiness, healthiness, sickness, jobless, richness, poorness, homeless, etc. We have some control to make things easier or better. We should not take so many little things and people for granted. We shouldn't. We should be kind and generous with our love since it is boundless. Kindness doesn't cost anything. I will never forget the kindness, cards, gifts, and love we received this year from family, friends, and even strangers. A huge thank you from me and Valentino to Paul's Waste Management Family for all that you have done and all the support you have given to us. People come in our lives for a reason and leave after a season. Some teach us life lessons. I am thankful and grateful to each one of you. For those who do not know what to say to a cancer patient, start with hi, what can I do for you today, I am thinking of you, how is your heart (my cousin Paul said this to me), I love you, sending a hug, I am here to listen, etc. goes a long way.

Ask how your heart is today, why not tell the truth? I am sick physically, mentally, sad, angry, having a bad day, mad at someone, etc. You might be surprised at the genuine friendship that you might attain and help. After all, we are all human and we all need help at times. We all have problems and none of us are perfect. The world isn't. Life isn't and it comes with risks. Aren't we here in the world to live, help and love?

I will be there for my husband and shall continue to be a courageous and compassionate woman helping and loving regardless if something big or small is painful and feels unbearable. I know I will get back to jumping rope but this time gliding like an eagle and not a hawk. Before this past year, Paul would tell me I live in the moment. I should, He also said to me I live in my own imaginary world of how it should look and be. Well, of course, I do because it is not real...Little by little each day, 180 seconds of coping will increase gradually. My smile will surely be back to show my beautiful feathers of radiant colors and my wings will begin to feel the wind so my soul can fly to ease the burden of sorrows as I learn to be better each day. The words peace and tranquility will eventually become home again. I have to prune myself like I with my flowers and herbs and I know I will smell the scent of roses and as I brush by the rosemary bushes will be aromatic. Even the smell of freshly cut grass will be home again.

Do we know what the future holds for us? Certainly not! I would like to have the wisdom of a Gandhi, the calm of a Buddha, the grace of Audrey Hepburn, the business acumen of a Rockefeller, the willpower and self-denial of a Mother Teresa, the courage of a Martin Luther King Jr., the creative genius of a Picasso, the inventiveness of a Steve Jobs, the visionary imagination of a Leonardo da Vinci, the emotive power of a Chaplin, and finally the composure and good nature of my grandmother.

Live life the best you can help yourself and others, enjoy each other, don't take your health for granted. Breathe the fresh air, take time to smell the flowers, eat your belly full, have a glass of wine with a piece of chocolate together, which I must say is simply divine on the tongue, laugh out loud, sing in the rain like a madwoman, dance like a butterfly, do what makes you happy and share the joy to someone freely without expectations. Live, live, live...Love, love, love...Tomorrows are a rare gift that cannot be purchased. Time cannot be redeemed. Always tell the truth of how your heart feels.

As a caregiver to Paul, I will end with the word CANCER, which is wretched but I summed it up to be less bearable.


C = CURE: we need and must find a cure
A = Absolute: We absolutely do not give up on those we love neither hope nor faith
N = New: Every new day is a milestone
C = Compassion: It wears very well according to Audrey Hepburn
E = Emotions: The 5 senses we are given at conception use it freely and not take any for granted.
R = Radiance: The world is full of radiant colors if we take the time to look carefully around and within us.

To all of you, thank you for reading this. I hope you may all have good health, love, hope, and faith each new day. All the best for the New Year!

With Love, Annie, Valentino (our sweetest and unconditional little furry baby) and Paul...

Annie Maria Cofrancesco
30th December 2019
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