by Rose Schaubhut
When I reflect back on traveling with Chef Carl on this cancer journey, I continually compare my feelings to experiences of roller coaster rides. There are ebbs and flows of high highs and low lows. I experience highs with the outpouring of love and blessings from others. The lows hit hard when there is new tumor growth or a major complication. There is hope when receiving good news of the tumor shrinking. Hope leaves at the termination of the clinical trial with no offer of further treatment options.
After I experienced only a couple of the very tall, very rickety wooden roller coasters, I realized I do not like the ride. I despised the variability of the twists and turns. Going up and coming rapidly down left the pit of my stomach behind. I screamed in fright unable to catch my breath. My knuckles turn white from holding on so tight. You know the feeling, you might even enjoy the thrill but I despise the uncertainty.
Imagine watching your son or daughter on a roller coaster without the ability to direct the ride. Think about your experience of helplessness if you are a bystander hoping and praying that the next downward turn ends with a peak, which declares a cure. I experienced that same feeling in the pit of my stomach when the doctor said the tumor recurred.
Focused on faith and hope
Some nights I am awake, praying the rosary hoping to fall asleep. Some nights my head hurts from crying. I long for a happy conclusion to replace this nightmare. I bargain with the Lord, telling him “I lived a good life and I am happy to take over his fight”. I wish to take his place on this cancer journey but life does not give me that choice. Each of us must walk on our own individual path. I am terrified yet I hope that a possible cure is on the horizon.
I stay focused on my faith so that I can find the strength to go forward. The love of others surrounds me. My soul mate, my husband supports me. My friends and loved ones are there for me. The Lord brings me deep peace, understanding and consolation. My head knows that the hereafter is a better place yet my heart wants more time.
A mother’s bond with her children is indescribable. Each child holds a special place in my heart. I fondly remember the times that I held this little baby boy while swinging in my backyard or breastfeeding him in the comfortable family rocking chair. He had big brown eyes, a full head of dark brown hair and a beautiful smile. When I kiss his head today, his scent is the same as that precious little one.
For the past short 36 years I relate to him by teaching him, coaching, supporting, protecting, nurturing, listening and staying quiet when needed. He was challenging teenager who tested the limits, used his smart manipulative ways to charm and navigate. Never did I ever expect to have his life confronted by this arduous journey.
Sharing and caring
Once he started cooking, we planned holiday meals and family gatherings together. Some of my favorite memories are having the entire family in the kitchen, preparing for a Thanksgiving or Christmas feast. When I would tell him that we were hosting a gathering of 25 he would say, “that’s nothing, we got this”.
He reminds me of his wonderfully kind and generous father in so many ways when he prepares a meal. Many people ask me if he gleaned his cooking talent from me. The answer is flatly NO, his dad is a much better cook than I. Chef probably got his taste buds and creativity from me but he teaches me cooking.
After Katrina, I remember when he was considering moving to Florida. I thought that his New Orleans job options were very good but I patiently listened to him describe the job offer in Florida. He moved to Florida and his career and personal life changed forever. Serendipity brought him to a place where he found love, a career mentor, supportive friends and a unique culinary community. One day we were traveling from Florida to New Orleans together. He told me that his new girlfriend is “the one”. He spoke of her so lovingly, with a unique spark. The minute I met his soon-to-be-wife Alix, she was a part of our family. I love her like a daughter. She was very kind to Alyssa (age 5 at the time) thus I knew she would become a great mother.
I went with him to buy her engagement ring. He selected the one that he thought she would like the best and planned how he would give her that ring. He expressed his desire to live the rest of his life with her, which was such a good choice. Florida was the birthplace of his son, our first grandson, another Carl.
Loved by so many
He has an uncanny ability to listen and probe when discussing issues with anyone. He lovingly understands me and expresses a unique perspective to any situation. I seek his opinion on matters, because he is objective and insightful. We discuss decisions, successes and disappointments.
He grew to become a handsome and talented Chef, a master at public appearances, a wonderful person, a shrewd businessman, a devoted husband, father, brother, friend, coworker and son. Amidst his cancer treatments and suffering, he opened two restaurants, hosted many successful culinary events, received awards and continues to give of his talents to philanthropic endeavors. He is an inspiration to others and loved by so many.
Finding our true destiny
Now when I hug my grandson, Carl, I see his father in him in so many ways. Our conversations of bargaining are reminiscent of those I had so many years ago with his dad. I hold him and his sister Cate close hoping to protect them from the sadness and grief to come, knowing that they must walk their individual path. I will never let them forget their father.
It is my faith, prayer, the Eucharist and devotion to Mary, which sees me through the bad times and helps me to rejoice in the good. A quote from an American Catholic Trappist monk, writer and theologian, Thomas Merton says it all.
Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone-we find it with another.
Some days it feels as though the roller coaster is at the end of its ride. I sit at his side while he is resting, I talk to him, pray with him, watch him sleep, wake him up to eat and drink. I wait for the days that he feels good to be present with him. I assist when needed. I rejoice that every day is a gift but most of all, I am privileged to be his mother.