by Shannon Talbot
Today is my eldest son Jackson's 8th birthday. Jackson has taught me so much about life, love and curiosity. He never stops questioning things and thinks no dream is too big to chase. He also gave me a piece of advice that changed my life.
Just over two years ago, Jackson spent a total of 31 days at Sick Kids hospital due to a perforated appendix. After being on antibiotics for 12 days and thinking he would be discharged just in time for Christmas, we learned the antibiotics hadn’t worked. At all. Jackson now needed surgery to put a drain in to clear out his abdomen. It was a minor surgery but all I could think about was everything that could go wrong, especially with him going under and his unknown allergies.
When you’re staying in the hospital, you never quite know when surgery will happen as scheduled day surgeries get priority (unless it's serious, of course). So we waited. Then we got word that my grandma, who’s health had been deteriorating, didn’t have long. My parents who had been staying with us helping out went back home to say goodbye. It was just a few days before Christmas and the anniversary of my grandpa’s passing. At least I knew there would be people looking out for Jackson.
Chris and I waited for the surgery to happen but the time came for Chris to go get Zachary (our youngest). Jackson and I were left by ourselves, now in an empty surgery waiting room. Jackson hadn’t eaten or drank all day and yet was cool as a cucumber and in good spirits. I, on the other hand, was terrified and kept choking back tears. Then came the time for him to be wheeled away. I was holding his hand, telling him I loved him when he looked up at me with his big brown eyes and said,
"mommy, just remember to be brave and always be yourself."
This advice took my breath away - how could a then 5-year old be so wise? How could he know that I needed to hear to BE MYSELF as I hadn’t been living as authentically as I could be. I'll admit, I also had a few seconds of thinking to myself, why is he telling me this incredible advice - what does he know that I don't?
His surgery was a success and he came out of it with flying colours (after having an allergic reaction post-op that turned him the colour of a tomato). He stayed in until Christmas morning and never once complained. If anything, he made sure the nurses, doctors and patients had great days. And my grandma passed away peacefully with my parents at her side on December 21st, the anniversary of her departed husband's passing, my “Pa”. When we told Jackson that G.G. had passed, his response was “now she and Pa get to dance together again.” This kid is wise beyond his years and I love him more than words can express.
And as for me? I followed Jackson's advice and started down my Path to Presence - my journey to living a healthier, happier and more present life.
For you my dear Jackson - keep on being you today and always - the world needs you! And for anyone else who needs to hear this today - always be yourself. Everyone else is taken!