The bigger picture

Thank you for all your prayers and good energy. This past week contained so many reminders of how you help me live this life and how amazingly blessed I get to be. For example, I could watch my son play tennis, attend a parenting class, chaperone a second grade field trip, help with homework, and host a large dinner party plus weekend guests. Each time, I felt happy and grateful to have the opportunity and the energy to do everything I could.

I am especially appreciative because, early last week, my friend Debbie Whitmore entered hospice, then died later in the week. She was married and together they have four boys (ages 11-19 or so). For each activity I did last week, I was acutely aware that Debbie would have given anything to be able to do any of that with her boys.

Last year at this time, four of us – all woman in our 40’s and 50’s, all with young children, all diagnosed with colorectal cancer, all who “should not” have had this disease, all seeing the same oncologist at Dana Farber – walked on this earth. Then Shira passed in February, Julie in August, and Debbie last week. Blessed to know these amazing women, I feel sad, sober, and reminded that each of us has a different path to walk. From the outside, each path may have looked like it had the same ending. But my up-close view of each one allowed me to see that they carried themselves through this in their own unique and fabulous way. I miss their physical presence though I still feel like they are with me.


As we raise our two sons, strangers and people I barely know offer “helpful advice” on our parenting. As you might suspect, the advice can feel like criticism. I have to remember that these folks don’t know the bigger picture.

For example…

  • I’m told that the boys should sit still. They don’t know that they just spent three days with me in bed, sitting quietly so that I could rest undisturbed.
  • I’m told that I should be more on top of their behavior. They don’t know that we all sorely needed an outing but it was all I could do to get us all to the playground or museum.
  • I’m told that they should know when to be quiet, but these strangers don’t know that my boys get so excited to be able to finally talk with me that they can’t stop.

These well-meaning folks notice that something is different about our family and they try to fit us into their picture of what our sons and our family could or should be.

I realize now that they just don’t see the whole picture. If they were willing to believe that there are elements they cannot see for themselves, they might view the situation differently.

I feel this way about faith. If there are parts of everyday life where I don’t see the whole picture, there must be parts of our existence that are outside my tangible frame of reference. So I try to go on faith that I can ask for help and that everything is working out the way it is supposed to, even if it doesn’t fit the picture I can see right now.

Thinking of Shira, Julie and Debbie…yes, I’m next. Of course I would be the next of us four – we all will pass from this life. But that would feel depressing if you only look at the four of us. The picture is so much bigger, there is much I do not know, and we all have so much more in store than we can imagine.

Blessings and love always,


12 thoughts on “The bigger picture

  1. Oh Marie!  I am so sorry for all the losses you have suffered!  I know I have had too many close losses in a short amount of time (Rachel being the most horrific) but we all have to say goodbye to too many wonderful people.  Knowing you and having you in my life keeps me on track and remembering that I am not the only one with so many emply holes in my heart. jan

  2. I like your idea of a bigger picture. I also try to remind myself constantly that when someone does something differently than me, that it is simply that — different — it is not right or wrong. I think too often people see different ways of being as wrong, and they want to correct/change it. Why are people (including me) so uncomfortable with differences? What do those differences challenge in us? And why do we run from the challenge of seeing the bigger (or different) picture?

    Sending you lots of love and hugs!

  3. Nobody has any right to criticize anyone’s parenting . Ever. Plus you are the best.

    My heart is broken that you are losing your friends……..

    Sent from my iPad


  4. Hello Beautiful Marie,
    Thank you for sharing your words and love and wisdom.
    I am receiving these gift with an open heart and deep gratitude.

  5. You better not be next, because I don’t know what all of us are going to do when we can’t read your beautiful words of wisdom.

  6. Thanks for this post, Marie. It reminds me of something a friend of mine once said about parenting: “I thought all the mothers of boys were bad parents until I had a boy!” Still makes me smile. You have an awesome perspective that makes you an especially thoughtful and loving parent.
    (PS I have carried that parenting advice over into the realm of Boston driving: I assume that the minivan that pulled into my lane without blinking has a screaming toddler in the back…the car going slowly in the fast lane with a driver I cannot see from behind might be an octogenarian on her way to a medical appointment…and the guy who honked impatiently at me might have had a rough day at work and be on his way to a second job….Who are we to judge?)
    And your friends who have passed on are and will be with you as fully and vibrantly as their spirits were when you spent time with them in person. Open up your heart (as I know it is already!) and they are there, close by, always. Amazing. And such a gift we are given, to wallow for a short time in this messy, loving, upside down, crazy, mixed up, colorful experience called life! xox

  7. I can’t believe I just read this post. Guess I haven’t kept up! So very sorry for your losses, Marie! They can’t be minimized but they can teach us to look more deeply into our own hearts and minds. Please know that you have and continue to teach us all so much about the prisms through which we view life and specific events that touch us. You judge no one; you just seek to understand the context out of which things and people come–and you cut everyone a break based on that. You’ve sure taught me to be more generous in my judgements! Don’t even bother listening to people who have no access to your context. They simply don’t understand what’s important to you in this time and place. I hope you and the whole family have a blast in the Bahamas and that it contributes to the wealth of experiences that make your family and you so special! Much love, Charmi

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