What does this word mean to you?
The dictionary meaning I found is as follows:
“1. The action of saving or being saved from sin, error or evil: God’s plans for the redemption of his world.
- [in singular] a thing that saves someone from error or evil: His marginalization from the Hollywood jungle proved to be his redemption.
- Archaic the action of buying one’s freedom.
The origin of the word “redemption” is late Middle English: from Old French, from Latin redemptio(n-), from redimere ‘buy back.'”
I’ve written before about how going to the Metavivor Stampede and METup Die-In in DC last October redeemed October/Pinktober/Stinktober for me personally. To me, turning the angst that October brings into something productive (or that felt productive) reframed how I thought about a difficult time period. Sort of like taking the lemons life brings and turning them into lemonade or, in other words, taking something not palatable and turning it into something that is at least tolerable.
Thinking about Redemption in a larger scope becomes slightly more complicated.
Recently, I’ve been watching a relatively new show, 9-1-1 on Hulu. In his past, one of the main characters negligently caused a fire that killed several hundred people. He feels incredible guilt over his role in their deaths, particularly because included in the deceased were his wife and children. In an effort to “balance the scales” or redeem his life, he vows to save a corresponding number of people and, since he is a first responder, he is in a unique position to do so. He plans to commit suicide to join his family once this job is done; i.e., once he has redeemed his life.
This example is a bit morbid, but it illustrates how I’ve been thinking about redemption where it applies to me and my diagnosis of Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. The wide and lofty goals I had before my diagnosis no longer feel right, they aren’t representative of the trajectory that my life is taking now. So, I need some new goals, a new focus that reflects what life is like after those fateful words, “you have breast cancer” and “your cancer is now terminal.”
So, is redemption a balance sheet? A list to tick off in order to fix something? A wider more subjective concept? How does one know when one is done?
I’m don’t fully understand the answers to these questions yet. I can say that, for me, to find meaning in the experience of living with a terminal illness is akin to a search for redemption. The action of regaining or gaining possession of meaning or purpose is quite strikingly similar to the action of regaining or gaining possession of something more tangible. Evaluating when one has achieved the end goal is very different, of course, but the metaphor still rings true for me.
I’m still figuring this out. I’m still wondering if I can find purpose and meaning in how my life has changed. I’m still figuring out how to figure that out.
What I do know is that doing something helps. Doing something keeps me busy and not dwelling on negativity. Doing something shows my children how to handle adversity. I’m constantly aware of how they are watching and taking note of how I do life. I want them to remember that I didn’t just curl up and sleep away the rest of my life, that I put my big girl pants on and fought back. That I have bad days, yes, but that when the good days come, I do what I can that day.
My boys won’t grow up seeing me going to work every day like their dad does. The feminist inside of me is still pretty upset about that. There are other women in their lives who do work, who do have big and lofty work goals. I try to remember to point that out, that Mommy would be doing that but for cancer. They are too young for that to mean much yet, but I know that their future wives and female friends need them to think that men and women can do that, if they want.
Maybe my boys and the way we are raising them is my redemption. They are certainly my legacy, the piece of me that will remain in the world far longer than I will.
Maybe that’s the answer.
It is part of it, I know. Maybe I won’t know when I’ve reached the point of redemption, of redeeming the affect that cancer has had on my life. What I also know is that I have to keep going, keep putting one foot in front of the other, keep trying to figure this out, keeping doing what I can while I can.