Not long after I came back from maternity leave (after Hannah was born), I had to attend a math education conference. I was still overwhelmed with motherhood, not entirely overjoyed with working motherhood (I love my job, I do. But I wasn't ready for my maternity leave to end.), and lugging around an annoying breast pump to an educator conference. I had no idea where or when I'd even get to use it. It was one of those things that was always threatening to be that last little, tiny push that would send me over the edge. (There is something so entirely isolating and demoralizing and ridiculously inconvenient about pumping breast milk.) I shoved the Medela bag under the desk, hoping nobody would notice or ask.
But someone did notice. And she did ask. And her sweet, caring questions were the thing that helped me feel a lot less overwhelmed and alone.
She recognized the bag and asked how old my baby was. She spoke fondly of her own babies, who were now grown (the youngest had just started college). She assured me that things would get easier. That she remembered those days. They are beautiful but so hard. That I was doing great. That being a working mom is tough, but I could do it. Basically, she said everything I needed to hear since I first squeezed back into my work clothes as my maternity leave came to an end.
She never failed to ask about my baby (and later, babies). She always reminded me that this job is great, but never to feel bad about putting my family first. I was constantly fighting working mom guilt during those back-to-back baby ear infections days. It was like she always knew exactly what I needed to hear.
The state standards for math were being reviewed and I liked to pop into her office to joke about the latest math drama and how I never realized that math could be so political! But more and more frequently, she wasn't there. I thought maybe she was at conferences? Away on vacation? But she was sick. Very sick. And when I found out, my heart just broke. It broke for my sweet friend and for the family I'd heard so much about. Those babies of hers that were all grown up.
This morning Everly Broadway passed away. She bravely faced metastatic cancer for over 15 months. I say she faced it because "fight" is such a violent word, and even though cancer is a pretty violent, ugly thing, I like to think that Everly was better than the cancer. She didn't have to resort to violence. She was too loving, too peaceful for that. She was strong and brave and graceful through the whole ordeal. Watching her beautiful family rally around one another and support each other with so much grace and love has been awe inspiring.
Over the past 15 months, Everly took time from her treatments to remind me to hug my girls. Don't postpone joy, was her new mantra. In loving memory of Everly, and in honor of her sweet family, I promise not to postpone joy. And to hug my babies. And I hope my own little family will one day be as loving and supportive as Everly's. So for Everly and her family, I just ask you guys all to do the same. Give some extra big hugs tonight for my friend. And don't postpone joy.