On the tail end of an eventful two weeks of celebrating my daughter’s high school graduation, Mr. Brickhouse and I headed to a birthday party this past Friday evening. We were to celebrate two family member’s birthdays. One who was turning 84 and the other 70.
We were told to dress for a cocktail party. We dressed up and arrived with birthday gifts for the guests of honor.
Once seated, my loving cousin who was hosting the event, toasted to her devoted father who was visiting from Puerto Rico and turning 84 that day. Birthday songs were sung in both English and Spanish, tears were shed and the ceremony continued with more toasting, this time to the guest turning 70.
The man turning 70 was my cousin’s boyfriend/significant other. They have been together for a couple of years and have built a wonderful life together. She shared stories about him as did other guests and we toasted to this special milestone.
This is when things got crazy.
P (my cousin’s boyfriend) grabbed the microphone and called my cousin over to the dance floor. In front of all the guests, he asked her what she wanted to do during the next year. She responded with a simple yet deeply meaningful answer, “I would like to keep on living”.
To most, wanting to keep living is just a given. We take it for granted and is not an answer we give to that type of question.
To my beautiful cousin however, that answer means the world to her and to those who love her. A couple of years ago she was diagnosed with a rare condition called, Cadasil:
“Cerebral autosomal dominant arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leukoencephalopathy), is an inherited condition that causes stroke and other impairments. This condition affects blood flow in small blood vessels, particularly cerebral vessels within the brain. The muscle cells surrounding these blood vessels are abnormal and gradually die. In the brain, the resulting blood vessel damage (arteriopathy) can cause migraines, often with visual sensations or auras, or recurrent seizures (epilepsy).”
“Damaged blood vessels reduce blood flow and can cause areas of tissue death (infarcts) throughout the body. An infarct in the brain can lead to a stroke. In people with CADASIL, a stroke can occur at any time from childhood to late adulthood, but typically happens during mid-adulthood. People with CADASIL often have more than one stroke in their lifetime. Recurrent strokes can damage the brain over time. Strokes that occur in the subcortical region of the brain, which is involved in reasoning and memory, can cause progressive loss of intellectual function (dementia) and changes in mood and personality.”
(courtesy of http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov)
This condition is extremely difficult to diagnose because it is so rare and often mimics other brain disorders like, Multiple Sclerosis.
She has already suffered from some light episodes and lives not knowing when the next one will occur. There is no cure or medication for this rare condition and no way to stop it from happening.
So you can imagine our surprise and tears of joy, when P got down on his knee and asked her to marry him – on his birthday. She is like a sister to me so I was feeling incredibly happy for them both.
P then grabbed the microphone again and asked if there was a priest in the room. A man raised his hand and stood up.
It was all planned!
Were we on candid camera?
Were we being punked?
We were now attending their wedding.
It turns out that only a few people other than the bride and groom, were in on this surprise. Most of us were in complete shock.
This surprise is only a small example of the way my cousin lives her life. It is precisely what I adore about her. The admiration I have for the way she attacks life, is monumental. Now 52, she has always lived her life in the moment. Appreciating and stopping to notice the little details that matter. There is no opportunity she does not take and make the best of.
For her, No is simply a word that does not exist. She continues to be a dreamer and a doer, only now, after her devastating diagnosis, the wish to take it all in and enjoy herself has only intensified.
Life has not been all peaches and cream for her as there have been plenty of large bumps along the way and things she probably wishes had never occurred. She has made peace with what is and vows to get the most out of her years on this earth.
So we went to a birthday party and had wedding cake instead.