“Have you given Banjo his breathing treatment?” my daughters ask.
No one wants to miss it.
Everyone gathers ‘round.
Seven breaths never looked so peaceful, so captivating…. so fluffy.
After suffering from a severe episode of respiratory distress this fall, Banjo’s lungs never returned to normal. The specialist took a look at his latest chest X-ray, and declared, “Well, the good news is, with daily breathing treatments using an inhaler, Banjo can go on to live a long, happy, and healthy life. Would you do able to do that for him?”
I mean, was that even a question? I’d be willing to walk across hot coals every day to administer the breathing treatments if that was required! That is how much I love this cat!
Of course, I did not profess all that to the doctor; I just nodded emphatically. Truth be told, I was afraid that if I spoke, I’d burst into tears. I was so overjoyed that Banjo could be my beloved writing companion and emotional support cat for more glorious years!
So each day, as promised, I administer the breathing treatments and my daughters gather to watch. It’s impossible not to notice the way Banjo waits… trusts… relaxes… and breathes. When I told my parents how Banjo miraculously tolerates that mask being placed on his face for thirty seconds each day, simply resting in my arms and waiting for kisses, they naturally requested a video. My parents watched it more times than I would ever expect from non-cat people.
My parents called it “remarkable.”
This comment immediately brought to mind one of my favorite quotes:
“If nobody speaks of remarkable things, how can they be called remarkable?” -Jon McGregor
Inspired by that thought, I shared the video Natalie took of me giving Banjo his breathing treatment on Instagram. I suspected someone else might need to see this beautiful reminder to trust… breathe… and rest in the arms of love.
The response of my online community stunned me. There are now over one hundred comments, many like this:
I am crying in a restaurant; this hits home.
I am not a cat person, but I watched this 3x.
Wow! I am a non-cat person, and I enjoyed this video A) fluffy, gorgeous cat B) your beautiful hair c) all the love and trust
For some reason, seeing Banjo breathe easier makes us all breathe easier. It’s clear to see that even though he doesn’t understand what’s happening to him, he feels love‘s presence and rests in it.
This reminder couldn’t have come at a better time for my family. Seven days ago, we received troubling news regarding my daughter’s medical journey that completely caught us off guard. Things are not normal, but it doesn’t mean they can’t be / won’t be.
As we endure this period of contemplating the options, we feel in limbo. It is a hard season, which is why we find Banjo’s breathing treatments so uplifting.
“Seven breaths – that’s the magic number,” the specialist had said.
I never knew the healing power of seven breaths until I saw them, felt them, celebrated them up close and personal. And now I feel compelled to tell people about it.
“If nobody speaks of remarkable things, how can they be called remarkable?”
That quote was shared with me during an interview with a 20-something magazine editor. Years ago, we’d met at a trendy coffee shop, and I hesitantly told her about a kiss-on-the-hand moment with Avery—that moment when I’d surrendered all of life’s distractions to be fully present with my then four-year-old daughter on the couch. Avery had unexpectedly, miraculously picked up my palm and kissed it, igniting my life-changing journey to grasp what really matters.
I suspected the editor would think my story was a bit silly, perhaps quickly moving on to the next question, perhaps unwilling or unable to see the impact of this child’s gesture of love on her breathless, hopeless, joyless mother’s heart.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The young woman leaned across the tiny table, tears filling her eyes.
“Your story reminds me of my favorite quote by Jon McGregor. I recently painted it on a canvas,” she confided. Her hazel-green eyes rolled upward, as if trying to get the quote just right. She recited, “If nobody speaks of remarkable things, how can they be called remarkable?”
The editor wiped her eyes and went back to her notes while I silently vowed to never, ever hold back sharing the remarkable things I witness along life’s journey.
For the past several nights, Avery’s delightfully reported on the topics her classmates are planning for their upcoming TED Talks.
So-and-so is bringing in her hedgehog … so-and-so is talking about fencing … so-and-so is sharing about dreams … so-and-so is presenting on women's rights…
What’s about to happen in that 7thgrade classroom is a version of speaking of remarkable things, I think to myself, secretly wishing I could listen in.
“I am doing mine on music therapy,” my daughter tells me.
Avery begins brainstorming the three talking points for her outline. She plans to talk about: 1) what music therapy is, and 2) how it benefits people… but she needs one more thing.
“What about a real-life story about Annie or Mama Jennings?” I suggest.
It must be a good idea because Avery excitedly writes “story from nursing home” in the empty line on her paper.
“My teacher said life stories are good to have in a TED Talk,” she says, approving my contribution. “But wait.” A perplexed look comes across Avery's face. “What story should I tell?”
“Well, if you are going to talk about the healing power of music, you might talk about when Annie’s dementia had worsened to the point she was often agitated and angry,” I said. “You could talk about what would happen when you got close and sang Elvis.”
“Tell me again,” she asked, relaxing into the pillow placed behind her back.
“Well, when you sang, Annie stopped crying and began to breathe easier. It was like your music was … oxygen,” I said, immediately thinking of my beloved cat.
“I really hope I can be a music therapist someday,” Avery said wistfully, as if the story, once again, confirmed her heart’s urging.
“Actually, Avery… many people say that you already ARE a music therapist,” I offered.
Getting up from her bed, I told her to hold on. I just remembered something I wanted to read her.
I’d printed out an email I’d received that day from a father of two little boys who lives on Long Island. He asked me to pass along to Avery just how much her cover of CCR’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” touched him.
I read a section of his email to Avery:
“It just flat out left me awe inspired. I can see why your daughter’s voice give you hope. She has incredible tone and a really wonderful soulfulness in her voice.”
But what struck me even more than the beautiful affirmation the man gave Avery was the reason he wrote to us. I also read that part to her:
“I hope you don't find this email too random. Over the last year, I've been trying to combat the toxicity of the internet by just doing something really simple: When I see an artist, journalist, whoever, that makes something enjoyable or beautiful, I try to reach out to them and tell them just how much his/her work touched me.”
“If nobody speaks of remarkable things, how can they be called remarkable?”
Avery’s face lit up. “This is why I want to have a job where I hear stories!” Avery exclaimed. “Just think of all the life stories an Uber driver hears.”
I waited quietly, sensing there was more to come.
“Working in a children’s hospital as a music therapist means I will hear lot of stories, and some will be sad,” Avery continued. “But there can be goodness in the sadness. And I can be part of that.”
I don’t really know how to really express this, but for the first time in seven days, since we got the news, I stopped being angry; I stopped asking, why this girl? Why her? And suddenly, miraculously… hope filled my chest, and I could breathe easier.
Even in desolate times, there are still flickers of light.
Even in closed roads, there are still scenic detours.
Even in unstable circumstances, there are still loving constants.
Even in family gatherings with empty chairs, there are still beating hearts.
Even in the wake of bad news, there are still songs that leave us awe inspired.
Even in the sadness, there is still goodness.
Dear ones, if you are finding it hard to breathe, turn your face towards remarkable things—they are all around us; they are IN us. And when you see them and feel them, speak of them.
Let’s trust like Banjo trusts.
Even though we don’t understand what’s happening to us, we can feel love‘s presence, and we can choose to rest in it.
Seven breaths. That’s the magic number.
Everyone gather 'round… count with me now.
Dear friends, in early December, Avery and I will see a remarkable, hope-filled woman we met along this medical journey who said to Avery, “I’ve been where you are.” We are looking to her for additional guidance and support, and we are quite confident, she will walk beside us. I call this woman a SOUL BUILDER – soul builders are teachers, mentors, supporters, and encouragers who are in the business of BUILDING UP SOULS. When I planned to give her an inscribed cuff, I realized you or your child might have a SOUL BUILDER in your lives that you want to recognize too. My sister-in-law Stacie, who manages our online shop like a boss, immediately asked our incredible bracelet makers about this request. They whipped up a beautiful sample (see image below) and are making 150 for our community right now. If you would like to ensure you get one (or more) SOUL BUILDER brass cuffs before they sell out, click here to order. They will be shipped to you in time to gift to teachers, colleagues, friends, family, etc. To receive free domestic shipping on any items in the shop, use the promo code: SOULBUILDER.
Dear ones, thank you for continually building up my soul with your love, presence, and support of my work & my heart. You ARE a Soul Builder so maybe you should gift yourself! I love you.