On the flight home from New York yesterday, after a 4-day whirlwind trip that included a guest appearance on the Today Show, a keynote speech at a cancer survivors’ conference, and getting to watch the Letterman show live in the Ed Sullivan Theatre with my son, Brett, I expected a crash.

Not a plane crash (see ”Inspire hope, not fear!” from last February) , but the emotional crash that so often follows an exciting trip, the same kind of crash that comes after cancer treatment, when all the wonderful support fades and you’re expected to get back to “normal”, when in fact “normal” no longer has any meaning.

Writing thank you notes on the plane, then trying to meditate, the squealing and laughing of two little children in the seats across the aisle distracted me. So I put in my ear plugs and donned the earphones, listening to some soft jazz to help empty my mind.

When I opened my eyes after 20 minutes, I discovered a great gift awaiting me -- the gift of friendship offered by a four-year-old named Parker.

She was traveling with her mom, dad, and 2 year old brother, from Connecticut to Los Altos, to visit her grandma and grandpa.

The friendship began after her mom and I struck up a conversation. Then she introduced me to Parker, who had climbed over her to sit in the seat between us.

“This is Mrs. Hope,” Mom said.

“I’m pleased to meet you, Mrs. Hope,” she said, precociously, sincerely, and sweetly.

“Pleased to meet you, Parker! You can call me Lori,” I said.

“Her dad prefers her to call adults by their formal term of address, to teach her respect,” Mom explained.

Not only was Parker respectful and more polite than any four-year-old I’d ever met, she enthused joyfully, listened carefully, laughed easily, and learned readily, she was gorgeous, with an eyes-wide-open smile and glossy golden brown hair.

We played the “I spy with my little eye” game, and her astuteness astounded me. Questions simple and complex arose in her mind and came out her mouth. I was completely engaged.

Spending the last hour of a six-hour flight with Parker was a more powerful meditation than any I can imagine with my eyes closed. Fully in the present, I was aware of the pure beauty of life, and I had hope. Hope arising from humor, play, innocence, and a child unadulterated by judgments created by either her or others.

When we said goodbye, I felt a tinge of sadness, knowing I would probably never see her again, but also felt great joy and gratitude that, in the midst of all the cancer I confront and battle every day, there is always new life.

I still expect the crash, and am doing what I can to mitigate it. But when – and IF - I start to spiral down from the high of the past week, all I need to do is think of Parker, and my spirits will lift.

If you have cancer and know children – or dogs or cats or any other creatures that can keep you in the present and bring you joy - I encourage you to reach out and invite them into your life. It helps. It heals. It inspires great hope.

With love,
Author of Help Me Live: 20 things people with cancer want you to know

This post originally appeared on Hope's CarePages blog, "what helps. what hurts.what heals."

Author's Bio: 

Intent.com is a premier wellness site and supportive social network where like-minded individuals can connect and support each others' intentions. Founded by Deepak Chopra's daughter Mallika Chopra, Intent.com aims to be the most trusted and comprehensive wellness destination featuring a supportive community of members, blogs from top wellness experts and curated online content relating to Personal, Social, Global and Spiritual wellness.