Thursday, July 5, 2007

Major Anniversary Today

One year ago today I got a call from Stewart while I was working. I had dropped Big Joe at the airport before work and it seemed a normal hot summer day. Joseph had a follow up appointment with his oncologists to have his monthly blood draw, but I wasn't really thinking about it. I had been practicing not freaking out with worry every time he went back in to have his counts checked. So it honestly felt like it was out of the blue when my phone rang and Stewart was on the other line.

He and the boys were at the doctors' office. Joseph's blood work had returned with cancer blasts present. Joseph had unambiguously relapsed. I remember sinking to the floor and sobbing hysterically. I remember racing out of the office and down to Medical City. I remember asking Dr. Lenarsky if there could be a mistake. I remember the pity and compassion in his eyes as he said no. I remember getting home with Joseph and sighing big as I pulled him into my arms and told him I was so sorry. I remember his matter-of-fact reply that he whipped it once and would do so again. I remember trying to figure out something "fun" to do for the evening because he would be back as an inpatient immediately the next morning to start the long process of getting him back into remission so that we could move on to transplant. I remember the sense of surrealism, rebellion, fury. I remember how calm and collected Joseph was. I remember marveling at his distinct lack of self pity. He wanted to go to a Chinese food buffet that night. I suggested a movie as well and he declined. We went to the China Buffet as a family. We pretended to be carefree. We suffered through debilitating sadness amidst the savoring. It was like the moment the Titanic struck the iceberg but before anyone but the highest levels knew the ship would sink. We still had hope then...lots of fear...but hope.

I am a devastated mess today. I tried so hard not to be. I didn't want this day to cloud over like this. It is Big Joe's birthday and he deserves me to be celebratory with him. My body is just weighted down with grief. This is the first countdown now of the many milestones that ultimately lead to the anniversary of Joseph's demise. I am overwhelmed with sorrow and wish I just plain had not gotten out of bed. This day last year we were together. We shared the sorrow and the fear. We rallied powerfully as a family unit. We planned. We prayed. We hoped. And ultimately we lost. I wish he were here now. I struggle to find what possible meaning his death could have. It is senseless to me.

There's a grief that can't be spoken.
There's a pain goes on and on.
Empty chairs at empty tables
Now my son is dead and gone.

Here we talked of revolution.
Here it was we lit the flame.
Here we sang about `tomorrow'
And tomorrow never came.

From the table in the corner
He could see a world reborn
And we rose with voices ringing
I can hear us now!
The very words that we had sung
Became our last communion
On the lonely barricade at dawn.

Oh my son, my son forgive me
That I live and you are gone.
There's a grief that can't be spoken.
There's a pain goes on and on.

Phantom faces at the window.
Phantom shadows on the floor.
Empty chairs at empty tables
Where my sons will meet no more.

Oh my friends, my friends, don't ask me
What his sacrifice was for
Empty chairs at empty tables
Where my son will sing no more.

-adapted from Les Miserables