It's October. The official start of the memories of the end. A year ago today was day -07 and we were starting total body irradiation in preparation for the transplant on October 9th. I read back over my journal from that time period on Joseph's Caringbridge page, which I have left up and running for the time being, and my heart just aches, like watching a sad story that I already know the outcome to but the characters themselves do not. So much hope and agony. So much suffering only to end in tragedy....all this build up meant to draw us all into a new life, leaving not with a bang but rather a whimper. The ultimate failure. The ultimate proof that we are, underneath it all, just as helpless as ever against the forces of nature and our own human frailties. I am eternally grateful for his medical team. I am so glad that of all the things that can overwhelm me with grief, bitterness, remorse and guilt, that the care we chose for him continues to remain in my mind (and I believe in Stewart's as well) the highest quality we could have asked for.
Working at the Cooper Clinic is breathing new life into me. So far this seems to have been one of my better life altering decisions. We had training today called "Traditions", a program that lasts all day and in which the vision of Dr. Cooper and the history of his clinic is conveyed along with the complimentary feeling of having been deliberately chosen to be part of it. It is true, the interview process is quite rigorous and includes background and credit checks, history and education checks and for most people several layers of interviews. I feel good about myself because they wanted me. I feel proud to be a part of this vision and it has carried over a great deal into my every day life. Just a little more energy. Fewer moments of absolute blackness. Less time weeping in the car on the way home. More time thinking of Joseph with a horrible ache of pain inside that is there (and thus part of him and part of me and therefore not unwelcome) rather than the brutal and breathless waves of anguish. As I was in this meeting today, energized, content, eager, it came to me out of nowhere, and seemingly with nothing to do with the topic at hand, that Joseph really hated it when I was in a bad place emotionally. Kids hate to see their parents suffering from anything. If I was upset and crying, Joseph was upset too. But if I was happy in my world, it freed him to be happy in his own as well....and neither of us being happy took away from the depth of our relationship. And my happiness did not mean I was immune to his suffering or challenges...only that I was better equiped to deal with them. Obviously this is a valuable thing to think on, though it does bring tears to my eyes that are bittersweet. I don't want him to be gone. But if my mourning were to be somehow keeping him from some depth of peace he might have if I could but accept his spiritual state in tandem with my human one, then I would not want to mourn. I do and will and am....but it is as if he whispers in my ear...me being happy lets him be happy. It was so while he was here....why could it not be so now?
Its a hard time of year. Its a lot of work to even imagine that I could potentially be happy in any long term sense. Even when I am feeling happy I don't want to say that I am and I don't trust it to last. It feels like a betrayal, particularly when reading back on all he suffered in our attempts to heal him. But maybe the real betrayal is in not living as he would want me to live. He hated it when I was depressed or angry or bitter about something. It tore his little heart out, made him nervous, made him act less obtrusive, made him small and quieter. Could it be that is not so different now? Is that why it came to me in the middle of a meeting that inspired me to so much motivation and fed to me the seeds of accomplishment, waiting for me to cultivate and free them? Was Joseph whispering to me? Did he help land me here? I dreamed most all of my adult life of working for Cooper. How ironic this should happen now. Where are we headed Joe-Gi? This is the kind of company I would truly see myself working for the rest of my life. I would potentially be willing to change my major from nursing to another in the medical field if it were to allow me to continue on at Cooper more easily one day. Thart particular thought just occurred to me today. How strange. I do not know where the winds of change are steering me....but that is okay. I gave up trying to steer myself much a little over a year ago.
I love you Joseph and I miss you.
The meeting was amazing. We toured the campus, saw the lovely, well kept secret of the boutique hotel at Cooper Dallas location where the president and other high profile people and/or their wives often stay when in town or coming in for their yearly preventive physical. I feel different just when I put on my name tag....suddenly I am not Sheri who lost her child to AML. I am Sheri, the writer, the dreamer, the compassionate heart, the woman who made it through the rain, the mother of warriors, the face that could make the difference in someone's day, the person Cooper wanted to type their EBT and MDCT scans and digital mammograms, the strong heart who has so much to give and impart, a woman of knowledge and strength born of life experiences....somehow they tap into the best of me and I am willing to bring it forward...a faith born that Joseph is with me as I am there. Many of the smartest and most accomplished minds in the world come there and I was chosen to be part of their experience, branded with the Cooper name, part of that family. I am very proud of it and very grateful for the peace I have been feeling, the connection to my son. We were fed breakfast, lunch and snacks, all on the clock. We were shown again and again how Cooper values its people....how folks who do well go from ordinary jobs like mine to extraordinary levels within the corporation as it grows. That it is cheaper and more effective to keep and promote good employees than to be careless with them and then try to replace them later. That Cooper is what it is largely because of the staff adopting the mission and really becoming part of it. I get marvelous discounts on everything and the perks are wonderful...but even more wonderful is the sense of still having something left to give.