Tuesday, August 31, 2010

New Courage

I woke this morning still searching, still praying, still pondering how this day is going to go. And I did a little reading online and found the following blog:


I am going to add it to my list of favorites along the side.

It drove home how much I relate.

That I am exactly where I am supposed to be right now. And if I wasn't supposed to be here, I wouldn't be. Period.

Is this going to be hard? Yes.

Do I need to spin myself into this panic over that fact? No.

I have faced much harder than this. And look. Look at me. Here I am. Still alive. Still whole. Still singing. I have come out other side. I have survived the valley of the shadow of death. Who am I to be so afraid to peer back into its borders and recognize I am called to return, to help others through it? What kind of ego does it take to make my own fear this important, this huge? A big one. One that has no place here. If there is one thing I am realizing over and over and over again through this journey, it is that my requirement for this life is to be small. To step back. To hold up. To support. It makes me joyful inside. And it is time I started trusting what I have learned so far to date and to stop dreading and doubting...doubting life...myself....my purpose...my strength.

My head is up and I am returning to a place where a massive victory happened. Yes, my son died there. And here I am. Going back to that place. Facing it head on. Because I am bigger than cancer. I am bigger than death. I am small beneath the archaic wonders that cycle through this world, but in accepting and embracing my smallness, I slip beneath the radar and arrive squarely at the side of those who need me most. My life has more meaning than I ever imagined it might. It is time for more lessons and I am ready in spite of my trembling.

This is a big day. A good day.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Dangerous momentum

Sometimes it becomes apparently to me that I am on some divine journey. Whether you call it God or Allah or Fate or just choices, sometimes what is happening in my life seems to be something greater than myself. And when I am honest, really really honest, that is what drives me. This sense that I can take all this mess that was cancer and children and mistakes and history and turn it into something brilliant and artful and meant-to-be.

I am less certain tonight. Tonight, I am wishing to put on the brakes in a big way, as if I have been zooming down a brilliantly clear highway, only to realize those lights in the distance are not stars, but brake lights, and I am about to slam into them without even pausing to wonder or evaluate.

I drew Medical City for clinicals this semester. It is randomly assigned, our clinical location, and that is the hospital in which Joseph was treated and in which Joseph died. I am excited. I am petrified. Ultimately I think, in my better moments of bravado, that I want to work there one day on the transplant unit. Yet tomorrow I face down the truth of it, walking through those doors once again and knowing for the next 15 weeks I will spend 10 hour shifts there in those same halls, smelling those same scents, seeing the same restaurants and corridors and turns. Knowing he walked those places with me once. And tonight....tonight....

I am meek.

I am afraid.

What have I been thinking?

How will I do this?

So much is at stake. So much work to do. So many impressions to give of competence and readiness. So many lives beyond my own, relying on me, hoping for me, perhaps even waiting for me. People in need. Will my need inhibit my ability to give?

Will my pain get in the way of my desires?

Will my grief interrupt my learning?

I am afraid. I am remembering. I am wishing for divine strength, for ultimate hope, for absolute peace. There was a time, toward the end of Joseph's days, when I quit praying for miracles and started praying for peace and acceptance. For him. For me.

I am praying for those things tonight. And I am praying he give me his hand. I cannot do this. Not by myself.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Letter to the Enemy

Dear Cancer,

I haven't written to you in a while, but I am aware of you every single day. You have been the personal cause of a great deal of misery in my life and the lives of those I love. Most recently, you have made me pretty short on fuel in the tolerance department and it is causes a bit of strife in my household. It is getting better, because I refuse to let you ruin anything else in my life that I personally can control. But I feel like you should know what you have done to me lately.

Thanks to you, right now when all the other parents of the kids who were in Joseph's grade are taking them out to get their senior pictures taken, I am staring still at the last portraits I had done of him - ones in which he had no hair, because the effort require to purge you from our lives required that he sacrifice that. I feel the loss of this milestone acutely. I woke up this morning thinking about it.

Thanks to you, I don't get to go pick out a tuxedo for senior prom with Joseph this year. I am not researching colleges with him and I am not figuring out a way to buy him both a car and a computer before he leaves. It may sound like a blessing in disguise, but it is not. Those are problems I can solve. His death is beyond my power. YOU took that from me and I am mourning as if it just happened all over again as the loss of those things hit me.

Thanks to you, we aren't ordering a class ring, won't be ordering a graduation gown, announcements or invitations. We won't be planning the party of the century, but instead will be turning our heads and putting them down, just trying to get through the spring when those particularly anniversaries will finally, finally pass us by.

Thanks to you, I am keenly aware that my youngest son is now the exact age my oldest son was when you decided to come back again. You weren't welcome in our lives the first time. You weren't welcome the second. And I am also aware my youngest is in the last grade in which my oldest attended any kind of class at all whether from school or the hospital. I am also painfully aware that with his next birthday, my youngest will be the age my oldest was when he died. And on the next birthday, everyone in my immediate family will have outlived Joseph. I anticipate the 13th birthday of Joseph's namesake, his cousin, born four months after his death, is probably going to be a more sad affair than happy for me as well.

I have you to thank, Cancer.I can say without remorse, without any lack of resolve and without any sense of wrongness that if you were a person, I would indeed have no trouble....no trouble at all.....with putting a gun to your temple and pulling the trigger.

I hate you, Cancer.

I hate all you stole from him, all you stole from me.

This should be a happy time and a happy year. My oldest should be taking the next big step into adulthood and I should be feeling nostalgic and proud, not bereft and griefstricken. I hate what you do to people's lives. I will have the final say, even if you come to visit our lives again. You see, all the horror you brought to us, the pain, the blood, the emotional anguish, has only fueled the resolve of this family and of me personally in particular to take the devastation you wreak and turn it into something deeper and wiser than you might think possible. I will live my life as much as a light to my patients and my family as I can. And I will help them vanquish you. Because even if you take a life from this world, you cannot touch it in the next.

So fuck you Cancer. You can kiss my ass. It's a big one. Find a spot and enjoy.

Without remorse,SR

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Toy Story III

Joe took me to see the new Toy Story movie yesterday. Toy Story III. Oh my. I wept through such a huge part of it, more than is probably "normal" for that flick. It brought back so many things and my heart is just aching, my limbs heavy, my mind fuzzy. Andy, the boy in the film, is pretty much exactly Joseph's age. We were addicted to the first two movies; Joseph had the Buzz Lightyear that made all the fancy noises and had the wings that would pop out. We saw the first movie in the theater with him when he was little and bought the VHS of it as soon as it came out. Seeing all of those characters again, hearing thier voices just brought it all back. I was crying during the opening scene pretty much from the git go. Thank goodness the movie has been out a while and the theater was mostly empty. The thrust of the movie was of the toys adjusting to what would happen to them now that Andy was 17, grown and heading off to college. Whew. Big exhale. So so so loaded with emotion for me. And I found myself engaging in magical thinking, rewriting the movie in my head, wondering how it would play out if Andy had gotten cancer while still young enough to enjoy his toys now and then. And how the toys would have adjusted if Andy had died instead of grown up and outgrown them. And then, of course, it hit below the belt in that this is the start of a new school year. We probably have one more of this anniversary to get through. It is stunning how hard this time of year is and it is the one that always seems to sneak up on me. At least this particular one has a finite life. Joseph would have been entering his senior year. He would be 17 years old and graduating come May from the same high school his father and I graduated from. And I admit, every second I find myself alone I am crying like a baby. But this is finite. After this year, there will be no feeling that I should have more school supplies to buy, more shoes, more clothes. The pictures of the first day won't seem as unbalanced anymore, because Joseph would have moved on to college and would not have been in them anyway. Next summer may be hard as we muddle through hearing about other kids in Joseph's class heading off to their universities of choice or start classes at our local community college. And I know it will punch me now and then as I hear of them getting married or starting families. But the regularity of it will no longer be there. Something in me is both sad and yet relieved. One less outward sign of his absence.

This year feels particularly hard, as my own first day back is the same day as the boys. I won't be able to be there when they go to class or there taking pictures, as I will be starting my own class, my own semester, and my start time is actually prior to theirs. I have so much homework to do, so many things I need to get into my head prior to the 23rd, but this week I feel so disjointed and fuzzy, scattered and unable to concentrate. It felt like that movie pretty much put its finger on it for me. I am not very "together" right now. And I am lonely in the darkness of this sorrow. It feels like something silent and voiceless in me retreats into shadow and just cradles there until the storm passes. It is isolating, waiting for the dreaded moment to pass, knowing it comes forward like the roar of an oncoming train, making the heart pound with fear, dread and adrenaline.... and then passes in a whisper somewhere through the soul, leaving you breathless and stunned. The anticipation is always, always worse than the actuality. One of the little lessons I have learned in the years since Joseph died. But it is lonely too, drawing this firm line between myself and others. Part of me hates that; part of me just wants to be quiet and alone anyway. Kind of stuck.

Camp Sol, a local grief support group, has a back to school get together every year where the families eat together, do some craft projects and then break into groups. The boys love going. Not my favorite thing, support groups, but maybe this year I should see what I can get out of it. I am stumbling right now. I think perhaps it will center me a bit, to see if nothing else how far I have come as I meet other, more newly bereaved families. Joe's son is up this weekend anyway and they are probably going to go golfing, so I will not be missed. I work a 12 hour shift today and nothing takes me out of myself more than being at the hospital, so I look forward to that. We are going out to sushi with my brother and his wife tonight, and tomorrow night we have an awards ceremony to attend in which I get one of the scholarships I have been granted for the upcoming school year. Things to look forward to; things that take me out of myself and remind me there are happy people in the world and that there is much opportunity and growth still to savor. I will be okay. The next couple of weeks may be rough. Maybe it is time to get the bin of Joseph's belongings out, go through the few toys I held on to and finally let them go. After all, they are waiting for a child who will not return and as much as Joseph loved them, he would like those things to be played with and cared for. I think I just might do that.