Saturday, July 20, 2013

Choosing to smile through the rest of this painful life

I hate the phone and I hate myself for always scrolling through the countless messages when I should be enjoying my time with Gavin or whoever I’m with. 

Little Henley Bee passed away yesterday morning.  I was on a lunch date with Gavin when I checked my phone and I couldn’t stop myself from crying at the table.  I asked Ty to send her Mommy an entire window full of ladybugs today, like he did for me the day after he died and like my young cousin did for her mommy the day of her funeral.  A friend recently sent me the pages from a memoir she was reading where the author tells the story of her nephew that died at a young age from neuroblastoma.  She said that family gathered and stood paralyzed around the white coffin before he was laid to rest.  Then a swarm of ladybugs flew in and landed on the coffin.  The young children in the family started laughing and jumping around chasing the ladybugs.  “I saw this as a sign from God that he was welcoming Charlie.  And in the smiles of the children, His reminder that life goes on.” 

On Wednesday, Ty was gone nine months.  Nine long, painful, dreadful months.  The same amount of time that I carried him in my belly and the same amount of time that passed when this picture was taken of him at nine months old. 


In these nine months Lou and I have forced so many things that helped us process our grief.  We travel, we spend a lot of time alone together, and we stay up late talking about Ty and all we’ve been through.  We reach out to other parents like us, because really, no one else can understand.  We talk freely and openly about Ty around friends and family so they know it is important.  And we stare in awe at sleeping Gavin, who now holds Ty’s place in our bed.  We are doing okay.  It goes without saying that we miss Ty in everything we do, but we are figuring out how to keep smiling through the pain.  We have stopped fighting the grief and we are learning to live with it instead.  Like an annoying neighbor who just won’t move away, our grief is always lurking, but we choose to ignore it as best we can and try to enjoy ourselves regardless. 

“Happy” will never be the same for me, but it can coexist with the hurt and it can help me smile when remembering my special boy, instead of breaking down into a puddle of tears.  It’s a crooked, broken smile with a sting in the tail, but it is still a genuine smile and I am proud of that.  I feel blessed and lucky that I am learning to live again. 

I have learned that sometimes, happiness is a choice.  I have been smiling a lot lately.  Laughing.  I can even say that I have had fun this summer.  I was thinking about this today, feeling so terribly guilty, and then I started to wonder if I have a choice about being happy.  I feel like sometimes I do, which is an incredible revelation!  Similar to when I am tired and anxious and Gavin is acting off-the-wall, my first reaction is to yell and become frenzied with anger, but I try to stop and remember that he is only four.  That when he has no patience and doesn’t listen to a word I say – to show him more patience so he can learn by example.   When my tears come rolling in I let them, because I want to remember and cry for Ty every day, but instead of stopping and wallowing in it – I allow it to pass and I think about what he would want if he was watching me. 

I think that I am choosing to smile.  I am choosing to LIVE!  Because that is what Ty would want, and what Gavin deserves. 

I am certainly not naive enough to suggest that one’s mental health can be controlled, nor can one’s physical health.  Ty is a very unfortunate example of just how much control we don’t have over our health.  But I will say that I have a new perspective on grief and my mental well being.  I have found – at least for me – that I have the ability to work through the pain and avoid incessant grief by keeping perspective.  Just as much as I can choose to eat healthier and exercise, I am finding ways to cope “healthier.”  And it’s working. 

On a daily basis, we can feed our bodies and our minds in so many ways.  Get off the couch.  If it’s a beautiful day, take a walk around the yard and smell the flowers – literally.  Think about the people in your life and be cognizant of their differences.  Forgive.  It will free your mind.  Put the cookie down, change into your sneakers and go for a run.  OR – eat the cookie that you have been thinking about for days!  Slowly relish in every little bite and remind yourself that it is a reward.  Shake off your anger.  Kill your anxiety by making a cup of tea, and forcing yourself to sit-down and sip it slowly.  Stop checking your phone every minute and enjoy the company you are with or the silence that surrounds you (I have a lot of trouble resisting this one). After it rains, remember to stop on your way to your car and breathe in the magnificent smell of wet grass.   Look up for loved ones lost.  I do this constantly.  I search the sky for Ty.  I don’t always see him, but I do always see something beautiful.  Then there are the times he smacks me in the face with something like his shining star busting through a cloudy night, or the clouds in the shape of a “T” and “Y” like the other night – unbelievable, I know, but it happened.  I couldn’t take a picture because it was dusk but it was clearly there.  Right above my house.  Reminding me that he is always present.  Remember that our children are little sponges, and that fun is contagious so we should all try to have more fun in our everyday lives.
 
Lou and I have noticed that many people we met over the years are very serious around us.  People who don’t know us well are afraid to crack jokes because we might think it inappropriate.  Sometimes we over analyze our own behavior and worry that others think we don’t miss Ty enough because we are laughing, joking around of visibly enjoying ourselves.  I know it’s a foolish idea, but the thought does cross our minds.
 
On the contrary.  Lou and I prefer to make jokes and to laugh in the face of our pain.  So please, feel free to laugh with us!

Gavin is the main thing that keeps laughter alive in this house.  Thank God for him.  I can’t help but think about how much fun he would have with Ty.  Their personalities were so incredibly different, but together they were still two peas in a pod.   We talk about Ty all the time, and I know Gavin wishes he had his brother to play with.  Being stuck at home is always boring and sad, so instead we send him to camp 3 days a week and he is having SUCH a great time.   Always looking at the empty chair at the table while remembering how important it is to keep living for Gavin.  He deserves it. 

 
 


29 comments:

  1. So beautiful, so sad and so true. Life does go on whether we want it to or not so we might as well do what we can to live every day like the gift it is xoxo

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  2. So so happy that you and Lou do laugh and have fun while always remembering the best good boy in the whole world. I think of Ty everyday and also look to the sky for signs of my loved ones who have gone. I am happy you are having a good summer. Thanks for updating. Have been checking daily to see how you are doing.
    Jennifer

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  3. Someone I know recently passed away from cancer. A mother of three children. They were all at the beach recently, right after the funeral, as a break away from all of the sadness. As they sat at the ocean, a swarm of lady bugs landed on them. They each had several crawling on them. It made them so happy. My sister was there, and talked about Ty, and the lady bugs he sends you. Her oldest son smiled and said "Mom is with us" =)

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  4. I'm so happy that you are beginning to live and laugh again. I know Ty would want to see you guys smile.

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  5. That last picture of Gavin is too priceless for words!!! He is beyond cute. I am so grateful that you are figuring out how to smile again - and of course you'll probably always feel torn - but as everyone else is saying, Ty would want to see you smile. He wouldn't want the time you spend waiting to be reunited to be filled with sadness. You have so much you're doing in his honor - that hopefully this work will keep Ty's memory alive in the hearts and minds of many. His legacy will hopefully make a huge difference in the loves of other kids afflicted with cancer.
    And yes, I agree that for some "choosing" happiness isn't an option - that clinical depression is a real thing for many. But I am grateful that it is not yours - that you can choose happiness - I really do believe that for most of us it is that simple and I live everyday choosing to be happy too. It's such a freeing experience to approach life with a positive mindset.

    Love to the Campbell's. Thank you again for your honest writing - I can only imagine the thousands of people you are helping. In this world of fake "reality" - it's refreshing to meet people that are truly real. Maybe someday our society will come around and start realizing who the true heroes are.

    Donna T

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  6. I am so glad to hear that your grief is beginning to coexist with a little laughter. I think about Ty so much, maybe I need to keep a better eye out for those ladybugs!

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  7. What you have written is so "you"!!! I'm so happy to read it. I love you and cant wait to catch up soon. I'm always thinking about you, my friend!! Kelly

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  8. Well said Cindy. I have been reading your posts, forever and everytime, u truley amaze me with your words...who always ring true. I have a 7 yr old son and I try to see life thru his eyes and feel love thru his heart....... God Bless.
    Betty Warren, Beacon, NY

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  9. Cindy, I have been told by many to stop reading all these blogs. Mainly, because I get so upset over everyone's loss. I hurt so much for you and all the other parents who have lost the most important thing in their lives. I've agreed to stop reading all blogs, except one, YOURS. I don't read your blog solely because you lost your beautiful Ty, someone that I miss terribly, which baffles me because I never got the pleasure of meeting him. I read your blog because your quest for cures, your drive to live and laugh on, instead of grieve on. Your words teach me to be a better parent. At times, when I'm just about to say "no" to my Gavin or Gage. I stop, think of you, think of Ty and just say the hell with it. Not only do I let my boys indulge,I join in as well and what fun it is. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for your courage. Your courage to share your life with so many strangers. You must know that you are helping so many of us be better. Me and my boys say good night to Ty every night before bed. One of my boys even has a light up ladybug in his room. We've named him Ty. Why? Because there was simply no other name that fit.

    XXOO,
    Kim, Gavin and Gage

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  10. What a beautiful post Cindy!

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  11. Dear Cindy, I have to be honest and say I haven't read one of your post for a while. I have been trying to pull away from all the things that have been making me cry as I have been trying to deal with my own grief and life. But today I did and I am so glad I did. Your words are exactly what I needed to read right now. My grief has deepened again as I have moved into a little place by myself to give my daughter some privacy. My daughter has found new love and I pray all goes well for her but now I have so much silence around me without my other grandson that I have started to relive so many things and have felt so many emotions stir up again and I have been going deeper into my world of depression and isolation. Then I was drawn to read your blog today. It's funny how certain things come up at an appropriate time like a sign or something to bring that smile and bit of hope back into your life. So many things rang true to me about things that occupy our time and our minds and how most of us have a choice on how we deal with it. I will certainly be trying a few different approaches from today. Cindy you are my biggest inspiration because of all you have been through and your ability to live, write and express yourself in a way many would love to be able to do just takes my breath away. You are simply amazing. Love you all xx

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  12. I too have been away for a while but am so happy to read this uplifting post. Yes so much of life is out of our control... but our reactions and attitudes are usually a choice we can make. I am so happy to hear that you are finding happiness in life again. And it sounds like Ty is too! Your little boy has some serious superpower connection all the way from heaven. I love the cloud story. Thank you for sharing.

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  13. And what I meant was it sounds like Ty is happy and smiling in heaven at seeing his mom and dad in a better place. Xoxo

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  14. Wow, what a beautiful post. I am so happy you are finding some happiness in the midst of your sadness. Cindy, your cause has moved me in a way that I can't explain, and there is no turning back! I'm sure some of you, especially Long Islanders, have followed "sweet Nicholas battles Neuroblastoma"on fb. His mom posted tonight that the autopsy results showed that he was cancer free at the time of his death!! That it was the damn treatments that ultimately killed him. OMG, I am angry. I know there are many fundraisers here, but if anyone is inclined I am running my first half marathon in October and fundraising for Ty's foundation. www.crowdrise.com/teresamaguire. I have never met you Campbell family, but you are always in my heart xoxo

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  15. Just like Ty, who also always smiled through his hard journey. Even after he passed. Remember he had a smile on his face?

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  16. Glad to hear you have given yourselves permission to be happy.

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  17. Love the pictures as always - thanks for sharing. Embrace the life you have left, the people in it, the special moments with Ty, what lies ahead with Gavin, and don't sweat the small stuff. Life lessons from someone who knows that time is precious and should not taken for granted. Keep smiling and keep fighting, Cindy!

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  18. You have a gorgeous smile ....it's about time you realized your smile brings smiles! Love that you are seeing the good things in life. Ty will always be with you , he's your guardian angel for the rest of your days here on earth and he wants to see your big smile too!!

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  19. So beautifully and powerfully written! You are always in my thoughts and prayers and thank YOU for lifting me up with your words, actions and tremendous heart!

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  20. Like so many others, Thank you!! <3 This hit home today, well actually the other day when I first read it. I am not grieving as you are, but, this made me put my life more into perspective! More into LIVING and not dwelling! If you and Lou can do it, I most certainly can!! Thank you for this post, from the bottom of my heart! Though, I wish your words of encouragement were not from the loss of your beautiful TY. Much love Campbells!
    See you on the 27th!!!

    Shawna
    Millbrook, NY

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  21. Sitting on the porch, enjoying the rain, cup of tea and my dog in my lap , thinking of you and your forever family of four

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  22. I just love the photo of Ty and Gavin. Just look at those lovely curls! Wishing you more laughter than tears, but understanding the tears are important, too. Peace ~

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  23. http://atypicalmiracle.com/
    Cindy, i suggest you watch this video from this little princess..she is battling and has gone through a though road just like Ty..still fighting..

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  24. It is good to hear you are allowing yourself some joy. Your family deserves and needs it. My prayers and good wishes are with you always.

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  25. Cindy and Lou, I wish you the most of luck with your run Saturday. Our Run! Miles for hope baby! Ty was physically at the last run and he will be there again this year. I met him for the first time then. I WILL NEVER FORGET THAT SMILE. Love Emily

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  26. I am so sorry baby boy for not responding to your moms post. My ipad wasnt allowing me to post anything and I didnt have computer handy. This post was so difficult for me because your mom is having such a hard time. How sad is it? We all choose to smile but the pain never goes away. It is simply not fair. I miss you baby boy.

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  27. This warms my heart to hear that you are finding some happiness and choosing to smile :) That is what your beautiful Ty would want you to do. Thank you for sharing your sweet boy and your story with all of us.

    Lisa
    Latham, NY

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