It comes on so suddenly, these waves of tremendous sadness. But like the tide, they come in and they go out. The sadness comes on suddenly, and then it is gone again. It might last minutes, hours, or days. But it does pass eventually. Until it comes back again. And that’s okay. Such is life. I have finally learned to just relinquish the illusion of control and accept the fact that I have none. That bad things happen to good people.
Lou and I, we are doing so great. Then, we are not great at all. Thanksgiving certainly doesn’t help – nor does any holiday. But this holiday? Knowing what comes next? Trying to be thankful for all of my blessings! I can’t even remember Thanksgiving last year. Not one thing about it, I swear. I’m not sure it ever even happened, because I guess I wasn’t mentally here to even witness it.
When someone wishes me a “Happy Thanksgiving,” my mind screams “f*ck off – what’s there to be happy about it? What do I have to be thankful for?” But I promise it is just for a tiny split second, and before I can flinch I feel genuine gratitude for the kind gesture. I am sincere when I say “Happy Thanksgiving,” in return and I truly appreciate the thoughtfulness behind the well wishes. It is good and kind that people wish one another a Happy Thanksgiving, and it’s not anyone’s fault that I am suffering a tremendous loss underneath this facade. I will be okay.
Thanksgiving before cancer was a great day. The much anticipated long weekend was filled with delicious food, football and family. The air slowly being lifted as the day progressed and the Wednesday workday started coming to a close. It was as if everyone was secretly thinking the same thing… we’re almost free!
When Ty got sick, Thanksgiving - for the first time in my life - was more about giving thanks than ever before. The true magnitude of how thankful I was became so very clear to me. I didn’t wallow in the fear or get angry because he was an innocent victim to this disgusting disease. Rather, I permeated infinite gratitude that he was still with us. It wasn’t until the possibility of losing him became such a reality that I realized just how lucky I was. How I wish I could wake up tomorrow to his warm breath and beautiful face right next to mine.
Tomorrow I will be thankful for ever having had Ty at all, no matter how short his life was. Like I always say, it is fitting that his name is also representative of the abbreviation for "thank you." Such things don't happen on accident. Of course, I will be thankful for Gavin, who is my sole reason for living and smiling in this new life without Ty. And, I will be thankful for Lou, who is the only person who is truly with me on this ride. Sitting right next to me, hands in the air, screaming at the top of his lungs right alongside me.
I will also be thinking about Mely. This will be our first Thanksgiving without her (she stayed with us through Christmas last year). Lou and I were talking about her just a few minutes ago, and thinking about what a wonderful Mom she will be some day. I mean, that poor girl came to live with us on a wing and a prayer! Yes, she knew Ty had cancer, but never could she have been prepared for this crazy family she was about to live with. If I was ever faced with such a deep reality of life at the ripe age of 22, I surely would have run the other way. It takes a special person to embrace it like she did. I love her like my own sister.
Last year, when living without power as a result of Hurricane Sandy, Mely shared stories about her time as a young girl, when they lived without power during the war in Bosnia. Our conversation began after I tried making instant coffee by boiling water on the BBQ grill one morning, and our coffee ended up tasting like cheeseburgers – BLECH! It prompted Mely to tell us about how her mom would make her treats on the stovetop flame during the war, and how one day her father came home with a bag of oranges. She remembered how she and her brother devoured the oranges in under an hour, for they had rarely ever had such a fantastic treat in all their lives. For the first time in the two years that she lived with us, I thought to ask her, “How long were you without power in Sarajevo?” Can you guess? It was years. For almost four years, on and off, she grew up without access to electricity. As a young child she had to meet on the street corner for school every morning. They changed the location for school on a daily basis so that the children would not be an easy target during wartime. Her mother was seriously injured by shrapnel while hanging laundry out their apartment window. Her parents dodged bullets to get drinking water for their family.
Then, as a young adult, she came to America as an au pair to experience something new and to gain opportunity. Never could she have imagined she would end up being part of our nutty family, and helping care for our son who was dying of cancer. Our beautiful son, who then got better and gave us so much hope, only to die in the end. She laid next to his still body. She held his hand and kissed his cheeks. She left her tears on his face. I’m not sure I was capable of understanding such love at such a young age. Tonight, I go to bed grateful for how much I love her, and for how much she loved Ty.
Angelina Jolie made a movie about the Bosnian war entitled, “In the Land of Blood and Honey.” I remember watching it with my Mely and I was on the edge of my seat the entire time with such painstaking anxiety. To this day it keeps me up at night. Maybe that is how she was so capable of loving so deeply, and understanding with such maturity. To understand the beauty that lies underneath the pain in life, you need to experience the pain. And that she did. Mely, my little sister, how I miss you. Thank you, God, for letting her into our lives like you did. I’m not sure we would have ever survived otherwise.
I guess I felt I needed to share some Thanksgiving perspective before going off to bed tonight. To help us all remember why we are thankful tomorrow. Please remember all of the children in hospital beds. All of the families who lost a child. Remember the last piece of fruit that went rotten on your counter and think of Mely and her oranges. There is only one day a year that we are responsible for reflecting on what we are thankful for, so in between the football and the feast, let us all remember to do that.
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