Today we spent the first day of 2014 on the slopes in Vermont. The cold, crisp air really helped me get out of a funk I’ve been since Christmas. I tried to imagine Ty soaring around the mountain with me, perched on my shoulder – but of course that idea can’t overpower the real longing in my heart, and the feeling of remorse when I consider the fact that here I am enjoying another treat in life that Ty will never get to experience.
I know, I know. New year, new chapter in life. Moving forward. Resolve to eat well, be healthy in body, mind and spirit, have more fun, all that stuff. But for me, on this New Year’s Day, I am stuck on reflecting rather than moving on. I can’t help it. The holidays are hard and I’m a little stuck in the past. Remembering Ty and reflecting on an entire year without him. How did that even happen? Gavin has grown so much, I am always asking him, “where did my baby go?” I haven’t been very present this past year, and I feel like so much has happened without me even witnessing it. I was there, but I wasn’t there.
Lately I’ve been stuck on just how little Ty was, and how different everything is when your child is vulnerable. We are their parents and we will do anything to protect them. From the littlest thing like a minor incident at the playground, to surgery for tubes in the ears or tonsils removed. We are there. Watching. Nurturing. Protecting. What happened to Ty became something so much bigger than we could have ever imagined that fateful day when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. We never imagined just how little control we would have. Just how much pain and suffering our little boy would endure.
When you hear of someone diagnosed with cancer, it can be terrifying. A husband, a parent, any loved one… I think the most common reaction is fear and compassion. The dreadful thought of losing that loved one is the first thing that crosses the mind. “What would I ever do without him/her?” The idea of such loss, and living your life without that person, is simply heartbreaking. Unbearable.
When it’s your child, processing the idea is different. Instead of imagining your life without your most beloved, most precious gift – you beg and bargain to end your own life so that he or she can go on. “Take me instead! I already had a first day of school. A first kiss. I scored a goal. I saw the Grand Canyon. I had a beautiful wedding. I don’t need any more firsts, because nothing – and I mean NOTHING - can beat the first time I ever looked at his beautiful face. Let him live. I want to die. I promise, I do.”
During my bargaining with God, begging for the chance to switch places with my son, the mother in me worried only that Ty and Gavin would be so sad and miss me if I died. That they wouldn’t understand and they would cry for me. I hoped they wouldn’t feel like I left them and I also hoped that Lou would find someone else that could give him and Gavin the love they need. I thought I would watch them from the heavens and I wouldn’t miss a thing. I was so incredibly 100% fine with that idea. But in the end, it was never my choice to make. No matter how much I begged, it was Ty who had to go into surgery time and time again. It was him that winced with the needle every time, the endless head pain was only felt by him, the horrific side effects of chemotherapy and radiation were his to bear, not mine. And after all of the heroic fighting, I am the one left here, alive and healthy, snowboarding on a beautiful day, and Ty is the one watching down on me. Still, I can’t help but feel like I am missing out.
I am certain that Ty is someplace magical. That his soul is so very alive and well. That he is continuing to do amazing things. But whenever I imagine him painting rainbows in the sky, or winking at me from the stars, I can’t help but feel so left out. It makes me crazy to imagine him doing such amazing things but I’m not allowed to watch. I can’t see what he’s up to, and that hurts to imagine. I should be there, on the sidelines, beaming with pride. Instead I am left to wonder if he has friends. Who was there to greet him when he died (oh, how I wanted to be the one holding his hand the entire way). Does he grow or does he remain little – because I don’t want to imagine him growing up in any way without me. I know this is a very “human” way of imagining his life after death, but sometimes I can’t escape the simple-minded concept of time being linear, and his experiences being similar to what I know here on earth. I am left to wonder about this for the rest of my life.
When Gavin and I walked out from Karate the other night, he said with excitement, “I SEE HEAVEN!” Sure enough, there was one giant star right ahead of us in the early night sky. “Me, too!” I answered. “Who do you think is watching us from that star?”
“Yay! Ty is watching us. Ty is with us!”
I just wish we could be up in that star with him, too.