On this very night three years ago, I took Ty’s temperature for the umpteenth time and it read 104.9. Under his shirt and his back were burning up, yet his face felt cool, his hands and feet warm but not burning with fever. I knew what this meant, but I swear in my heart I still held on to hope that he might recover.
He had been asleep for hours on end. I spoke to his doctor, we talked about how the only way to try and diagnose and treat the fever would be to bring him in – but we wanted him home. We promised we would never take him back to the hospital again, and no matter how desperate I wanted to believe that he would wake up the next day, I also knew that he was so close to dying, any attempt to save his life would be in vain.
I was up early the next day. Ty still sleeping peacefully in my bed. No sign of waking. I remember saying to my mom, over coffee, “if he doesn’t wake up soon, I don’t think he ever will.” To actually hear myself say those words, it was like someone else was speaking them. I was so torn between wanting to believe in his miracle, and knowing that he was leaving us. It felt like such a betrayal to admit what I knew to be true; to say it out loud like that. But still I prayed. I still hoped that somehow, he would wake up and speak to me. That he would spring back to life and we could praise God for his mercy.
I still hope and pray for that impossible dream to come true every single day.
As the day went on, his breathing changed. It was hard to watch. Each breath slow and quiet, but with each inhale his face looked strained - as if it was taking every bit of energy left in his body. I wanted so desperately to talk to him. I thought about whispering and telling him how much I loved him and how it was okay for him to leave us now… but I just couldn’t. It wasn’t okay. As much as I truly wanted him to be free, I couldn’t bear to let him go.
The minutes rolled by and nothing changed. I never told him, “it’s okay,” but when the minister came and prayed for our boy in the room with Lou and I, it was as if we all understood the finality of that prayer. I thanked him and walked the minister to the door. Upon re-entering the bedroom I saw Ty wake up for just a moment and I ran to him yelling to Lou, “Oh God, I think he’s dying. Can I hold him, I want to hold him?” I pulled him into my lap and Lou wrapped his arms around us both and we just cried and told him “I love you” over and over and over again. His eyes were open but staring off into the distance until they slowly closed again as he took his last few breaths. That was it. Just like that he was gone.
Recounting that moment is one of the most difficult things I do. Whether I relive it in my mind on sleepless nights, or write about it here… the act of remembering these details makes me so sick with grief. I can’t breathe, my chest hurts, and my head feels like there is a giant inflated balloon causing the most unbearable pressure inside. But, it is important and I think it is healthy for me to do this. Tonight, I want to remember every single minute of my last 24 hours with him. Tomorrow morning we will polish his statue and talk about how impossible it is to believe we have survived 3 years without him.
There is a beautiful little boy named Kwesi who passed away soon after Ty. He was eight years old and he told his mother upon leaving this world, “I am free, and so are you.”
I think I hear him saying it in the whispers of the wind every now and then, and I hope Ty and Kwesi truly are free to soar! I love the image I have of them feeling truly light and free. It makes me happy.
And although we may be free from the pain of watching our boys suffer, his mother and I will never, ever be free from the pain of losing them. This grief will live with us forever, and I carry it with me as a reminder of my loss. I have a love/hate relationship with my grief because it keeps my pain raw, it keeps the memories of my son close, and it inspires me to work so hard to some day change the outcomes for children like him.
We hope you will continue to think of Ty and follow our families journey. Thank you for your love and support. Three years. Where did they go?