Sunday, October 16, 2016

He is gone. He is here. Four years without Ty.

The ladybugs came today.  Our house is covered with hundreds of them.  How fitting that they came on this day… the day before the anniversary of his death.  When our house was so heavy with his absence, he sent them in undeniable abundance to say, “I am here.”

They say it’s therapeutic to tell the “death story” of your loved one.  I don’t disagree with this theory.  With the anniversary of Ty’s death tomorrow, I have been reliving his for weeks.  More and more vividly as the days get closer.  It makes me weep beyond control while it simultaneously reminds me how certain I am that I witnessed his spirit being lifted elsewhere with my own eyes, and I saw real peace wash over his.  I have no idea what Heaven is, but I do know with certainty that it is REAL.  I know this, because I saw my beautiful boy go there exactly four years ago.

Instead of retelling the story of his death this year, I want to tell you about how he has given the gift of life to one very special person.   I am grateful for a woman named Nadine, who was once a stranger and who is now a true friend.  Let me explain.

Some of you may know that several of my loved ones – like so many (too many) – have struggled with addiction.  In fact, Lou’s brother Jimmy died from his alcoholism just six weeks after Ty was born.  I remember our last conversation over the phone vividly and I am so grateful for that memory.  He was calling to congratulate us on Ty, and he ended the call saying “I love you.”  That was the last time I ever heard his voice.  Ty learned to say goodnight to Uncle Jimmy every night as he ended his prayers, and I have beautiful visions of Uncle Jimmy there to welcome him into heaven.  They are both free of pain and at peace.  

While I don’t understand from experience how a vice can have such control over a person, I do know and completely accept that addiction is as much of a disease as cancer.  And addiction can have a worse prognosis than some cancers.  That being said, every single day – albeit impossibly hard – an addict has a choice that my son didn’t have.  It was that truth that helped Nadine to embrace Ty’s story as inspiration for her own recovery.  

Nadine struggled with alcoholism for 30 years.  When she started following Ty’s story in 2012, she was in a terrible place.  She came to love him, and she began talking to him after he passed away.  She recognized the unfairness of the fact that he wanted so very much to live… yet, he had no choice but to pray for a miracle.  Whereas, on the other hand, she gave up on life completely despite the fact that she had a choice/the ability to try and turn it all around.  

I like to imagine that it was Uncle Jimmy who first found Nadine.  This wonderful woman who has so much love to give, yet who spiraled down his same path of destruction.  She loves children and was known as Aunt Nadine to dozens of little ones in her lifetime. Uncle Jimmy saw all of this and sent Ty to be the angel on her shoulder.  Ty has been with her every step of the way to sobriety, and he will never leave her side.  I mentioned that she mailed us her three-year sobriety coin on his 4th birthday, which is such an incredible milestone.  He saved her life, I know this in my bones.  

Ty had such purpose during his short time here on earth.  He touched so many lives.  I can’t help but cry when I get such reassurance that he also serves an even greater purpose in spirit.  He guides us as we work to fund research for children like him.  He finds others who need him, like Nadine, and he cares for them.  He is an incredible soul, and sometimes I can’t even believe that God allowed him to be mine.  

Pasted below is a triumphant post from Nadine, in her own words.  Her love and beauty spills right off the page.  It’s no wonder Ty loves being around her.  

"STAYING DRY FOR TY" BREAKING RECORDS.............Today I broke my own personal record.  This is the longest I have not had a drink since I was 19 years old, I am now 55. Oh Ty, how do I thank you??? How do I thank your beautiful mommy for putting her agony into the words that would help save my life???? Momma Cindy's blog came to me in the last stages of alcoholism, when you know you are headed to the end and you welcome it. My days were spent in fear, self-loathing, and hateful bitterness. Ty's story was perfect – another reason to read, cry, and convince myself that this life was crap. But there he was.... one of the most beautiful boys I had ever seen, fighting for his life, still smiling, in his extreme weakness, still loving. He was left with no choices, praying for a miracle was all that was left and it didn't come. I heard a voice in my head "YOU still have a choice," and I did so I made it. “Staying Dry for Ty” became my mantra. I hated myself… but I loved him in his videos, pictures, and stories, his story became my lifeline. A bond formed between me and the memory of this boy. I took it everywhere with me, even a few times to the liquor store where I would sit and stare at the door, but "my miracle" had come at a steep price and there is no way I could dishonor it. Now today, I am a vibrant, sunny, smiling and sometimes annoying healthy happy woman. It is not easy, it never will be, a 30 year addiction does not just go away......EVER. But those days I muddle through knowing it will pass, thinking of all Ty went through. Easy doesn't teach us anything and I want to Live, Learn, and Love and fully clearheadedly experience ALL life has to offer. Ty Louis Campbell I love you with all my heart and Mommy, Daddy, Gavin, and baby Campbell too. Thank you Ty. Until my sober soul meets your sweet cancer free one, you can bet your last blue lollipop I will be ''STAYING DRY FOR TY'' And for all those still fighting cancer and addiction, and those who have left us, we are still here, we love you, and we are fighting.

I am so honored on Ty’s behalf.  It comforts me to no end to know that he has done something amazing in the four years he’s been gone. Like Nadine said, “I will never know for sure until we meet, but I guarantee there is something very special about your boy and the proof is that I am here and writing you today!”

It’s almost impossible to imagine that four years have passed since I last looked into his eyes, kissed his lips, or ran my fingers through his hair.  I swear I can still feel his skin on my fingertips, and hear his whisper in my ear.  I think it’s because he never really left.  He is with me wherever I go.  Thank You for loving him and for giving us all such tremendous support over the years.  I am grateful for everyone that Ty has brought into my life.  It feels like I’ve lived 100 years without him, just as much as it feels like he left just yesterday.  

Soon we will have a new life in this family, and can’t even write about it because my emotions are so mixed up and confused.  All I know is that he is hand-picked by his brother from heaven, which is pretty incredible.  Stay tuned for more on that…. any day now…. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Blue Lollipops for Your Birthday

To Ty, on your ninth birthday...

All day I’ve wondered what you would look like at 9 years old.  How your voice would sound.  All day I have had a weight on my chest greater than most.  I went through the motions like a zombie.    

I slept poorly last night.  Every time I woke up throughout the night, I knew it was your birthday and begged to dream of you.  Instead I’m not sure if I really slept or dreamt at all.  I heard Gavin’s giant footsteps early in the morning, and my first thought was how big he is, and how you would be even bigger if you were still here.  What size shoe would you wear, I wonder?

The day before, I received a package via priority mail.  It was a wrapped gift just for you – so I placed it next to your picture.  Gavin has been dying to open it, so it was the first thing he asked to do this morning.  It was one of the most special gifts we have ever received – a 3-year sobriety coin that Nadine says you helped her achieve after 30 years of addiction.  Thank you for giving her the strength to face those demons, you are a true guardian angel and you saved her life.  I couldn’t be more proud, and I will cherish your gift forever.

I often imagine two lives other than the one I’m living.  In the first life, you never got sick.  You are strong and athletic, tall and handsome.  You and Gavin are inseparable, and your little baby brother wouldn’t be nine years younger than you – because cancer wouldn’t have interrupted our lives.  In the second life, you survived your cancer, but not without the horrific side effects you suffered.  You’re in a wheelchair, I would still puree your meals for your belly tube, and I wonder if I could still carry you in my arms.  There would be no baby brother at all, because I would be too consumed with your care (and I wouldn’t trade that for the world.  There is nothing on earth I would rather do than take care of you). 

Did you see me crying this morning?  I hope it didn’t make you sad.  I need to feel sad like that sometimes – it helps me feel closer to you.  After your brother got on the bus, I rushed home and collapsed into the couch with loud, ugly tears.  I cried for an eternity until I felt like a balloon – every last bit of me swollen and stretched – somehow I fell asleep on the couch.  Grief is exhausting. 

I woke up soon after with a jolt, and knew I had to get out of our sad house right away.  Ironically, the weight of the day made it impossible to move any faster than a snail’s pace.  I showered forever, I made the bed, I moped and moaned as I picked up around the house.  On my way to the office Daddy called.  We decided to meet up for lunch, and that probably saved me for some of the day.  We love each other so much, and he is the only one I need when I’m missing you. 

I felt you with me every minute of this day yet I couldn't find an ounce of happiness no matter how hard I tried.  I bought blue rock candy after lunch, and later I decided to go to Hannafords (Heiny-Farts) to get your favorite things for dinner.  I heard your voice directing me the entire time, so I bought a pear (even though I haven’t eaten one in years), filet mignon, ditalini noodles, Locatelli cheese, bacon, and beer for daddy.  Daddy called Ria (the Bakeria in Pawling) and asked her to make a blue velvet cake for you, and the girls at the bank made sure it was properly decorated with blue lollipops.  How incredibly special it was. I couldn't even sing "Happy Birthday" through my tears, but Gavin and Daddy did a good job.  Gavin made a wish, and he told me he felt like you heard his wish and you helped him to blow out the candle.  

It was a foggy, heavy day, with countless teary-eyed outbursts of sadness throughout.  To tell you the truth, I need days like this, to just focus on you and all we’ve been through.  Every single day used to be like this… so I’m proud of how far I’ve come and how much I’ve learned to live with gratitude, despite it all.  I am so grateful for you, Ty.  For the chance I had to be your mommy.  For everything you taught me and continue to teach me. 

Baby boy, I hope your birthday today was filled with heavenly fun - running, jumping, flying and laughing.  I miss you so.  I will see you again. 

October 2008