A sign. A sigh. And I just miss you.

Sweet Boy,

Thank you so very much for the sign you gifted me the other night. It was one of the most special, endearing, and distinct ones you have so graciously sent to date. (It was no baby giraffe drinking from a bottle…but, it was pretty damn close.) Β And, of course, I so appreciate that you made sure to save it for a time when I needed it so very, very much. Not only are you good, kind, brave and funny…turns out you also happen to be quite bright to boot.

Each time I come to the edge of all the light I have, you find a way to reassure me that I am not alone. You find a way to let me know that you are, in fact, right by my side. Diddy, with the dawn of each new day, I draw a bit of strength, fight, hope and grace from you. Though it pales in comparison, I will continue to conduct myself in a way I hope makes you proud to call me your Momma. I will continue to carry you in my heart, my bones, my blood, and my soul through all of eternity. Β I will continue to believe in you…I will continue to believe in us…I will continue to believe in our indomitable bond.

Littlest Warrior

I miss you. That is all. I miss you.

Stay with me, sweet boy.

xoox,

Momma

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Two hundred and twelve steps back. And the other shoe dropped too.

Diddy,

I think I have taken 212 steps back. I knew your birthday would be a force to contend with; needless to say, it far surpassed my expectations. Yesterday and today, however… well, I guess it could all be nicely summarized by saying, “the other shoe has dropped”.

Despite the fact it felt like someone cut my eyes open and rubbed lemons on them, and my head ached from an entire day & night of a “hard-cry” hangover, I got out of bed yesterday morning. I did so because I had every intention to resume going through the motions of life without you. (I continue to do this, hoping that if you are watching, I just may make you proud every so often.) I repeated the mantra I said over & over throughout those first several weeks I returned to work. “Your pain is nothing compared to his. Your pain is nothing compared to his.” As I silently chanted my battle-cry, I used all my insides to put one foot infront of the other and make my way to your room. I simultaneously concentrated on containing the tears pressing against the back of my eyes, and holding down the vomit rising from my tummy up to my throat. I made it to your changing table to say good-morning…but somehow I ended up across the room in our glider. In an instant, I came undone. I couldn’t breathe, much less move. I truly didn’t feel this panic attack coming – which scared me a bit. As you know, at this point, it is somewhat of a challenge to rattle Momma. I tried all my well-versed tricks to regain some semblance of control, but it was too late. Ultimately, I gave in…and unleashed a primal shit show.

I’m still not sure how, or when, I finally managed to bring myself around. Maybe a text message came in from Daddy – inadvertently providing a sense of saftey? Or, perhaps Lucas came into your room to stand by my side? (Although, he never comes in when Momma or Daddy are in your room. It is the strangest, yet most endearing, phenomena. He knows exactly what has happened; he misses you too. Lucas visits your room on his own, and even sleeps in front of your changing table every so often.) By the time I was semi-functional again, I realized I simply would not be able to get myself to work on time. So I called in ‘sick’ again…this time, for a half day. I wonder if they’d consider adding the option of calling in ‘broken-hearted’ to my queue? Those good and kind kids of Momma’s were so relieved to see me. When they saw I had returned for the afternoon, a few of my most ‘belove-lies’ charged into my room and pounced on top of me and hugged me but good. One of my favorite, sassiest, girls planted a kiss right on top of my head. They knew why I was gone; better yet, they knew not to talk about it. It makes me sad to know they worry about me. I love them all so dearly. You would too, Paxton…and they’d have protected you to the end’s of this earth. Momma’s crazy-daisy kids: thank goodness for each of them.

Today is the day we brought you home from the hospital last year. I remember thinking, “There will never be another Valentine’s Day that can top this one.” Little did I know how very true that statement would prove. I keep picturing you in the beautiful outfit Nana made for your “coming home” extravaganza. Given we all operated under the guise that you would be born early, Nana made each part of your outfit smaller than those she had made for your cousins. Nonetheless, you still were drowing in it. Daddy was so irritated that I had you wear it anyway; I couldn’t be swayed – you were just too dang cute in it. Your toes barely passed where your knees should have hit – and I had to cuff the sleeves on your sweater, not once, but twice. My favorite part, however, was the way the hat kept falling down – nearly covering your sweet little face. Oh, Diddy-Diddy, how did this all happen?

Momma? Are you there?

It’s not that I shouldn’t be missing your itty-bitty newborn days; every mom misses those days. After all, they are the very moments we have patiently, yet anxiously anticipated for the previous 9 months. Sweeter yet, they afford the unique opportunity to fall in love 100 times a day, with the same little person. The sleep deprivation, hormone fluctuation, and punch-drunk love state, result in a blissful blur of some of life’s finest moments…which, in hindsight, slip away before you’ve even had a chance to realize they were real. Yes, I should be missing those days. I should be missing those days as I watch you across the room and marvel at how you’ve transformed before my eyes into a one-year old baby, with plump cheeks and locks of blonde hair. I should be missing those days as I gently clean the lint and baby food out from the crevices of your chubby fingers, which match your Michelan-baby body so perfectly that it looks like someone screwed your hands onto the ends of your arms. I should be missing those days as I shriek in excitement because you just took two, maybe three, steps on your own before teetering over right onto your dupa. I should not be missing your itty-bitty newborn days, along with everything else about you. I know I say it all the time, but I just want you back. It is that simple: I want you back.

For some reason, earlier today I recalled one of the songs I sang to you on our first night at home together. We were tucked away in Momma & Daddy’s room as the lyrics started to stream from my mouth…seemingly on instinct. I had never sung them out loud before that moment. I can still feel how very petite and fragile you felt in my arms. I can still feel my cheek brush along yours – which was so soft that it felt like it was made of clouds. Truth be told, I still remember every nook and every cranny of you, sweet boy. My memories of you are so detailed and so plentiful that I have to remind myself more often than I should, that no matter how intricate and abundant my visions remain, I will never be able to reach out and scoop you up into my arms – where you belong.

Alas, in honor of our first night at home together, and the very best Valentine’s Day there ever will be…here is your lullaby tonight, Paxton.

Stay with me sweet boy.

xoox,

Momma

February 12th.

My Sweetest Paxton Bowe,

One year ago today, you were born. It is a known fact that you completed our family. Everyone feels that way. Ask them; I promise they’ll agree. You are the link that was missing from our entire family for far too many years. You are, most certainly, what was missing from Momma’s life. My entire life, I have felt a little lost, a little incomplete. I would never have been able to put my finger on the feeling – that is, until I held you in my arms. To sweeten the pot, you turned out to be the VERY best version of me that I could never have dreamt to be, and the very best version of Daddy that he could ever have hoped to be.

I can remember every single detail about February 12th, 2012, so vividly, that the harsh reality that I can’t rewind time, and have it back remains impossible to accept. I watched the clock all day long today, starting when Daddy inadvertently woke me from of a non-sleep. He rolled over, wrapped his strong arms around me, and let out a soft whimper. I’m sure he was as dreaming of you again. He cries in his sleep too often since you have been gone. And, he can only fall asleep if he holds onto a pillow like a life saver in rough waters. As long as I have known him, he’s never done either of those things. I decided to open my eyes to see how many hours I’d been lying in bed; the clock read 2:12. (Promise.) I had my first contraction at 3:06 a.m., so I patiently watched for the numbers to read 3:06. I then watched for them to read 4:15, which was when I finally went to stir Daddy who had fallen asleep on the couch. Next, I waited for 6:55 a.m., which was the precise time we checked into the hospital – Room 4. I reeled through the snapshots in my memory and saw the arrival of Nana, Grammie, and Lala. I heard the rattle of the hospital bed as my ‘shakes’ became worse and worse. I could almost taste the the ice chips Daddy placed in my mouth, hear the songs which played softly in the background, and feel Daddy’s warm hand rub my forehead or my back…depending on what I needed in that very moment. I waited for the clock to turn 3:43 – the time I began to push. Daddy recounted all the crazy-daisy things Lala told me to do, and how they worked like a charm. He reminded me how the leg he was holding was cranked almost past my ear, while Lala held my other leg just above my tummy. (He was a fish outta water, Diddy. It would’ve been funny; had it been funny. But, it wasn’t…it was just sweetly annoying.) And, of course Daddy and I both watched for the clock to read 4:21 – the exact time you were born. I wondered if either of us would exhale as the clock changed to 4:22.

In between watching the clock, Daddy and I read all of the beautiful, heart-felt, creative notes and wishes that most all of your guests brought to your 1st birthday non-party on Saturday. I asked everyone to bring a note or letter recounting their favorite memory with you, or a wish for you in the year ahead. It was one of the best ideas I’ve ever had – even Daddy said so; and he doesn’t hand out false accolades. We also received an array of cards, letters, and gifts from many earth angels throughout the week – which we saved for today to read to you. Reading through the stack of cards, letters, and notes brought back some very, very loving memories. I hadn’t forgotten one of them, but it had been awhile since I called some of them into my active memory. It also gave us a deeper appreciation of the profound impact you have on so many peoples’ lives. And although we already knew as much, the myriad of letters served as tangible proof that you are, in fact, a miracle.

Long before you were placed in my arms, you and I had a symbiotic existence. It is so unbelievably strange to not have you here with me. I literally feel as though someone cut out half of my soul. In essence, that is what happened when I lost you. I have come to realize this feeling will never go away. The more time which passes, the more I miss you. Nobody tells you that part about being childless mother. Time does not make anything easier; in fact, it makes things harder because I keep getting further and further away from the last time I was able to kiss you, hold you, watch you, hear you, smell you. The pain of missing you grows stronger everyday, Paxton. I wonder if you miss me just as much? I wonder if you can see me? I wonder if you can hear the things I tell you? I wonder if you can feel the unceasing love I hold for you? I wonder if you ache to be held in my arms? Sometimes, I imagine you above me, trying to reach down to me with your long, beautiful fingers, and tiny perfect hands, but you can never quite get to me. The thought of this makes me sad. So very sad.

One year ago today, you were born. Without a word, and without warning, you proved to me that dreams really do come true. I will love you forever and ever…and then a little bit longer. I will always be so very proud of you, and infinitely remain your biggest fan. As I told you within moments of your arrival, and many times there after, “I am so glad you are you.” That will forever and always remain my truth. The reasons my love for you is so deep and so profound are limitless, sweet boy. However, the greatest reason of all is, simply put, because – you are you.

Family Completed

On your first birthday, my wish for you is this: May you be happy always.

I miss you. I love you. I hope you are…happy.

Stay with me, sweet boy.

xoox,

Momma

Tomorrow, after tomorrow…and maybe I should take Ambien.

Paxton,

It is times like this very moment that I feel like am I truly having an out of body experience. If I couldn’t feel my fingers hitting the keyboard, I would remain convinced I was watching myself in a movie. Is it really possible that just one year ago, I was lying on this very couch – wearing this very USC hoodie – ironically enough, talking to you…despite the fact that I could not see you, or touch you? Is it possible this past year is NOT a movie? How much longer can I possibly go on feeling so nauseous that I can’t fully inhale? Why do I have to reach for a computer to talk to my son? I want to scream so loud, and for so long, that I turn my insane into sane.

I have been running to and fro – changing, rearranging, sizing up, paring down every detail for your birthday non-party tomorrow. As usual, I have made it far more work and far more stress than necessary. This time my neuroses are paying off. First and foremost, being able to do something tangible for you helps give me a sense of purpose (be it very small) in days otherwise spent aimlessly floating through hours which drag on for days. Moreover, the further I bury myself in senseless obsessions over minutia such as: the precise size and shade of ribbon looks best on your candle and wish box, what font – on which size place cards – is most suitable, which songs to cut from the playlist, and which must stay – affords my brain the exhaustion it so desperately needs for me to have a chance at securing a few hours of sleep. I have considered, but have not caved, breaking into my stock-pile of Ambien again. Ambien. It’s a son-of-a-bitch; but I sure do like it.

Now that tomorrow is upon us, and my “To Do” list has dwindled, my familiar friend Panic has been resurfacing. In just a few short hours, it will be tomorrow. Some of your most special earth angels will gather together to send you a collective beam of love – in hopes it will reach you faster, and stronger than when we individually send you love-beams. It will be a beautiful, completely fucked up, afternoon. Some of your guests will stay for a brief time, others will stay longer…and a few will even linger a little while thereafter. Ultimately, however, each will leave and dutifully, and happily return to their lives. They will put their children to bed; they will kiss them – probably more than once; they will rub their backs, and they will feel their little bones rise and fall as they inhale and exhale. They will silently think, as they reflect on the day at your non-party, “Thank God it wasn’t you…”. They will walk through their homes – which even if messy, dirty, chaotic, or under a complete make-over – are not make-shift museums of untouched toys, baby baths, swings, bouncy chairs, play mats, boppies, bottles, and formula. On Sunday, they may meet friends for Bloody’s, run errands, work out, attend practices, games, or lessons – or have a quiet family day. They will prepare meals for the week. They will fold loads and loads of laundry. Essentially, they will live normal lives, in a normal world. I do not fault or judge any of these good and lovely people; after all, they are our most beloved of friends. But, I do resent them. Strangely enough, I concurrently miss them. I miss everything about our old lives. Everything. You far surpass any and all of those things combined, sweet boy.

I now exist in a parallel universe – where I shall always remain. Not because I choose to, rather because the reality of my life has brought me here. This world will never be the same as the ‘other’ world. I still love my friends. I still love my family. I still love, adore, and cherish my nephews and niece. I still do some of the same things, and have many of the same interests. I still swear a little more than necessary, and I still rub my eyebrow when I’m nervous – or trying to concentrate. But, I am not the same person. How could I be the same person when a part of me died with you?

No parent should outlive their child…at any age…for any reason…ever. It is unacceptable and unbearable. The fact that I lost you inside of the dark, ruthless, frightening world of cancer makes it all the more torturous. Worst of all, we entered that grim world together – we did not let go of each other – not for one minute. Yet, only one of us came out on the other side. Why it had to be me, I will never understand. If someone would ask me, “How has cancer changed your life?” It would be easier, and more accurate, for me to implore, “How has it not changed my life?”

So here Momma sits … not stressing over the lingering last-last minute tasks I have to complete; because that would make sense. Instead, I am in a complete panic over the unavoidable fact that tomorrow is almost over. What kind of 30-something year old, educated, relatively normal – yet sassy woman even formulates such a sentence? “...tomorrow is almost over.” I guess one whose beloved son was ripped from her loving arms by cancer; and now sits facing his 1st birthday non-party square in the eyes. The truth is, it scares me to acknowledge that after tomorrow I will not have a list of tasks – however neurotic – to complete for you. I will not have a day, (or even three hours) where for once, everyone in the room is thinking about the same thing as I – which of course, is you. Worst of all…I still will not have you.

This is most certainly not how your 1st birthday was supposed to be, Paxton. Not one, single thing about this is right. Actually, everything about it is entirely wrong. However, I could not – would not – fail to recognize your your special day. As heart-breaking as tomorrow will be, I have a feeling it will prove similar to every other thing about you. When all is said and done…because it involved you, tomorrow will bring me far more happy than it will sad.

As always, I will look for you in my dreams. I hope you can stop by soon; it has been so very long.

non-birthday. non-balloons.

I love you. I miss you. I hope you are safe.

Stay with me, sweet boy.

xoox

Momma

Stuck.

Diddy,

I am stuck. I am downstairs on the couch, Daddy and Lucas went to bed nearly four hours ago. I am tired; in fact, I am exhausted. Once again, I am stalling the inevitable close to another day. Any sensible person would take one look at me and tell me to ‘go to sleep’. They would likely add some sage advice, such as “…you’ll feel better with a little sleep”, or “you’ll feel better in the morning”. I cannot sleep. And, no, Soothsayer, I won’t feel better in the morning. If you want to know the truth, chances are I will feel worse. For the love of licorice, I am a Bowe; I have never liked mornings. I think I may have a severe allergy to them. (Ask Nana and Papa, they can attest that this has been a life-long condition.)

I have been dreading the entire month of February…since the month of July. Despite my pleas for some omniscient power to freeze time – or better yet, turn back time – the world has continued to rotate on its axis. Without my consent, the sun has persisted to rise and to set. The long days, and even longer nights, have compiled into weeks; and the weeks have have proceeded to roll into months.

Alas, here we are…February 5th. Exactly one week away from your 1st birthday. Given the preoccupation I’ve had regarding next week, one would think I would have found a way to better combat the darkness which now completely engulfs my insides. I now know for certain, that not even kryptonite would prove powerful enough to ward off the grief of childless mother.

In her recently released ballad, Pink has seamlessly managed to compose my love song to you. She has done so far more articulately and beautifully than I would ever be able. That being said, here is your lullaby for tonight. May the lyrics wrap around your heart and the message soothe you into a peaceful slumber. May you know in the deepest part of your soul that although a minute would not nearly be long enough – Momma would give anything to have just one more with you.

I hope you are safe. I hope you are warm. Most of all, I hope you are happy.

Stay with me, sweet boy.

xoox

Momma

There’s nothing lucky about Seven.

Hi Diddy,

Today is the 2nd…which translates to one more month since I last kissed your sweet cheeks, and held your small hands in my own.

Margaret, our very underpaid therapist, continues to work with me on recognizing the fact that “…every day is really just another day”… “don’t allow the numbers, the observed holidays, the celebrations of those (still in your old world) make you believe that any particular day holds more or less meaning than the last – or the next. Margaret has not lost a child. She mostly certainly did not lose her only, beloved, perfect, miracle son. Moreover, she did not lose you. Yet she is one of the most brilliant, insightful, grounded, saucy women I have ever met. So I nod, as I sort of, semi-try to let her words past my mind and into my heart. To date, I remain unsuccessful. The truth is, there are days that are worse than others. Today is one of those days.

This morning, per my usual routine, I forced myself out of bed, walked directly into your room, and laid my grief-stricken forehead on your changing table. I guess this is my new-wave form of prayer. After wiping the left-over tear streaks from my face, I decided it was my motherly duty to try to create a little ‘happy’ in your room – – just in case you’d be able to stop home today. I tied your curtains back, and pulled your blinds half way up. It was particularly sunny and bright outside. The gentle snow falling from the sky made the view outside your window almost surreal. Without any forethought, I began to gather your most special stuffed animals, your cow mirror, and your different-color balls rattle. I methodically arranged them in your changing table. I put Giraffe (not Giraffey – Giraffe) at the helm – where he belongs. And, Sophie was safely placed in the middle, because she is the smallest, and the only girl. I put Owl, from Daddy, at the top – to keep a watchful eye out for any perpetrators. The rest of your guys were put in all the right positions as well. I had a system; it was just right. Diddy, if there is any credence behind the anthropomorphic nature of stuffed animals, as depicted in Toy Story, I am confident your “besties” were relieved to spend today together. I have just decided I will let them have a sleep-over too. I will cover them in your snuggly blanket from Nana. It will be the perfect ending to their not-so-happy day. (And, given the psychological damage my psychosis is bound to be afflicting on them – I’ll take them with us to Margaret next week. Ok? They’ll be fine.)

On an authentically happy note, I got my ring yesterday. Daddy began designing it for me in September. His intent was to have it done by my birthday. But, true to form, Momma completely changed her mind on the design mid-stream of the original project. Your understanding and patient Daddy did not mind (he’s used to Momma); our jeweler, Chris, probably wanted to choke me. I could not be swayed by his inconvenience; it needed to be perfect in every way. Needless to say, the long wait, the countless trips to Racine, the myriad of email exchanges, the uncomfortable requests for Chris to ‘change this’ & ‘refine that’ were all very well worth it. Hands down…Momma’s ring is the most beautiful, special, timeless piece of art I will ever own. Given it is a creative arrangement of your monogrammed initials – I am not surprised. I will not remove it for as long as I live.

Paxton, I would give anything in the whole world to gently kiss you on your warm little head tonight. I would give even more to trade places with you. You should be here today…you should be here tomorrow…you should be happy, healthy, and safe – in your crib – with all of your favorite stuffed animals, having a sleepover.

Like any mother whose child has been murdered, I do not believe my soul can or will rest until justice is served. I need to find a way to get the right people to listen. I need to find a way to get the right people to think differently. I need to find a way to get the right people to unite – and then refuse to be told “no”. Childhood cancer can no longer be allowed to slip past the radar of the ‘eye for an eye’ mentality. Fuck you, Childhood cancer. You have taken one too many shots, you little bitch. You have crossed the path of the wrong Momma. I am coming for you; and I gots a hell of a gold ring to pound right into your ugly, smug face.

I love you, my Peaceful Warrior. You, and you alone, are enough. You will always be enough. You will always be my baby. I will always be your Momma. Thank you, infinitely, for being my son.

seven

Stay with me, sweet boy.

xoox,

Momma