December 25th. A huge sign. And, Baby Jesus-invoked PTSD.

Good morning, Paxton Bowe:

The “holiday season” is finally over. I survived another holiday without you by my side.

Exhale.

In my continual quest to conduct myself in a way that makes you proud to call me Momma, I tried my very best to integrate a few aspects of my “used-to-be Merry Little Christmas” into the season this year. I wasn’t very successful in implementing many of the traditions I associated with the magic of Christmas for the first 38 years of my life. What I was able to do, however, was far beyond what I wasn’t even able to consider at this time last year.

Nonetheless, bereavement, Christmas and rooms filled with non-grieving people mix about as well as oil and water . I wish people really, truly, got that. As in “got it” without being bereaved, grieved, or any of that. Just got it, period.

Christmas morning was especially difficult. I knew this year would’ve been particularly fun for you. Perhaps not as fun as the next 2, 5 or 6…10, 18….but, it’d have proven an excitement-chocked Christmas morning: watching your eyes, widen in awe at the sight of shiny packages, and your face outfitted with a smile, thrilled by each present uncovered within.

After hours of solitude, providing the avoidance in which I am so well-versed; I forced my way past the thoroughfare of my house and headed to Lala’s. While driving an intentionally circuitous route, you sent me the greatest gift I could have asked for – other than you tucked safely in my arms. You replied to the whispers I’d said to you in the wee morning hours. I asked you to send me a sign “so big” that I wouldn’t possibly miss it. Once again, you delivered. In fact, you delivered so big, that I nearly crashed into a snow bank. I should know better than to underestimate your uncanny ability to let me know you are with me everywhere I go. (You should know better than to throw signs at me, in my chronically distracted state – while operating a motor vehicle. But, I forgive you.) I don’t know what I ever did to be lucky enough to have you as my son. I do know, however, I wouldn’t trade you for the world.

Other than the (huge) sign from you I simply don’t have any excitement to report about Christmas. I’m simply just not into it anymore. Nothing against Baby Jesus. Truth be told, for the majority of my life Baby Jesus, laying in his manger, was my favorite part of the hoopla unfolding in a nativity scene. I have always been keenly aware of babies – no matter what the scene. (Ask Nana, Papa, and Busha.) In hindsight, I have vague childhood memories of twinges of worry passing through my mind, as to whether or not Baby Jesus “…found a crib for his head.” I supposed those fears were quickly assuaged by the knowledge that Mary was his mommy. Perhaps, they were further subsided by the fact that, despite the circumstances, Baby Jesus had some pretty influential people in his corner.

Now, in my AC world, the sight of Baby Jesus – away in his manger, only served to invoke a series of flashbacks of you lying in your crib, our bed, your bunny bouncy seat – in the  cold, metal, way-too-big for a 12 week old, cage-of-a-god-damn-‘crib’ at CHW. In turn, my heart began to race. My mouth ran dry. My stomach twisted into knots. My eyes, elected by neurological default to end the panic – searched for a different object to send to my retina. Seeing Baby Jesus, a beautiful little boy, with a blue blankie over his tummy, with an entire village rallying behind his miraculous arrival – just made me think of you. (I’m not suggesting you’re the second coming of Baby Jesus, or anything of that nature. I’d never put such pressure on you. You are you; my exceptionally perfect son. This is not to say, I’d back down to a challenge with Mother Mary on whose son is more adorable.)

So this is Christmas. A season filled with PTSD reactions to Baby Jesus in nativity scenes. Who knew? It seems unbelievable to think Christmas used to be a season filled with overwhelming joy, anticipation, and excitement. Now, at best, it’s a time dominated by an undercurrent of deep sorrow. Insatiable longing. Layers of grief – which spontaneously unravel at the mere sight of a nativity scene, or at a myriad of “my perfect family and perfect life” captured on a Picture-Christmas card. There is no winning. Those layers of bereavement are always shreeded into threads, which are left clinging to me: reminiscent of the ugliest, itchiest, most uncomfortable Christmas sweater.

Yes. I survived Christmas. I did so largely by going through the motions and also by focusing on your cousins’ unabridged innocence and joy. Between you and I, Momma just doesn’t care about putting up a tree, decorating the house, deciding whether or not to put lights up – inside, outside, or anywhere at all. I don’t care about Christmas parties, Elf on the Shelf poses, fruitcakes, or egg nog. I don’t care if anyone buys me a present – in fact, I prefer they don’t. The only thing I care about is us being back together like we should be – creating priceless memories that money can’t buy, and death can’t steal.

All I wanted for Christmas was you.

Happy New Year, lil man.

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Stay with me, Sweet Boy

xoox,

Momma

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hemingway. shoes. fake therapy…brought to you by the number 6.

Diddy,

Today Ernest Hemingway spoke to me. He’s a legendary author and journalist. He won the Nobel Peace Prize. He passed away on July 2nd. (Literary terms deem this dramatic irony. Or perhaps it’s considered situational irony? Regardless, it’s all kinds-a fucked up.) His ‘message’ took my breath away. That doesn’t happen easily these days.

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A life story in six words? Six wouldn’t suffice to tell yours. However, Hemingway certainly chose his wisely. 

Speaking of shoes; your collection rocks. You have three pairs of Jordans. Fly, blue Vans – Ugg slippers too.

No, I’m not writing in Haiku. I’m just making six word sentences. Six times two always equals twelve. Cancer always equals fuck, fucking you. I’m sad, tired, angry, and scared. Six is my fake therapy tonight.

You didn’t wear your baby shoes. Rest assure, they’ll remain forever yours.

Thank you for being my son.

I miss you; I love you.

Stay with me my Sweet Boy.

xoox,
Momma

BC. AC. FuC. And Uncle Dave sings Baby Blue for you. (Don’t tell Auntie Kupa.)

Paxton,

When I lost you, I lost so very many things: my only child, my chance to mother you; all the things you were and would have been; our little family; my future; my place and identity; my confidence; my naïveté; my view of the world as a safe and just place.

I can easily say my life is now divided into two distinct parts: Before Cancer (BC) and After Cancer (AC). In addition to mourning the loss of you: my dream come true – I’ve also mourned over the version of me I lost when you died. Some days, I long to have her back. Not as often, or remotely as desperately, as I long to have you back. Yet she is gone. You are gone. I am here: living in my AC world. Without you. And without the Danna I knew for 38 years.

Most days, however, I would not trade in the new version of me. (Other than if to have our entire BC world back…the one where you never got sick, you never suffered, and we never kissed good-bye one.last.time.) Given no choice in the matter, I have morphed into a different woman. Naturally, there are parts of me which are still broken and empty. Some are broken beyond repair. How couldn’t they be? When a parent loses a child, they lose a part of themselves. Beyond that, they are permanently rocked to the very core of their soul. The only way around this truth – is if they simply do not have a soul. However, there are also pieces of me which are far wiser, stronger, and more refined than that of my former self. All of which can be attributed to the fact that particles of you flow throughout my body and are contained within my soul.

Perhaps my former self needed to lose her naiveté, her blind trust, and her belief that those she loved would never betray her. She needed to become strong – in a entirely different capacity: one which allowed her the strength to see the world as it is, not how she willed it to be. She needed to acknowledge that the most difficult times do, in fact, reveal people’s true character – and she had to accept all which was unveiled. She needed to learn, the really hard fucking way, to always trust her god damn instincts.

Though few and far between, there are times where if I quiet my mind long enough, I vividly see the gifts you’ve left for me. Despite the depth and breath of the pain I experience from having lost you, I see reminders all around that I, too, have gained. Not enough. Not nearly enough gain for the hefty, immeasurable price of losing you. Still, you must always know that you alone are a far, far more profound gift than the torture and the despair of living in my new world without you.

My AC world is mournful and tenuous at times. Yet it is also beautiful, meaningful and sublime in a way I never imagined. Gibran describes it best when he prophesied that only after having really “…looked into the eyes of such sorrow” can one find their way to pure joy. For the infinite joy you have brought into my life, and the promise you continue to bring…I remain humbly and infinitely indebted.

It should come as no surprise, Dave has a little diddy for you, Diddy. Allow him to serenade you into a peaceful slumber tonight. Rest your head against my chest. Close those baby blues…Momma is right here.

Thank you for helping your Momma become a better, stronger, wiser woman. 

Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox,

Momma

Turkey. Tears. And a whole lot of Thanks.

Paxton,

Today is the day the entire world stops to do what we should do all year round…pause and give ‘thanks’ for all of the blessings in our lives. There are people who believe positive thinking and gratitude are the answers to life’s aliments. I agree. A positive attitude and posture of gratefulness can help many bleak situations. But I guess gratitude doesn’t come naturally when you are grieving the loss of your only child – and the loss of everything else you loved too. All the positive thoughts in the world aren’t going to change the fact that you are dead. All the positive thoughts in the world aren’t going to bring my little family back together. All the positive thoughts in the world certainly aren’t going to fill the empty chair at the Thanksgiving table tonight.

This is not to say I don’t actively engage in positive thinking. Today alone I had many positive thoughts. I am grateful for the fact that most people will never have a Thanksgiving where their 7-year old niece holds their hand under the table and all-too empathetically whispers, “I miss him too, D.D.” Nor will they know of a toast which is finished with their 4-year old nephew innocently nodding his head while sincerely proclaiming, “Here’s to Paxton’s spirit all around us!” I’m also thankful most people will never have to shamefully throw out an entire side-dish of cranberries, because their tears fell into the bowl before they realized they were standing over it – silently sobbing.

Bring to the table a cornucopia of blessings and I’ll bring you my infinite pain. Let’s put them both on the empty chair where you should be…21 months young…squishing pumpkin pie between your chubby little fingers and putting it in your adorably sweet face.

Asking me to focus on my blessings and not recognize the fact that you’re not here, is like telling me to be grateful I am still able to breathe – even though the atmosphere has run out of oxygen. It simply isn’t possible to be one or the other. That being said, just because I continue to grieve doesn’t mean I am incapable of being grateful for the other blessings in my life. But it is not one or the other. I miss you with every molecule of my being; I would give anything to have you back. Yet I am still deeply grateful for the three little souls who will sit with me at the table tonight. I am thankful beyond measure to have Lala & Uncle Stephen in my life, and also living so close to me. I am grateful for my parents – who continue to provide unwavering love and support through each step of this, the very darkest, walk of my life. I am thankful that I truly do have the most devoted, strong, beautiful friends on this side of the universe. Who, even though they think as much, have still never said, “We told you so…“.

I am grieving. I am grateful. The latter can’t cure the former, and the former doesn’t negate the latter. As a bereaved Momma, I have unwillingly learned the delicate art of holding infinite space for both. My new life is a heartbreaking juxtaposition of contradictions. Just as I possess both the immeasurable love of having you, and the immeasurable pain of losing you. My heart is broken because you are gone, but it is also full because you were here.

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There is never a moment I am not thinking of you…wishing you were here with me, worrying about you…and eternally grateful that you are mine.

I hope you are happy, Little Turkey.

Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox,

Momma

a spicy monkey. a high-jacked computer. and my day is made.

Sweet Diddy,

One of my girls at school needed to take her test at my desk today. The other 15 places to sit in my classroom simply wouldn’t suffice. While she was at it, she made herself right at home. As she sat at my desk she ate my pretzels, used my hair brush, tapped around on my computer, noticed my Pandora was open, and created herself a new radio station on my account. Why not? When I busted her, I pretended to be mad. Like all my ‘kids’, she knows I (mostly) pretend to be mad at them. Disappointed is all-together different. Mad? Well, that almost always just doesn’t happen. First of all, these spicy monkeys keep Momma’s heart beating. Secondly, they need more love than most others in the world. Moreover, they deserve even more love than they need. And like I said…they keep my heart beating.

It’s going on 5:40 p.m., and I’m still at school. As you already know, Momma need not rush off to the gym, or to the grocery store in order to be home in time to let Lucas out and/or to make dinner….much less to pick you up from day care, get you fed, bathed, and ready for bed in time to snuggle up and read a bed-time story – or three, before tucking you in for a peaceful night’s sleep. Instead, I take my time perfecting innocuous tasks, before aimlessly venturing down familiar hallways, through familiar doors, to a familiar parking spot – straight into an unfamiliar life.

As I contemplated whether I would go to the gym, or just run extra-long when I got home, concurrently further avoiding the transition into a new life I never wanted, a song began to play through my SMART Board. Instantly entranced by the lyrics, I closed the 38 windows I had open so I could see the name of the song and artist. (No. I didn’t do what normally functioning people do, and save the work which I was perseverating over perfecting in the first place. It’s fine. I’ll try again tomorrow.)

The tears which fell from my eyes have already left salt-marked stains on my completely lame, but also completely free, GO ARMY! desk calendar. I instinctively know they will serve as an unlikely source of comfort in the upcoming weeks. As I will recall this moment with heightened precision. For it is one of those rare times…that I know you are with me.

Thank you for helping my spicy monkeys love me. Thank you for helping them embrace my broken spirit, my shattered heart, and my many, many flaws. They are of your most brilliant and treasured gifts yet. Thank you for sending me this song – compliments of the spicy ones, who take the liberty to high-jack my Pandora account, much like they have taken the liberty to high-jack my heart…because they know damn well, it’s the only way in anymore.

Here is your lullaby for tonight. It’s from Momma…and one of her spiciest monkeys.

My arms should’ve been fierce enough to have kept you safe.

Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox,

Momma

20 months. 40 years. even mother nature knows we belong together.

Diddy,

Yesterday you would have been 20 months old. I am getting better and better at knowing what you’d be doing as each month marker comes along. I never wished to be more blissfully ignorant about anything than I do about all things babies and toddlers. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t get lost in thought imagining all that you would now be able to do. For starters, I hear you talking in two or three word sentences. “Diddy is fly.” “Momma is sleepy.” (But also fly.) I see you completing block puzzles, or pointing to your favorite things when we read: like Lowly the Worm in your Busytown books, or to the moon on each page of “Goodnight Moon”. I picture you proudly helping Momma with little tasks like, “Go get your jammies.” “Put your trucks away.” In addition to all the innocence and wonder you were robbed of, I am also tortured by the things I can’t envision. Mostly by the fact that I can’t picture what you look like anymore. Every so often when I’m somewhere in between asleep and awake, I see you. Only for a flash…before you turn into the baby I last kissed at 20 weeks and 1 day old. I have every inch of you at that age memorized: from the top of your soft head, to the tips of your teeny toes. But I want to see you now, at 20 months old. I want to see you without trying. I want to hear you without straining. I want to hold you without imagining. I want to kiss my 20 month old son and have you kiss me back – with as much teething-induced drool as possible. Instead, I can’t even say for sure what you look like. Because you died when you were just 20 weeks old.

On top of your ‘should have been’ 20 months old day, I turned 40 years old. How it’s remotely right that I have already lived for 40 years, when you didn’t even get to live for five months is so far beyond my comprehension, I nearly puke every time it passes through my consciousness. Alas, in honor our “Secret Society Club” I wanted to do something special to pay tribute to this particular 12th. It met the criteria of being something new, it is also something that will eventually become old. I finally got (the most preciously radical) tattoo. In turn, “your place” on Momma is now officially reserved forever and ever. Just as it should be. No one else will ever call the nook of my arm all the way to the crest of my shoulder their own. All who look will see my Sweet Boy has staked his claim. They will see your name. They will see a symbol of you in fight and in flight. They will see a peaceful warrior transitioning to a warrior at peace: as he passes through the faintest rainbow…and heads straight to the highest layer.

The only tolerable part about October 12th was the weather. It started out cloudy and chilly. A perfect backdrop to stay in bed a little later than planned to see if it would be the day that squeezing my eyes extra-tight would transport me back to my old life. If even for one day. No such luck. When the rain began to strum against my bedroom window, I was convinced the world was as sad as me; so I decided it was safe to face the day. I got to the gym and back before the happy-ass sun decided to come out and toy with my mood. However, it turns out Mother Nature is in my corner after all. And she’s manic too. A few hours later the skies reverted to a dark grey, opened up, and dumped out an unyielding and unforgiving rain. It was a true shit storm. And it made me feel much better. However the greatest birthday gift (outside of you back in my arms) came moments after when a faint rainbow emerged high in afternoon the sky. It was there momentarily. But it was there. You were there.

You and I have always had our very own secret society. Nothing will ever change that; not even death itself. Tattoos and rainbows aren’t needed to prove our love. Our love far supersedes markers and magic. It transcends the parallel universes in which we exist. It is the rare kind of love that truly does last forever and ever. Of this I am sure.

That being said, you must wonder why there are times I’m overcome by such extreme sadness that I stand in the shower just so the water can drown the sound of my sobs and the screams of your name. Or how there can be moments when I’m overcome by such anger that to prevent myself from breaking things, I bury my face into your blanket and scream…to no one at all, that I just want my baby back. I miss you so much that parts of me I never knew existed hurt. And I miss being your Momma (the way I should be) so much that the parts that don’t hurt…are simply numb.

I am doing my best to navigate these unchartered parenting waters of being a Momma from so far away. I am terrified more often than not. I am sad. I am lonely. I am mad. I am so very, very tired. But I am also without another choice. So I push onwards. And I hold onto hope that in the process, I am not letting you down.

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I miss you. I love you. Worry not, little one – Momma is right as rain.

Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox,

Momma

a defense lawyer stops me in my tracks. because he knows you.

Paxton,

Tonight I ended what was a very difficult week with a “not-so-happy” hour with two of my lovelies from BCHS. I wasn’t in the mood to be there, but familiar with their persistence in integrating me into the world at-large, I knew it’d be easier to join them. So I did. I made it to about 6:30 before I was ready to leave. As I approached my car, a man parked next to me quickly popped his head out from the backseat of his car where he was putting his child in a carseat. He said, “Excuse me. What does your license plate say?” I knew he was talking to me; but I froze – speechless and paralyzed. He continued, “Does your plate say, Paxlove”? I studied his sincere face and steadfast eyes as I faintly replied, “Yes. Paxlove.” He excitedly persisted, “Is it for Paxton? The baby? The little Peaceful Warrior?” I almost collapsed onto the goddamn pavement.

Before my legs had a chance to give out, he broke into a 40 yard dash in my direction. As he jogged towards me he yielded his “Paxton” bracelet in front of him like a white flag. Meanwhile my friend took over the talking part and proudly proclaimed that I am your Momma. Once in front of me, he put the bracelet an inch away from my eyes and exclaimed (repeatedly) that he wears everyday. He went on to explain how he learned about you and your brave fight. He said he attended PaxFest and donates to your foundation. Most importantly – he told me how he finds daily strength and inspiration through your brave soul.

As I attempted to absorb the scene unfolding around me, I noticed his wife had come out of their car and was now standing just steps behind us. Her hand was over her mouth. Tears were streaming down her face. As our eyes met, we innately stepped towards each other and hugged tightly. Through a tear-filled voice, she told me how you changed the way she mothers her son…and that she marvels at how I find the strength to continue to live without you. These kind-hearted people said so many endearing things to me. All of which I will hold close to my heart for many, many moons to come. The dad ended the conversation by telling me he is a defense attorney and that whenever he is in trial, he rubs his “Baby Paxton” bracelet to find strength and clarity. For he is reminded that whatever he or anyone in the court room is experiencing, or has experienced, pales in comparison to what “Baby Paxton” endured.

The entire time this couple talked to me, I literally did not utter a single word. In hindsight, my inability to speak makes me want to punch myself. I should have taken out my wallet and shown them pictures of you. And told them how everyone who was lucky enough to be in your presence noticed how peaceful (and beautiful) you were. I should have shared with them how (before you were sick and stopped feeling hungry), you would stop mid-suck while eating your bottle, smile right at me – and then happily resume eating. Or let them know your favorite CD is Coldplay’s Rock-a-bye Baby, and that you loved when we would dance around the dining room and sing, “I like to eat, eat, eat apples and bananas.” I should have relayed the stories of how you’d stare into Mr. Cow mirror and “Ooouuuooo!” so fiercely at the site of your adorable reflection that the entire house would erupt in laughter.

On top of failing to tell them any of the many things that make you incredibly special, I deeply regret that I didn’t think to ask them their names. While I hugged the husband, I did manage to eek out the words, “Please don’t take that bracelet off.” (He assured me that he wouldn’t.) With the exception of one simple sentence, I stood mute as two strangers told me how you have changed their lives. In exchange, they allowed me to embrace them as though they each contained a small part of you. I am sorry if I hugged them too tightly. I am more sorry I didn’t tell them about any one of the multitude of things which make you my uniquely perfect Paxton.

Very early this morning I was overcome by one of the greatest moments of despair I have yet felt. I don’t entirely know why. I guess this roller coaster of grief, bereavement, or grief-that-interrupted-the-initial-fucking grief will never make any sense. I do know that I literally begged you to send me a sign if you were still with me. Anything to prove that despite the emptiness in my stomach and the hollowness in my heart, I am not entirely alone in this world.

I believe with all of my heart, you sent that man to me tonight. You rescued me from the abyss of grief which I must consciously ward off from swallowing me whole. More than anything in this entire world, I would give anything – anything – to be the one saving you. It should have been me. Never you.

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I miss you. I love you. I’ll look for you in my dreams.

Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox.

Momma

Your spark has spread across the pond…to the wild, wild west, and everywhere else too. But I’d rather you were asleep in your crib.

Diddy,

My little Diddy Bop…how I miss you so. More oft than not, I don’t quite know how to begin my letters to you. Perhaps the only normal part of my existence is the abnormal feeling I get when I realize the only way I can communicate with my son, who was killed over a year ago, is through letters he may or may never read. Good thing for you (because as my child, you have obviously found a way to read these) I’ve never been one to conform and do what others perceive to be normal.

Once I begin writing to you, I feel more normal and most certainly more at peace than I have in days. At the close of each letter, I tell myself, “…just write him one note every day….no matter the reason…no matter how profound or inconsequential the message”. But, most days I am still not brave enough to creak open the lid of “Paxton’s Box” and allow myself to participate in the single most vulnerable act: expressing my feelings through the written word. When it comes to writing to you, there are more days than not when it is simply too difficult to navigate the vastness of my grief, especially in total solitude (except for the companionship of my laptop and Sir Giraffey).

Each week I receive notes, cards, emails, Facebook messages and letters from complete strangers, long-time friends, long-lost friends, and your dearest earth angels who prefer to remain anonymous. Each correspondence serves as a tangible reminder that people, both near and far, are thinking of you, loving you and…holding you close to their beautiful hearts. The notion that I am not the only person in the universe missing you at any (and every) passing moment, often is the very thing which allots me the will to survive another day without you. While I do my very best to at least acknowledge I have received them, I simply do not always have the strength to do so. Ironically, it is typically the messages which mean the most that replying to proves most challenging. (I know it’s ass backwards; it’s just the way my world works.)

This past week, I received two messages which affected me very deeply.The timing could not have proven more critical. Today, with their borrowed strength, I will tell you about the messages and the women who sent them.

The first came from a woman all the way across the pond – in London. She learned of your story through Facebook. By her own admission, she avoided reading any of my Warrior Momma entries when she stumbled upon them via friends’ of friends’ shared posts. She said while she initially told herself it was merely an unconscious choice, she now realizes it was more likely out of fear. She called herself one of the stupid – naïve, uneducated, blind. The other morning, Jessi confronted her fear. She clicked on one of the entries. And as she says, her world was permanently altered. Jessi ultimately blew off an entire day of work to read every entry. She relays that she read every single word, and listened to every single song. Then Jessi wrote me. Among many other things, she said, “…so I’m writing to say ‘thank you’ for introducing me to your Paxton and to tell you that your mission is working because for every person, like me, who moves from the unseeing column to the light there is one more person to help fight the fight. Like so very many people around the world, I am thinking about you and Paxton. I am joining your fight.”

Serendipitously, Jessi is running a Survival of the Fittest event in London in November for an England-based charity called CLIC Sargent. The race benefits children with cancer and their families. Admittedly, the race meant less to her yesterday than it does today and it will mean more tomorrow as she continues to think about more ways to fight. For every pound donated to her race, Jessi will personally donate an American dollar to the Paxton Andrews Foundation. Very best of all, Jessi asked if she could run this race in honor of you! Of course, I said “YES!”

The next message came from a woman, named Bree. She lives a little closer to home – only 2,000 miles away in Arizona. Bree sent me a link to a song, named “How?” by Regina Spektor. She explained that while she never had the good pleasure to meet you, and hasn’t seen or spoken to me in over twenty years, she thinks of us daily – most especially when she hears this song. She also said her life has been changed by your story…and she promised to carry you in her kind heart for the rest of time. I promised Bree I’d put the song on your special playlist; the one I play for you on days, like today, when it’s exceptionally difficult to be so far away from you.

Bree has a baby boy of her own. He was born about a year after you. He is perfect. He is adorable. He is happy. He does not have cancer. Although she’s not said as much, I get the distinct sense Bree’s appreciation of her beloved son has been enhanced through your brave fight…through your beautiful soul. l just have a gut feeling about this. But, you know how I feel about trusting my instincts.

Paxton, I am so grateful that you continue to find ways to send me signs and messages of love and strength. I am extremely proud of the way you use your life spark to change peoples’ lives in ways so profound they cannot even explain…and evermore proud that you you allow your soul to shine so vibrantly, that even complete strangers can’t help but to fall in love with you…even when they are afraid to. But, never mistake the fact that I would trade the awe and wonder of of these intangible forces to have you back in my arms where you belong. I would far rather the only people who knew your name lived in the confines of my (now empty and sad) home. Simply put, I want you back.

Here is your lullaby tonight, sweet boy. I promise I will never forget one memory. Let’s close our eyes and find each other in our dreams.

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

Stay with me, sweet boy.

xoox,

Momma

18 months. a run. another run. and yo mama!…just wants you back.

Paxton,

I do not like when so many days pass between the times I quiet the noise in my mind and calm the quake in my soul long enough to sit down and write you. Rest assured, regardless of whether or not I write, I am thinking of you, worrying about you, and most of all wishing you were here with me throughout each moment of every day. I’ve come to realize that the times I ‘shut down’ on writing coincide with the times I shut down on feeling. Every morning before I force myself out of bed, I remember the promise I made to you. I remind myself that even though my entire world has crumbled before my eyes – my son is depending on me to keep his spirit alive. Although I almost always want to roll over and sleep until I never wake up, I (eventually) force my feet to the ground, put on a mask (of bravado) and set out to face another day. Truth be told, there have been stretches of time when, despite my greatest intentions and most valiant efforts, it is just far too difficult to execute the charade. The past few weeks have been one of those stretches. Among a cluster fuck of events I didn’t see coming were: July ending, August 6th, and today…August 12th.

You should have turned 18 months old today. The notion of you being a year and a half, and the fact that we’d have spent every waking moment of an excitement-filled, action-packed summer together, made today more difficult than most other “month markers”. I still do something new on the 12th of each month to honor the date on which you were born. So far it hasn’t been anything grandiose or complicated – just new. I simply cannot bypass an opportunity to participate in a novel activity as a way to recognize such a happy and beautiful event. The layman likely remains unaware of my ritual; I don’t talk about it with too many people…other than you, of course. The fact that both of us were born on the 12th sweetens the pot. Besides being totally radical, it also serves as another intricacy of our very own secret society.

Today didn’t start out well. But by mid-afternoon I managed to gather my wits and set out to pay tribute to the 12th. I drove to a new park…far away-ish from our home, to run. At one point during my not-at-all-easy-or-even-kind-of-fun-run, a little yellow finch flew right in front of me. Even though the 918% humidity, a too fast pace, and a heavy heart made breathing nearly impossible, I said aloud, “Well. Hello there, Diddy.” I know it was you. I even got chills all along my right shin again. After my run, I sat on a picnic bench and took in the scene around me. One look into the late afternoon, grey sky was all it took to determine I hadn’t done nearly enough to make you proud. So I stood up, hopped off the picnic bench and ran more. Somehow I managed to go faster and feel stronger that round. Confident you’d be at least sort of impressed with the second wind I pulled out of my ass, I headed home.

Tonight I embarked on a second new adventure. A special, little girl managed to sway me  to support her request for an impromptu stop at the cutest frozen yogurt shop, Yo Mama!. The kids at BCHS have been talking to me about it for months. Your cousins convinced Ms. Allison to take them, along with her three daughters, there a few weeks ago. They’ve been raving about it too. So I finally went. Unbeknownst to me, throughout the month of August a percentage of Yo Mama! sales will be donated to the Ronald McDonald House. Serendipitous? I simply think not. I believe you knew it was the exact place I needed to go to provide a meaningful end to an otherwise not so meaningful day.

The entire time I was at Yo Mama!, visions of you eating a tiny bowl of frozen yogurt looped through my head. I saw streams of yogurt running down your pudgy, but perfect, wrists and dripping onto your t-shirt; as you’d surely have insisted on trying to feed yourself. I imagined diverting your attention just long enough to allow me an opening to swarm in and pick tiny pieces of napkin off your chin…which remained stuck after failed (and obsessive compulsive) attempts to wipe your adorable face clean. I pictured you running over to the crayons and paper at ‘Mama’s Art Board’ to create a colorful, firestorm of happiness before setting back out into the warm, summer night. As I passed the art board, I paused. Seemingly on instinct, I put down my yogurt and drew a picture for you.

I am sorry it’s been so long since I have written. Such a large part of my life is consumed by matters with which I would never burden you. You are my baby and need not worry about such affairs. I will shield you from the heartache the same way I would have if you were here where you should be. I will concurrently strive to be alive instead of to merely exist. (A feat far more difficult than most could begin to imagine.) Yet, I know there are days when I fail miserably. In turn, I fear I leave you deeply disappointed. On those days, and on the good days too, please hold onto this truth; carry it with you in the deepest part of your beautiful soul. No matter where I am, who I am with, or what I am doing – I am always longing for you to be there with me.

I miss you. I love you. I wish you could have had frozen yogurt today too.

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Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox,

Momma

you can’t stop her. you can only hope to contain her.

Diddy,

You stole your Auntie Kupa’s heart long before you two ever met. I recall precisely the day I realized “it was written”.  In November I was admitted to the hospital and placed on medical bedrest to prevent very premature labor. All eyes were on you. But, Kupa wan’t satisfied. She needed to see for herself that her Baby Blue was in good hands. (We didn’t officially know you were “boy” anything. But, your crazy Kupa insisted she did.) Fielding phone calls was challenging. Providing anyone with an update of any type was impossible; our condition changed like the impending winter wind. So, Kupa did what she does best: took matters into her own hands. She set out on an impromptu trek across the state. The roads were icy, the sky dark, the air bitter. Kupa cared not. She was on a mission. Donning her trademark combat boots, head band, and black leather jacket – Kupa made her grand entrance at WAWM Hospital. With a flash of her smile and a wink of her eye, she managed to sweet talk her way past the Nurse station, right into my “No-Visitors Allowed” corner-suite room. That part isn’t surprising in the least. If there are rules (or laws) to be broken, Kupa is there to do so. Usually with a sly tilt of her head and a mannerly, “Thank you very much, mother fucker.” But that’s besides the point.

Prior to coming to the hospital, Kupa made a quick pit stop to pick up some (unnecessary) gifts for you. Among the lot of items: an array of outfits. In the event you came early, she wanted to be sure you had “…fly shit to wear”. My favorite of the bunch was one you ultimately wore so very often: a green and white stripped, fuzzy, snap up pajamas with froggie eyes where your toes went, and a froggie face atop of your tiny dupa. Following in a close second: a black onesie with a plaid patterned skull on it – complete with matching socks and two different bibs…each with a variant skull and bones.

I didn’t get to spend time with Kupa that day. Moments after her unexpected arrival, Momma was whisked off to a room, which resembled NASA headquarters, for observations. A very long ultra sound, as well as a slew of other tests – all which involved pokes, prods, gels, head lamps, and heat lamps ensued. After an eternity of conferring, questioning, and talking in coded doctor lingo, each member of our ‘High Risk Maternal Fetal Pregnancy’ team concurred “…that is one happy, healthy baby…who is perfect in every way. Our biggest hurdle will be keeping mom pregnant.” (The time the entire world was most concerned about your viability was precisely when you were the safest you’d ever be. The irony of it all now makes me vomit.) Alas, hearing the words “…happy and healthy baby” caused me to spontaneously burst into tears of sheer relief. I knew in my heart there was simply no way I would deliver you early. I refused to let my body fail you.

Before leaving the NASA-like procedure room, I was hooked back up to bells, whistles, buzzers and a computer monitor which tracked your every move. My tummy was lubed and strapped tightly with two heart monitors: one for me, one for you. I’m pretty sure they hooked us up directly to the red-line at the Oval Office too. When we were ready to roll, a small brigade of dear nurses wheeled us back to my room. Lying in the middle of my bed, propped on my pillows, was the most frightening zombie, voodoo, gangsta doll-esque creature I’ve ever seen. The sight of this ghastly thing caused Momma to burst out in shot-gun laughter: a hearty, deep-from-the-soul laughter – which should’ve thrown me directly into labor. Your Kupa is one sick, twisted chic. A sick, twisted chic who has a heart gold once she decides she loves someone. Although we quickly agreed your “Kupa Dolly” was the most beautifully misunderstood doll-esque critter in the world, we tucked it safely away in your closet…just for good measure. Your Daddy said you could have it when you were two. I said when you were 19.

Your Kupa checked on you a few times a week for the next 13 long, nerve-wrecking weeks we remained on strict bed-rest. Naturally, she came to see you many times after you were born…both before you were sick and a host of times thereafter; whether we were in the H.O.T. unit or at home for what always proved to be far too short of a stay. In hindsight, it is so very clear. From the very beginning, nothing could keep Kupa away from her beloved Baby Blue: an unfriendly work schedule, hectic wedding planning, four dogs and a home to tend to, sparse money, temperate weather, a beautiful fiancé, long distance treks, least of all – mother fucking cancer. Paxton, your Auntie Kupa would have given her life to spare yours…her heart to spare your Momma’s. I hope you know by now, you are one of the most cherished loves of her life. Kupa would do anything, anything in this world to protect you, your name, your honor, your spirit.  Simply put, when it comes to her Baby Blue, all bets are off.

Kupa knows of Zombies, ganstas, and tattoos.  She knows of bats, chains, swords, and guns. Truth be told, she knows of all things badass. Kupa knows bad mamma jammas who are so bad, and so jamma that when they dare come into public – she never uses their real names. Coincidentally enough, Kupa also knows her way to Indiana.

Your Kupa tells me she’s heading to a small town in Indiana to tend to some business regarding her Baby Blue. Word on the (underground) street is – she ain’t rolling alone.

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

Stay with me Sweet Boy,

xoox

Momma