hallow halloween. and the morning after.

Diddy,

Pictures, pictures, pictures.

Children. Smiling. Happy. Alive. Each wearing a costume somehow cuter than the next. I found myself pausing on some pictures a little, or a lot, longer than others.

The same ones always make my heart stop beating for a second too long. Those of the ‘Shadow Children’ – kids who are nearly the same age you would and should be, if asshole cancer didn’t murder you. There are five ‘Shadow Children’ who regularly appear on my Facebook feed. Once upon a time, I had to keep their parents ‘hidden’ from my feed. Seeing them, particularly because it was always in an unexpected fashion, was far too painful. One by one, I’ve somehow ‘unhidden’ their parents again…except for one. And that’s because, among other all-too-similar circumstances, she was born just three days before you. I purposely go to her Mommy’s page to look at her when I’m feeling really strong – but more often when I’m feeling really, really desperate to know what you’d be doing, how big you’d be, things you may like, etc.  Now a days I find myself staring longingly at the photos of your ‘Shadow Children’. My focus always lingers on their eyes. As I silently beg them to tell me if they see you anywhere. If they know where you went. If they can help me find you. Alas, they cannot.  However, I am relieved to report they are all healthy and happy. They appear especially happy this morning, because they participated in a time-honored Halloween tradition of Trick or Treat over the weekend. The lucky itty-bits are still high on sugar.

Speaking of Trick or Treat, I haven’t been brave enough to stand at our front door to hand out candy and wistfully watch child after child skip away, only to close the door and retreat into our home which sits unnaturally quiet and eerily empty. The last few years I’ve made sure to be out of the house when the mobs of adorable, innocent children come a knockin’. This afternoon, I made plans to have lunch and then head to the mall with Nana. When she pulled into our neighborhood to drop me off, a parade of kids in costumes passed in front of her car. I suddenly realized I had the Trick or Treat times wrong; I arrived home an hour too soon. In a panic, I told Nana there were a few things at Target I needed to get. So she whisked me off to Target, where I ambled up and down the aisles until the coast was clear.

I strongly feel like kid-centered holidays should come with a disclaimer, a reminder, a warning to the non-bereaved. For example, Halloween should be prefaced by any combination of creative PSAs which could air on the radio, tv commercials, shit…through ads on Facebook: “Parents, this Halloween take time to consider that some of those doors on which your adorable (blonde haired, blue-eyed, two and a half year old boy) will knock, house heart-broken people. People who desperately want to be parents, and have cried countless tears over their failed attempts to become someone’s mom or dad. People who are moms and dads, but their child cannot go trick-or-treating, or wear super-hero costumes while posing for super-cute pictures. Because their child is dead.”

Like mine.

The morning after a ‘holiday’, particularly the ones which are largely child-oriented, is almost harder than the actual day itself. Because our world is connected by social media. Social media – at which like a car wreck, I can’t help but looking. Post after post reminds me that I’ll never know what you would’ve wanted to dress up as this year. And I’ll forever wonder, at just two and a half, how many houses you’d have walked to, and how many you’d have opted for a ride in the wagon to make it a little further…before ultimately becoming too tuckered out to last any longer. I’ll never know if you would’ve proudly proclaimed some adorably mixed-up version of, “Trick or Treat!”, or if you’d have gotten an unexpected case of stage-freight, and froze – with your pumpkin clasped in your outstretched hand, hopeful to get a mini Snickers bar anyway.

I’m willing to bet I wasn’t the only Momma left wondering this morning. I know of far too many Moms who wonder what it would’ve been like to have had the privilege to walk their own little girl or boy through the neighborhood, and hear how cute they look in their costumes. I imagine they scrolled through their Facebook feeds today, and with tear-blurred vision stared into the eyes of the ‘Shadow Children’, as they mourned their child whose picture they should be uploading.

Parents who don’t belong to the worst-club-ever don’t know the thousands of tortures, just like this, which exist in our (new) worlds. Only a bereaved parent knows of the sucker punch which waits around every corner. No matter how cautiously you turn the bend, no matter how meticulously you scan the surroundings – there is no preparing for the blow. Although there isn’t a day that goes by that we need ‘reminding’ of what we’ve lost – some days all it takes to surmise the magnitude of what we’ve lost…is a picture.

Many people think that grief is some sort of “process”, which has an end. Trust me when I tell you, it doesn’t. Because every single day, for the rest of my life – there will be a morning after…filled only with shadows of you.

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Brush your teeth and hop into bed.

Stay with me Sweet Boy,

xoox,

Momma

P.S. You’ll always be my little Boo!  (Sorry. Momma couldn’t help herself. Look at that. Even when I’m sad, I’m still funny.)

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Three hundred and sixty five days. I still just want you back.

Paxton,

July 2nd happened. It was hard. It was painful. It was scary. It was sad. I did not die. I wanted to. But I didn’t. In fact I spent most of July 1st pleading – to no one in particular – to please let me die before morning. Alas, July 2nd came. And I had no choice but to face the one year anniversary of the last day I kissed your beautiful face and held your tiny, sweet hands in my own. To make matters more difficult – it was sunny, warm, and bright outside. It was as if the atmosphere took happy steroids and some invisible force catapulted me into a vibrant backdrop fit for a post card. Surrounded by quiet air, blue skies, green trees and wide open spaces – I couldn’t have felt more vulnerable if I had tried.

What I had been busying trying to do was shift my paradigm of thinking about July 2nd. For months, I spent a good deal of time and energy convincing myself that pieces of July 2nd hold a silver lining. After all, it is the day you ended your brave and gallant battle. It is the day you stopped feeling pain. I told myself time and time again, July 2nd was your very own personal day of liberation. I did my best to prevent July 2nd from simply being “the day my son died”. To help ensure the focus was not solely on the sadness in losing you – but also on carrying on your fight – I even declared July 2nd as National FU Cancer Day. My family, friends, co-workers, and many other special members of your adoring ‘fan club’ joined my pseudo movement. Despite Momma’s very good intentions, July 2nd proved more heart-wrenching than I could have ever anticipated.

I intentionally spent much of the day entirely alone. There is simply no one left in my life who knows exactly what happened in those final days…and final moments with you. I didn’t feel like faking it with my well-intended and kind-hearted friends and family. Maybe I should have. But, I didn’t. I ran away. I ran away to a place I’ve never been, where I knew absolutely no one. And there I stayed for precisely two and a half (2 1/2) days. I spent nearly the entire time searching for you…and, also searching for slivers of peace and slices of resilience. There were moments when I felt you with me: absolutely undeniably with me. And others when I felt like you were millions of miles away.

Back in Milwaukee, my very best lovelies and some of my closest family threw an epic “Celebration of Paxton”. To no surprise, they went over the top, bonkers to put together a celebration fit for a prince. (You are most certainly worthy of an affair of such nature.) Their ultimate goal: to send you love in such abundance, that you couldn’t miss if you tried. Rainbows and love served as the theme of the celebration. Each of those lovelies painted their nails a certain color to reflect the colors of the rainbow. (Broph even did hers as clouds!) They also made sure to paint their middle fingers gold…extra, sparkly-gold just for you. The extra-sparkly-gold middle fingers were used to send cancer a whole-hearted, united, resounding “FUCK YOU”. They sent that off at the part of the day they were feeling spiciest. The kids painted signs – outfitted with giraffes, balloons, rainbows and most prominent of all: your name. The adults recounted stories of your smile, your wonder, your innocence, your bravery. Music played, libations flowed, laughs echoed, tears fell. At the end of the night, when the moon illuminated the warm, summer sky, each one of those good people sent a wish lantern, full of good, sweet love, up into the sky for you. (***Lala’s was so chocked full of kisses, she wasn’t sure it would get off the ground.) I imagine you watching it all. I picture you smiling when they pulled out their inner-gangsta and gave cancer their gold-sparkly-middle fingers. I hope you felt all of their love, Diddy. Most important of all, I hope you know their love exists for you EVERY day. Not just on the day that marks the anniversary of the day you decided to end your fight.

Towards late afternoon, Momma met up with a new friend. She and I have had plans to unite for months. We met through childhood cancer; which we hate. But, we decided to be friends on our own; which we love. She lost her beloved son to cancer 26 months ago – just before he turned four years old. His name is Ronan. His mommy’s name is Maya. A few months ago, Ms. Maya was kind and gracious enough to invite me to her childhood home to spend some time with her on what she quipped as “…that horrible, awful day”. She explained how she and her family run away on Ronan’s “Death Day” too. The first year, she wanted to get as far away from the place Ronan died as possible. So her family headed to Boston. However, when they got to Boston Ms. Maya had a very difficult time. It turned out her tummy didn’t feel right in Boston. In fact, “…she fucking hated it.” She asked her strong and kind husband, Daddy Woo, to take her to Maine instead. So he did. It was reassuring to learn I wasn’t the only Momma who needed to run far away from the place I was on the day you were taken away from me.

In fact, so much about being with Ronan’s mommy was helpful in getting through the day. She knew all the things I was thinking before I could even get the words to come up my throat and out of my mouth. She talked softly, and slowly. She was thoughtful with her words, and compassionate with her eyes. Ms. Maya took me to a beautiful restaurant which held special meaning to her. When I couldn’t eat, she was unfazed. She simply placed her hand atop mine and said, “It’s okay, Momma. You tried.” After my non-meal, we went to a magical place tucked deep in the heart of the city. We spent nearly three hours there. We walked all about the grounds: sometimes talking, sometimes thinking…sometimes crying, sometimes smiling. The entire time each of us staring far off into space. Although we didn’t say as much, it was obvious what we were scanning the skies for: our “Lost Boys”. It was at this magical place where I especially felt you with me, Diddy. Did you see me? Was that you? (I’ll never stop hating that I have to ask these questions.)

When we parted ways, Ms. Maya and I ended our visit, the same way we started it: by hugging…and sobbing. Hating what brought us together…but, grateful we were brought together. I gather there is a secret society amongst we unfortunate mothers who know first hand the gruesomeness and helplessness – which magnifies the enormity of the loss – of watching your child wage a war against cancer. In each other, we found someone who shares the same rage over the lack of awareness about childhood cancer, and also the same passion in bringing about real change to the world of childhood cancer. We also found a slew of other things we have in common – which are more light-hearted and girlie. But, for now, those are secrets for only Ms. Maya and I to hold. Late in the night, Ms. Maya called to check on me. Among other things, she said, “I’m sorry we are going to have to be friends forever because of this. But we are. I love you.” Thank you for sending her to me, Paxton. (You always send me the best ones.)

So there it is, Diddy. July 2, 2013. It was nothing like I wanted it to be, nor like I imagined it would be. If I had control of any of the major changes in my life – I’d have switched so many things about the day. However, as irony would have it…I found a sliver of peace and a slice of resilience by running off to an unfamiliar place, to spend the scariest day of my life alone, and the rest of the time with a girl, who was once but just a stranger.

I miss you. I love you. I ache for you in every cell in my being.

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Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox

Momma

the weekends are slow. your momma is fast. let’s move to france.

Little One,

“Tu me manqués”.  In French, that translates to “You are missing from me.”  I love that – as it is far more accurate than to simply say, “I miss you”.  (Although, also true.) Today is June 2nd…as of today, you have been missing from me for eleven months. You will be missing from me, every single day, for the rest of my life.

“Tu me manqués.” The French are brilliant.  The French are sexy. The French are in love with love. The French also love bread. Best of all, the French drink wine…all the time.  My friend, Lisa, in Los Angeles may be onto something in telling me to take my broken heart to France.

This weekend was not an easy one. Most of them aren’t. For the first time in my life, I am NOT a fan of the weekend.  (Don’t ask me how I intend to get through summer….which is, in essence, one never-ending-torturous weekend.)  The weekends go extremely slow. Each day is impossibly long – and the nights, well, those are even longer.  As usual, I spent most of the weekend alone. My company basically consisted of my thoughts.  Well, my thoughts and a Milwaukee County Sheriff who introduced himself after pulling me over on Saturday.  “Hi. Not nice to meet you sir. Yes. I know why you pulled me over. You want to make my day shittier than it is naturally.” I was flying, Paxton. But, it was not entirely my fault. There wasn’t another soul on the road…the sun was out…and JT was on the radio. Further, I was driving Nana’s brand new whip. Given it is far sassier than Momma’s car, I couldn’t even tell I was moving – much less that I was going 80 mph. (Yes, I know…a tad excessive.) In addition to accidentally speeding, there was no ‘proof of insurance’ in Nana’s car. So, the friendly Sheriff gave me a ticket for that too.  Truth be told, the Sheriff actually was quite friendly – but only because he found me to be quite amusing.  Ultimately, he felt badly enough that he “gave me a discount”…and only charged me for 19 mph over, instead of 25 mph, which apparently significantly reduces the price of the ticket.  But I’m still mad at him.  Needless to say, despite the fact that Mr. Sheriff and I got along swimmingly, Momma is still out a million hundred dollars, 4 points, and a squeaky clean driving record. To salt the wound, I was racing around town to get to the store to buy food to make a “dish to pass”…for a party I ended up not being able to attend. Quite an expensive dish to pass right into my garbage. But, I did anyway – because, I could care less.

I wonder if they have speed limits in France? I bet they don’t…at least not for moms who’ve lost their only child – especially when she’s en route to a party, which marks the first real plan she’s had in three weeks.  If the Municipale accidentally pulled me over, for accidentally speeding, I bet un policier would’ve given me a hug, a baguette, and a bottle of wine. He probably would’ve told me to screw the appetizer – and advised me to head directly to the party, as fast as I damn well pleased.

So another day, another weekend, another month without you has come and gone. Life without you is so abundantly sad and wholly empty that words will never suffice to explain it.  I know in the very, very depths of my bones that this was not your destiny. You were not supposed to get sick. You certainly were not supposed to die at the age 20 weeks and 1 day.  You were bound for greatness, Paxton. I am your Momma, so by default – I know things about you that no one else in the world could ever know. It’s not their fault that they don’t know; they are not your Momma. Being your Momma is my job, and my job alone.  Part of that job is to follow my instincts….the same instincts that kept telling me something was very wrong with you.  My intuition also tells me that there is something very wrong with many things which have occurred in my life. I don’t care what anyone tries to riddle me in efforts to help make sense of complete nonsense.  I know I am right when I say…all of these “events” are entirely wrong.

lock bridge. paris.

This is a photo of the Pont de l’Archevêché in Paris – more commonly known as the “Locks of Love” bridge. This breath-taking attraction allures visitors from across the globe. Two people, who love each other, inscribe their names on a padlock, attach the lock to the fence on the bridge, and throw the key in the river. Legend has it, that this act solidifies their love as one which will last forever.  Momma needs to get to this bridge. I will get an extra fabulous padlock.  I will write “Momma & Paxton” on one side, and “Danna & Diddy” on the other.  I will lock up our love. I will throw away the key.  It will last forever…and ever…because France says so.

I miss you. I love you.

Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox,

Momma

Call my understudy – this role sucks.

Paxton,

I think today was the perfect day for me to have stayed in bed and boycotted my participation in the real world. I hated every second of today – starting with saying good bye to you while scanning your room and (yet again) being bombarded by my unbelievable reality …cruelly reinforced by the sight of your freshly-made crib, abandoned ‘size one’ diapers, and deprived, staged stuffed animals.

Because everything about today would only make me say swear words on top of swear words, I need to skip telling you about it. I made a promise to myself that I will keep my swearing to a minimum in each entry. At least, I promised myself I would try.

Over the weekend I solidified a starter-plan for your first birthday. I think it may have been harder than planning your memorial. Aunt Lala and “Magic Meg” did most of the planning for your memorial – i.e. “the most fucked up day that should never have had to happen”. I was in shock, merely watching myself in a (very bad) made for t.v. movie…as I blindly assumed a lead role, which I never tried out for, much less reviewed the script ahead of time. Thank goodness for Lala and the entourage of lovelies in her wake, for I know not how we’d have pulled one minute of that day together. At this point, the shock of your absence has worn off; but the reality of it is just not setting in. Regardless, I simply cannot NOT participate in planning my baby boy’s 1st birthday. Other than the day you were born, this is a day I have looked forward to for as long as I can remember. The “dysfunction” of planning a birthday for my only child, who was stolen from me (after being slowly tortured) by cancer…at the age of 20 weeks and 1 day…is not lost on me. I get it. It’s unnatural. It’s unbelievable. It’s unorthodox. It’s kind of like your 12 week old son being diagnosed with cancer. So, between you and me Paxton, I certainly hope people hold their judgements about my ‘psychological instabilities’ behind having a birthday gathering for my dead child for someone who gives a shit. I’m unwillingly trapped in a D-List version of my old life. If my behavior is so disconcerting that anyone feel it necessary to psychoanalyze my motives in group talk, or generate phone tree conversation to concoct the best way to approach me with their ‘loving concerns’…I urge them to take a less circuitous route – and call my agent. I cannot, will not, simply refuse to allow your birthday to come and go without proper recognition. You are my baby; you also happen to be my hero. Therefore, you deserve the very best. And, the very best you will get.

Daddy and I decided we would like to remember the happiest day of our life (the day you were born) by gathering all your special earth angels for an afternoon of quality fare, sweet melodies, fond memories, pure love…and, of course, some therapeutic libations too. As you watch us come together, I hope you will recognize we do so not because of any one of us has the strength, will, or desire to overcome the fact that you are gone. Rather, we come together – despite your absence – because we are collectively driven to remain united through the strength of your spirit, courageous of your soul, and purity of your love. Diddy, you alone have the ability inflict a change in this world. I have told you this before; yet, I realize that because I am your Momma, you assume I couldn’t possibly know what I am talking about. You just wait and see, little boy. Your birthday gathering will be beautiful – and powerful…much like you. Afterwards, when Momma proves, again, she knows ‘what’s what’, you and I will talk about other plans I have for that uncanny power of yours. Don’t worry baby, I will be with you every step of the way. You and I are in this ‘change the world’ thing together.

It is time for me to go up to bed. Daddy went up almost two hours ago now. I am beyond tired, yet dread ending the night – much for the same reasons I dread starting the day. I will walk in your room to kiss you good-night, touch your warm little head, pull the blanket you kicked off back up across your tummy, whisper in your ear how proud I am to be your Momma…and sneak as many kisses onto your cheek before (accidentally) stirring you awake (and getting in trouble with Daddy). Instead, I will be met by the familiar heavy silence and somber absence which greeted me this morning. Intellectually, I (almost always) know it’s coming. It takes my breath away nonetheless.

I miss you. I love you. I hope you are warm enough.

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Stay with me, sweet boy.

xoox

Momma