A Gold Out, a heavy happy, and a Princess Warrior hug.

Paxton.

This week was chocked full of a shit can of mixed up emotions. By now you know the entire community of Brookfield came together in honor of your bright and beautiful life spark. It all happened so quickly that Momma didn’t have a moments notice to catch her breath, much less time to process all that was unfolding. Unbeknownst to me, Nita and Bruce spearheaded a “Gold Out” to raise awareness for childhood cancer. They chose to have the Gold Out this week because it is September…and because it was the biggest game of the year: the cross town rival football game between BCHS and BEHS. I was brought into the loop after the event had taken on a life of its own. But I’m told that within 24 hours of the suggestion for a Gold Out, BC contacted BE – and both schools were on board, BC vs. BE was named WISN’s Game of the Week, news outlets were calling for commentary, social media was buzzing, t-shirts were ordered, and posters were designed. The crescent tides of what would become a fierce sea of gold, were already swelling around me.

I was honorary captain of the game – and a balloon launch, especially for you, punctuated the Star Spangled Banner. The sweetest moment of all, however, could not have been orchestrated. It occurred shortly before kickoff. The sun, which was just beginning to set, came out for the first time all day. Stunning shades of pink, purple, and best of all…gold illuminated the evening sky. All who witnessed it agree: even the heavens above Brookfield wanted to participate in the Gold Out. (I don’t so much believe in heaven. So, I figure it was you and your flock of angels knocking on the walls of the picturesque fall sky to let me know you were nearby.) Hundreds of gold balloons were released; but I was given a special one. It was a brilliant, rich, purple – to match your birthstone. Bruce decided it’d be easier for you to spot the purple, amongst the blanket of gold, and know exactly which one Momma sent up to you.

The synergy created in efforts to bring awareness of childhood cancer, albeit within the confines of my tiny universe of BCHS, gave me more hope and promise than I’ve felt in a very long time. No money was raised, no promises for change were made. Awareness was generated. And, that is all I have ever asked for.

High off the adrenaline of fighting childhood cancer like a ninja, I made the bravest move yet. I met Emily. Emily is a valiant and beautiful warrior princess who kicked Ewings Sarcoma right in the fucking mouth. She fought the same type of cancer you had for over 13 months, endured 5 surgeries. She travelled between CHW and CHP – to ensure she was in the best of care – throughout her grueling protocol. I first learned about Emily through Dr. D right after your diagnosis. Since then, I’ve kept Emily tucked in my heart. But, I never had the courage to seek her out. In fact, I couldn’t even search for her on Infinite Campus. The mere notion of looking into her eyes terrified me. I still can”t explain some of my fears. Though, I recently read somewhere that grief feels a hell of a lot like fear.

In the meantime Emily silently roamed, like a princess warrior in waiting, throughout the halls of BCHS. All the while knowing who I was, knowing who you were…knowing, most of all, that our worlds would officially collide exactly at the right time. Today was the right time. By my request, Bruce brought her to my room. He did not say a word. Emily did not say a word. I, of course, did not say a word either. Words would’ve only gotten in the way. Instead, I scooped Emily into my arms and held her tightly against my broken heart. I didn’t want to let her go. I felt like she’d be better off in my arms – or in my pocket, for the rest of time. But, I figured her mom would feel otherwise. So I put her down. I took her adorable and innocent face in my shaky hands, and told her she was the bravest little warrior princess. Through tear-filled eyes and a quivering smile she said, “You are brave too.” (Oh, Emily. You really are the best little girl there ever was, aren’t you?) We didn’t talk for long because I couldn’t talk…or say anything of consequence. Yet we quickly realized we are, in fact, kindred spirits. Don’t worry Diddy, I won’t let her out of my sight – poor thing will have me creeping in her shadows from now until the end of time. Thank you for sending her to me.

The high of Friday has sent me crashing so low, that I don’t know how I’ll ever recuperate. The fact that I have to parent the son I waited my entire fucking life for by participating in high school “Gold Outs” to generate awareness of the very asshole who brazenly killed him, is simply impossible to digest. You must agree – my existence is all types of messed up. I do have moments of happiness. But when they occur, I almost always lose my breath. Happiness that exists without you is never guilt free. It is certainly not the kind of happiness I had back when you were here. My new happiness comes with a very heavy price that never goes away. This happiness feels as heavy as the absence of you, which is never far from my mind, heart, body, or soul. This happiness is heavy.

The happiness is almost always accompanied by tears. Tears because all of this is too damn much for one girl. Tears over the thousands of kids who are currently fighting cancer. Tears that so many other parents, like me, are left with a dead child due to this crap shoot of a world. Tears that if you survive it’s only because you got ‘lucky’ in a game of Russian Roulette. But when you lose, you lose big time. There are no “do overs” or second chances. No matter how loudly you scream and cry, or call out your child’s name at the top of your god damn lungs because you think if you scream it loudly enough, he’ll come home. (Not home as in fucking heaven, but home as in back into your arms, where he belongs.) Home: as in where you belong with me and should’ve been with me until I was the one old and dying, not you, young and dying while I sat by and helplessly watched you take your last breaths.

I am so grateful for the Gold Out, and the unyielding support the “Little Community That Could”. But I am not as grateful as I am regretful that this is how your life turned out. It was never supposed to be like this, Paxton. I don’t know what went wrong. I just know it should have been me. Never you. No. Never you.

I am so sorry. I am so, so sorry.

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I miss you. I love you. I hope you caught my purple balloon.

Stay with me, sweet boy.

xoox,

Momma

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songs. signs. and a very silent storm.

Paxton Bowe,

Yesterday, I spent the better part of the morning driving through the city, soaking in the beauty of newfound surroundings, getting lost and then getting found. Normally, the times I was lost would have frustrated me and (inadvertently) lead me to swear at idiots who cut in front of me, and whip-off even bigger idiots who insisted on driving slow in the left lane. (Right after conquering cancer, I’m coming after slow-left-lane drivers.) However, you and your Busha keep me both comforted and amused. Calmed into in a blissful haze, I continued to explore. In the confines of four hours, on several different radio stations, I heard: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, “What a Wonderful World”, “Brown Eyed Girl”, and “Yellow”. Each time another song came on I called your Lala. With each call, she broke into her trademark, barely audible giggle. Through a tear-crackled voice she’d proudly proclaim, “He’s such a good boy, DD.” Yes. Yes, you are Diddy.

Knowing Lala was in the loop, you made sure to include her in the fun. Just when I thought you were done for the day, Lala called to tell me “Brown Eyed Girl” just came on the radio in her car all the way over in Milwaukee!

However, the most profound “musical moment” happened as I was finishing up my evening run. A song titled, “Storm”, by Lifehouse came onto my iPhone. I don’t know how it popped into my queue; I am certain I’ve never heard it before. In fact, I really don’t recall ever adding any songs by Lifehouse onto my iTunes. As the lyrics played, the world around me came to a standstill: my body paralyzed: my insides numb. The only thing that seemed to have any movement were the chills that rose to the surface of my skin, and the tears that streamed down my face.

You sent me a perfect compilation of songs, baby love.  Now that I know music is  one way you tell me you are with me, the melodies filled my broken heart with remnants of you. Like most things which involve having to parent you from so far away, receiving the songs made Momma equal parts happy and sad. Happy you are sending me signs, even more happy you are with me. Sad because you shouldn’t have to ‘send me signs’ to let me know you’re near. You should amble over to me, outstretch your little arms, and hop right up into my lap. Nonetheless, I enjoyed our day filled with secret messages. I think I smiled more during that four hour excursion than I have in the last four days combined. However, the song by Lifehouse has rested heavy inside of my heart. How it got on my iPod and came into rotation – on all days – seemed too serendipitous to be merely a coincidence. I believe it was to provide me with a vehicle to reciprocate your beautiful efforts, and send you a song.

If art were ever to imitate life, mine is reflected most perfectly by this song. Much like having you, and subsequently losing you – this song is one of the most painfully beautiful things I’ve ever heard.

This is your lullaby tonight. May the lyrics fill your heart with reassurance that there is nothing I would rather do than be exactly where you are. Nothing I rather have than you wrapped in my arms. Nothing I would rather hear than your squeaky voice. Nothing I would rather see than your adorable face. Close those baby blues and fade into a peaceful slumber – Momma is right here.

I miss you. I love you. Sleep tight.

Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox

Momma

Holding Me Down

Sweetest Diddy,

Tonight, I cannot bear my pain. Tonight, I want to give up.

Nights like tonight, I find myself playing, this song over and over again. It rocks me to my very core. The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that Gabriel Kelley was a bereaved mother in his past life. (There is no other explanation for him taking the words out of my mouth and creating one of the most beautiful songs ever written.) Despite the darkness expressed within the lyrics, the song itself brings Momma a sense of peace. As it plays, I don’t even have to close my eyes to envision you tucked in my arms on that warm, afternoon in late June. It was one of the most painstaking, yet endearing, days we endured together. I am not brave enough to recount the extent of your discomfort ; nor is it necessary. Alas, after 24 – 36 grueling hours of unrelenting agony, you and I found temporary refuge in your bedroom. I am not sure why, and fear you may have simply grown weary from sobbing and/or from the unwavering aches and pains, but you found comfort enough to let your cries temporarily subside. So there we stayed, rocking as one, for five beautiful, unabridged, unforgettable hours.

We covered a lot of topics that day. We shared secrets, dreams, fears and wishes. We listened to music on my iPhone, and sang other songs I made up on the cuff. I vividly recall the view outside your bedroom window of the summer sun disappearing behind the horizon. I remember pleading with the sun, through tear-filled eyes, to find a cure for you before coming back in morning. As the bittersweet afternoon morphed into evening, I mindlessly scrolled through my phone, while simultaneously rocking you. I came across a link your Uncle Stephen posted on his Facebook page. Accompanying the link, a brief statement explaining that while at Gabriel Kelley’s live show, (the song) “…brought me to my knees”. Your uncle is one of the most brilliant, introspective, kind, and gentle souls I know. When he speaks, there is bound to be meaning in his message.

This incidence afforded no exception. Without uttering a single word, Uncle Stephen (and Mr. Kelley’s genius talent), unknowingly relayed the most life-altering news. The anger, the fire, the smoke, the heartache – – the reason it was hard for me to breathe – – could no longer be denied.

I hope you remember that day with even the smallest bit of fondness. It would be selfish for me to ask for it back; as you were in far too much pain. Yet, I would give anything to hold you in my arms, feel your skin against mine, and listen to you breathe.

I wish you didn’t get sick. I don’t know why this all happened. I will never, ever forgive myself. I am sorry. I am sorry. I am so, so sorry.

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

Stay with me, sweet boy.

xoox

Momma