41 birthday wishes. everyone of them is for you.

Paxton,

Yesterday was my birthday. Among the host of other holidays, my birthday lost its luster the moment you were robbed from ever having one. The fact that I’ve now had 41 birthdays strung together just doesn’t seem right. Probably because it’s not. Nothing about having your baby die in your arms and then be left to continue on in this world without him is right. No need for a “48 Hour Mystery” segment to solve the rub on this one, Diddy.

I spent my non-happy birthday at your favorite girl cousin’s birthday party. Alina will turn eight next week. I’m relieved she’ll have eight birthdays. She has always made my heart drum a little lighter. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t celebrate her turning eight without simultaneously feeling overwhelmingly sad that you will never have a birthday cake with eight candles to blow out. As always, not a day – particularly a ‘special’ day goes by where I’m not consumed with guilt over the many, many things you will never experience. Though most people are likely unaware – regardless of where I am, and what I am doing – I’m only partially ‘present’. I always have one foot in a parallel universe looking for you, reaching for you – always wondering how very different life would be if I could find you and bring you back to this world with me.

Alina may be your only girlie-girl cousin. However, she is anything but girlie. Oh, that spicy monkey. She truly is one of a kind. Alina ‘strongly dislikes’ anything pink, ruffley, or girlie in anyway. Dolls are not allowed in her room – which is donned in blue from top to bottom. When I say blue, think Cookie Monster, highway sign, Facebook blue. Literally: her walls, her bed-spread, her (self-made) decor…all blue. Your Lala says she always makes sure not to turn in a circle too fast in Alina’s room – for fear she’ll throw herself into a seizure. Before Alina went Back to School shopping this year, she announced that, “…she’s not wearing girl clothes anymore.” So, NIKE sweats and running shorts it’s been. Some of her favorite gifts included: a NERF bow and arrow, Legos, blue running shoes, camouflage leggings, and a skate board. A skate board for which she will build taller and steeper ramps; on which she bust higher and radder ollies. Alina the bold and beautiful. Have I mentioned she is one of a kind?

One of the most difficult parts about my birthday (and the impending holidays which always, cruelly, ensue) is when people ask what I want for my birthday/Christmas. I know these queries are coming from a place of graciousness. None the less, every.single.time. I want to reach out and slap the shit out of the person asking me such an insenstive question as I scream, “What do I want? What the fuck do you think I want? I want my son back in my arms: healthy, happy…and ALIVE. What’s that you say? You can’t find him at Mayfair, TJ Maxx, nor J. Crew? Hmmm. Well, then, it’s official. I don’t want anything…except to die before sunrise.” But even on my spiciest of days, I wouldn’t dare lash out on someone in such a brutally honest way.

Much like my life, my “Wish List” is vastly different than I ever saw it panning out in my head. Bottom line: given all the money in the world, not a single item can be bought.

I don’t want to hear overused cliches, or a string of empty words flung around my neck like a too-tight, itchy turtleneck. No. “…everything doesn’t happen for a reason”, because there is no reason good enough in this twisted-world to justify the pain you endured, nor the ever-present pain in my soul from losing you.

I certainly don’t want the coldness and emptiness that accompanies the abandonment of a cast of characters who I was naive enough to believe when they promised again and again they’d never leave my side.

I want strong, sacred, loving arms to hold onto me while I sob uncontrollably in the middle of the night…soaked to the bone with sweat, due to another gruesome flashback.

I want eyes that see this pain is not the kind of pain from which I will ever recover. Even if given a year. A decade. Or a lifetime. I will never, ever be whole again.

I want hands that remember to trace the letters of your name on my back, and a voice that speaks your name, loudly, boldly, proudly, and often – without needing to be reminded.

I want feet to walk with me – slowly, gently, without pushing or rushing, graciously following my pace – until I can see color, if even in muted shades – once again.

I want ears that can listen to the sound of my heart breaking – over and over again.

There you have it: your Momma’s list of ever-elusive wishes.  For today, I’ll settle for the sound of AC’s giggle as she excitedly opens her not-so-girlie-girl gifts; the sight of sunlight reflecting off the boys’ heads: as they run wild and free through their back yard, and the steady strumming of ‘hope’ innocently moving about inside me.

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I will look for you in my dreams.

Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox,

Momma

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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

19 months. today wasn’t gonna be easy…then cancer came back.

Diddy,

Today began much like everyday. I got out of bed, walked down to your room, and began our morning ritual. I whispered the many hopes and dreams I have for you: some old, some new. Each at the forefront of my mind as I face the dawn of yet another day without you. I told you how much I loved and missed you, and explained yet again how I wished a million times over that we could trade places. I shared many other secrets in the spaces in between. All the while searching and scanning the world on the other side of your bedroom window – – just in case today would be the day you’re outside waiting for me to come and rescue you. Then I ambled into the shower, got myself presentable, and set out into the ‘real’ world. (Also known as my ‘fake’ world.) Though I don’t recall the commute, I arrived at BCHS: parked in the spot reserved for me 13-ish years ago, entered the set of doors I’ve pulled on a million times over, navigated the hallways in which I’ve surely worn a pathway, entered my classroom, switched on the lights, landed safely at my desk…and was met by your beautiful face smiling right at me. Then, I exhaled.

I have become very adept at eluding eye contact with the 1300 students which fill the hallways at any given time throughout the school day. I avoid looking too deeply into the eyes of babes who, despite their individual stories and struggles, do not know anything about the dark, grim, gruesome world in which I live. Part of my avoidance comes from sparing myself from the pang which stings my soul when the realization strikes that you will never be in 9th, 10th, 11th or 12th grade, worried about a test, excited about a girl, donned to the nines for prom, decorated as a stud player on the basketball team…the list goes on. The other half, is sparing the kids who should they look too closely into my eyes, will surely end up getting sick and dying. But mostly my avoidance stems from the fact that I know I live in a parallel universe. I realize that no one in that building could ever come close to understanding the aforementioned – let alone a teenage kid. None of those teenagers: with the exception of two, little, lovely Lancers.

I met the older of the lovelies three years ago when she was a freshman. She is a spicy monkey. Spicy enough to be one of my students. Spicy enough to run hurdles to boot. It was during track season that I got to know her best. At the time, I was going through IVF treatments to conceive you. She and her family were rallying around her little brother who was in the final weeks of his victorious battle with brain cancer: medulloblastoma. He endured and triumphed over 56 rounds of chemo and 28 rounds of radiation. I remember the day she brought celebratory bracelets into a team meeting. The night before, her brother “rang the bell” at CHW. (At the time, I had no idea how intimate I’d become with the notion of one day watching you reach up to tug the string on that same bell.) I recall silently sobbing in the coaches’ office as I watched the video she made of her little warrior brother ringing the bell. My tears were those of sheer joy…the sobs I blamed on the assortment of drugs surging throughout my body. In retrospect, I wonder if the world was silently trying to prepare me for matters of which I wouldn’t have understood, nor heeded, had they been emblazoned in neon, flashing lights.

Today one of my closest BCHS friends, who apparently pulled the short straw, sat me down and delivered a brutal message. The little warrior boy, who rang a bell over three years ago, just received the crushing news that his cancer is back. His cancer is back in the same spot as the original tumor…at the base of his brain. His cancer is fucking back. How is this even possible?

One of my new-world survival techniques is compartmentalization. In fact, it is the single most effective tool in my arsenal. I simply cannot allow my real world to overlap with my fake world. That being said, I don’t do “cancer-talk”, “Paxton-talk”, “personal-life talk” while I’m anywhere other than at home. On top of the collision of my two worlds, the nature of this news shoved me right down my ‘isolate to survive’ rabbit hole. The net result left me paralyzed. As tears began to push against the backs of my eyes, and vomit started to creep up my throat, I merely uttered, “This is not good. This really is not good.” Bless her heart and soul, my sweet friend gently replied, “I’m sorry, Danna. I am so sorry.” And the exchange of those two sentences continued on a loop, until I walked away…and “deep six-ed” into my rabbit hole.

Many hours later, and in the safety of my own space, I called my friend. I asked her to make sure this family knew that I will do anything I can to help them – anything at all. I am fully and wholly committed to their every last need. No matter what it is, when they need it…I am here. The offer stands infinitely. She promised she would make sure they knew. And she did.

I couldn’t allow my commitment to this little warrior boy to be my ‘something different’ on the 12th of this month. I forced myself to do something else. It ended up being horse-shit because my heart, which is smashed into 12 billion pieces, couldn’t muster up anything meaningful. Plus it was hella late in the night. For that, I apologize. For committing every last resource I personally have and that your Foundation has generated to this brave and beautiful boy, I do not.

I still have a hard time wrapping my head around my reality, which I know is also the reality for so many other parents across the land who have lost a child. It’s a reality you never get to escape from or take a break from. It’s a reality that is tremendous and cumbersome to carry around – and the load never gets any lighter. But, I don’t ever want my reality to be another parent’s reality. One blonde haired, blue-eyed boy is one too many. How many more need to be spared? What do I need to do to stop cancer from stealing another child?

Please help this little warrior boy. Please help Dr. Jogal, Dr. Firat, Nurse Renee and the other all-too familiar cast of characters at CHW who compose his Dream Team find a way for him to (once again) defy the gruesome odds. Please help him find his inner-warrior strength and reign triumphant over medulloblastoma, a PNET sarcoma, which has yet again declared war inside his sweet, innocent body.

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I miss you each and every day, I truly do. But today I’d especially have done anything to have been able to rush home, scoop you into my arms, and plant a kiss atop of your innocent, beautiful head…as I thanked the angels everywhere for letting you be born healthy and happy.

I am so very sorry you got sick. I will never, ever stop asking why. I will never, ever stop fighting either.

Stay with me, sweet boy. Stay with the little warrior boy too.

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

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.

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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

11 months…and my bad dreams are better than my brutal reality.

Paxton,

It’s hard to believe it was just eleven months ago today that you made my heart, my soul, my world whole. It’s all hard to believe.

I had a dream last night. It was a perfect reenactment of the day you were born.  I was in room #4, with Daddy, Lala, Nana, Grammie…and, even nurse Jenny. Except, this time, when you came out the doctors and nurses wrapped you up in those little, white, baby blankets and carried you away.  They didn’t let me hold you. They didn’t even let me see you.  I tried to get out of the hospital bed to run after you, tried to scream your name, scream for help. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t speak.  Suddenly, everyone else was gone too.  I could hear their voices; but I was alone.  Not surprisingly, the only person I wanted to find…needed to get to, was you.  In a panic, I couldn’t get myself unhooked from the hospital bed.  (I know those beds like the back of my hand. I spent so much time strapped into one when we were there together in late November, early December – hooked up to monitors, belts, and alarms. All eyes were on you, Paxton; everyone was watching and tracking you…no one more closely than me.)  The whole bad dream scene startled me awake. For a brief moment, I was actually relieved to realize it was a dream. The next moment, however, I realized you were still gone.  Hot tears began to stream down my cheeks. I wanted to run down to your room, just to be sure. But, the pain in my heart reassured me I wasn’t dreaming anymore.  Somehow, my real life is far more disturbing than my bad dreams now.  In attempts to anchor myself, I did the only thing that helps me survive those long, dark, frightening nights: I rolled over and held onto Daddy as tight as I could.  Sometimes, when I concentrate on his breathing, I am able to cry myself back to sleep.  Thankfully, last night was one of those times.

I spent most of the day trying to erase the dream from my head. I didn’t tell Daddy about it.  It’s obvious the dream is a parallel with how I amble through each day. Therefore, I didn’t find the need to psychoanalyze it.  You were here. You were real. You were mine. Without permission, right under my watch, cancer stole you out of my arms. I couldn’t run after you; I couldn’t scream for help; and, despite the army of love surrounding me, I am alone in this pain…which is holding me hostage. Most of all, I ache to be with you.

I wish I could have seen your face, sweet boy.  I won’t stop looking.  I know you will come visit when you can.  And, I will be here. I will always, always be here.  Say the word, and I will come running. Not a dream, not 100 straps and alarms, not an army, not even asshole cancer will stop me this time.

I miss kissing you on the very inside of your neck.  I miss everything else too.

Stay with me, sweet boy.

xoox,

Momma

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