jedi mind tricks don’t work on days like today.

Diddy,

Tonight, as I was brushing my teeth before bed, the doorbell rang. Standing at the front door was a strange man, who asked if he could borrow some eggs. Before I could answer, and tell him I don’t have butter, sugar, or flour – much less eggs, he grabbed me and threw me in the back of his rusty van that reeked of peed-soaked carpet. He bound my arms and legs and shoved a gag in my mouth. He drove and drove until we reached his rundown shack, smack in the middle of nowhere. As he threw me onto the cold ground, he told me I’d be his bitch forever and ever.

Ok. So that didn’t actually happen. But I conjure up scenarios like these to do my best  to put things into perspective. Because being kidnapped from my own home, shoved into the back of a smelly van, and forced to be a creeper’s sex slave would be just a little bit worse than the day I had today. My attempts to pull Jedi mind tricks on myself don’t work, because even though I logically realize that my day is better than someone’s who is held captive, or someone’s who lives in poverty-stricken, war-ravaged conditions, and is definitely better than someone’s who has the great misfortune of working at craft store for a living – I still hate every, single day here in this life without you.

Today was especially shitty because it was the first day of school. For most parents, this is an exciting time of year – marked by photos of their happy children, on the front steps of their happy homes. For most parents, the start of a new school year is a welcomed change. For bereaved parents, back to school bonanza does an exquisite job of displaying signs of torture everywhere. Over-sized backpacks, school supplies, yellow school buses, car drop off lines. Everywhere I turned, I was faced with painful reminders of more ‘firsts’  that you will never experience. It was one sucker punch after another.

It’s too much sometimes. By sometimes, I mean almost always. It’s especially challenging because, even if I tried, this annual occurrence is not only monumentally painful, it is one which I simply cannot avoid. I am a teacher, for the love of Jesus, Joseph and Mary. So not only am I smacked right in the face by the back-to-school torment; I have to actively participate in the god-forsaken event. Part of my job is to be the ‘welcome wagon’ to all the eager, awkward in the most adoring way, teenagers – with sun-kissed skin, donning their spanking new back-to-school outfits. But, behind every ‘welcome back’ smile there is a floodgate of tears threatening to tsunami my classroom at any given moment.

Everything I wished for is not. And the brutal truth of it burns. It burns new holes in me – it  burns in the old places, that I foolishly thought were repaired, too. It aches in places I didn’t know could ache. It screams in a pitch that reminds me of the wretched moment my life changed forever. This is one of the many realities of being a bereaved parent that no one talks about….milestones – that should have been – which rip open the scabs of buried grief and create ones of new grief – all at once, and all over again.

And, boy, do you fucking bleed.

I know you wouldn’t be starting school this year. In fact, I know your first day of Kindergarten wouldn’t be for exactly three more years. To be precise, it would be in September of 2017. But that doesn’t stop me from imagining what it would be like to be able to take just one picture of you starting school. A toothy grin, or a goofy face. A perfectly matched outfit…that I laid out for you the night before. Or, a perfectly mismatched one…that you insisted on choosing yourself. Blurry or in focus. Sunshine or rain. Our front steps, or the front steps of your new school. I’d take it. Just.one.picture. Because just one picture would have given us five more years together. Five more years to kiss your sweet head. Five more years to hear your voice. Five more years to tuck you in at night. Five more years to memorize every nook and cranny, and idiosyncrasy that make you perfectly and uniquely you. Five more years to watch you run wild and free.

If only I could walk hand and hand with you to your classroom, or as far as you would let me before you wrangled your grip free, and bravely reassured me, “I’m okay, Momma.” If only I could be annoyed by the lengthy back-to-school shopping list. If only I could have held back the tears of wondering how you got to be my ‘big Kindergardener’, as you excitedly rushed into the day ready to partake in the rite of passage children across the land look forward to experiencing. If only I could post your (adorable) picture on my Facebook wall. If only I could race home to greet you, with an excited smile and an enormous hug, at the end of your very first day of school. I would give my whole life to experience just one more minute. Just one minute longer is always and forever the cry of a bereaved Momma.

Every ‘first day of school’ makes me sick. And it makes me sob. I know most people have no idea these thoughts and feelings flood my soul. You never having a first day of school is a distant thought in their minds. It is far too ‘long gone’ to stay in the present. Especially in the frenzy of their beloved children’s back-to-school hoopla. For the rest of the moms, time moves at warp speed. But for a bereaved mom, time stands still.

So here I stand, the world around me paused at a screeching halt, with one foot in the life we once had, and one foot in the life I now have. With a broken heart and a tortured soul…wondering, imagining, longing for all what could have and should have been. Here I stand, with wobbly knees and tired, tired legs – straddling time and space.

And although my life is not as bad as it could be, it is still so very hard to live this life without you.

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I would’ve always packed you the very best lunches.

Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox,

Momma

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a fragmented sea of love. because you’re missing from everything.

Hi Diddy,

I did my best to keep myself as busy as possible today. With no responsibility, no schedule, nowhere to be, and no one to be any where in particular with – this proves more challenging than I can sometimes manage.  After running all of the errands I could possibly think of, I starting heading towards home. As I approached my house, which loosely resembles a place I once knew as home, I kept driving. I drove, and drove nowhere in particular. Somehow I reached the lakefront and instinctually pulled over.

I looked out into Lake Michigan as far as I could see. My eyes took in the sights of the water meeting the horizon and everything in between: a flock of birds flying in v-shaped pattern, sail boats gliding atop the crystal blue waters, a man walking his dog, an old couple walking hand in hand, and a woman pushing a toddler in a stroller. Yet all I really saw was a world continuing to turn on its axis and creatures, big and small, continuing to live. The audacity of it all – despite the fact that my baby got cancer and died – caused me to scream at the top of my lungs. The echoes of my primal scream will always leave me more scared of myself than a normal person could ever understand. It is a sound that remains foreign even to the very body which produces it. I haven’t screamed like that in awhile now. I guess I needed to release some of the pain which was compiling inside of me before I burst into a million pieces. I may not scream as often as I should, but I still cry everyday. Sometimes in the shower when I have to face another day without you, sometimes when I’m trying to fall asleep and can’t kiss you good night – and don’t even know where you are, sometimes in my car when I am suffocated by the booming silence of your absence. Other times, in the middle of doing absolutely nothing, the tears start pushing on the back of my eyes – forcing me to cut and run somewhere that I can let them fall without having to answer anyone when they inquire, “What is wrong?” Everything is wrong.

After my ‘primal shit show’ for one, I did what I usually do when I don’t know what else to do. I go find your cousins.  One of them always finds a way to mute my sadness for at least a little while. When I walked in their house, the three little people who have saved my life a million times over greeted me with overwhelming excitement and gestures of love I know will only last a few more precious years. The time will come (far before I’m okay with it) when their crazy aunt who comes and steals kisses from them in exchange for candy and gum will be replaced by best friends, girlfriends/boyfriends, teenage priorities – and I’ll have to suffice with a mere glance in my direction, and a barely audible, “Hey DD.” For now, I will suck up their good lovin’ with every cell in my tired body.  

As if it were a perfectly normal query, Sennet said, “DD what’s your favorite song in the whole world?”  Taken off guard by his question, and enamored by the fleeing innocence he intermittently projects, I stammered, “Uhhh. Geez. I’d have to think about it, Sennet.” Alina chimed in, “Try?…just because it burns doesn’t mean you’re gonna die…you gotta get up and try, try try.” Just like that a lump started to rise in my throat. I constantly worry about the emotional trauma these little people have endured because of cancer, because of me, because of the people I let them fall in love with only to have them be ripped from their lives.  They should not know about the pain that has become commonplace in their once care-free hearts. No child should. Most certainly not these babes.  My 7 year-old niece shouldn’t know that Try could very well be her aunt’s life theme song.  Before I could compose a response, Sennet countered, “No. Yellow.”  And the three of them began to sing, “…look at the stars, look how they shine for you…and it was all yellow too.” It was the most heartbreakingly beautiful sound I have heard in a very long time. Luckily, I was safely tucked away in the bathroom – where my tears fell silently into the sink. As their serenade faded your best buddy, Finn, confidently proclaimed, “Well yeah, Yellow is DD’s favorite song. It’s about Paxton. And Paxton is her favorite per-shun.”  The three of them quickly concurred. And so it was settled.

It took all my strength to push the tears and the vomit back down into their hiding places, and come out of the bathroom before it was ‘too long to be there’. I wanted to collapse on the ground in between the sea of love created by these three little humans and tell them to fall asleep with me until we woke up in a different lifetime. A lifetime where you are among us, and there are four little humans laying among me. But, I knew I couldn’t do that.  It would break your cousins already vulnerable hearts. So I put on my fake smile and crouched down to be eye level with them and asked about Mindcraft and Plants and Zombies, sleepovers and Safety Town. All the while, I sustained a parallel conversation in my mind with you. The one where I apologize that you are not here too, that I carry the guilt with me every day for not protecting you, that I worry every second of the day if you are happy, safe, and warm enough, and that I hope against all hope that someday, we will be together again.  Meanwhile, I held the smile on my face for the picture I know will be taken by those three little minds. I will forever wonder how in the world I can look happy, if only in a picture inside the mind of a child, when I am still so broken, sad, and shattered.  

It truly is amazing…the indomitable nature of a human soul.

I miss you. I love you. I hope you are running wild and free.

 

Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox

Momma

i don’t worry about not being normal. i only worry about you. (and maybe zombies. only sometimes.)

Lil Diddy Bop,

When I woke up this morning, it took me a few blinks to remember I was in Florida. I came here with two of my loveliest lovelies on a hunt for sunshine. It is the second time I’ve been to Florida and the upteenth time I’ve set out on a big o’ jet airliner and fled for unfamiliar land since you’ve been gone. No matter where I roam, the pain of missing you follows.

No matter how far, how often, or how abruptly I flee from home it is impossible to ‘run from grief’. To salt the wound, there also isn’t anything that feels right about being able to jump on a plane at any given time, and fly off to any given destination. I am supposed to be at home, with my two year old son – pinching his cheeks, and my pennies to save up for his first trip to Disney World. Instead, I’m laying in a strange bed, alone, in Boca Raton. Putting me about 185 miles from Disney, and 180 degrees from the life I should be living.

It’s impossible not to think about how wonderfully different life would be if cancer didn’t steal you. Glimmers of that life play through my psyche regularly – whether I stay at work later than normal, run multiple errands (in order to avoid going to an empty home), once I arrive at my barren, quiet, perfectly tidy home, on the weekends…and every minute in between. When I embark on an excursion outside of my day-to-day routine, I am stuffed with extra heaps of guilt, sadness, rage – and a hefty side-serving of confusion. How did this all happen?

My super-kind-extra-special lovelies are keenly aware of the angst such situations cause my heart. They couldn’t have been more supportive in their reassurances that everything would be alright. Even though I’ve heard that before and everything turned out the exact opposite of alright – I couldn’t help but trust them implicitly.  This is just one of the many reasons I love them.

Yesterday, as I was drying my hair, the all-too-familiar feeling of my heart lurching up into my throat started. Anxiety. It is as normal now as grief. And as breathing. I was certain something had happened to your “specials” in transit to Nana’s. I should’ve left them at home: in the fire-proof safe, locked in the fire-proof cubby, in the depths of the now fire-proof, bullet-proof, zombie-proof basement. But the fear of zombies conquering Milwaukee in my absence trumped my fear of the risk of having Nana take your ‘specials’ to her house for safe-keeping. Dammit. I chose wrong again. The other shoe had dropped. It all made sense. It also explained why no one was calling me. They didn’t want to ‘interrupt my vacation’ with more bad news.

My mouth filled with pre-puke saliva as I frantically lunged towards my phone. With a shaky hand, I pressed the button to call Nana. She didn’t answer. I shook out a text. No reply. I called Lala. No answer again. I sent her a text too. Again, nothing. I called Nana back. Oh my GOD… the fire – the car accident – the ER -the next death – the next memorial – the next obituary to write…the zombies.  And, just like that – the loosely stacked ruins of my AC world, collapsed like a house of cards caught in the vortex of a tornado.

I know there are people who find my thoughts neurotic, paranoid, or psychotic. Rest assured, those people don’t know what I know. I know all too well that there are absolutely no guarantees about anything in this life. I know that babies die for no explainable reason, from unthinkable accidents, from horrific acts, and from the biggest asshole murdered of all time: cancer. I know that evil exists. I know that some people are born without a soul. I know about things I never knew about knowing.

I live in a perpetual state of waiting for the other shoe to drop. I am constantly on edge, on guard, on call for something else to happen…again. Any time, anywhere. I am always expecting to trip over another dividing line. Another before and after.

Then, my phone rang. Nana. My mouth ran dry. Before she completed the first sentence: I exhaled. Everything was fine. I can always tell by her voice what she’s feeling even without her saying the precise words. Your special things were safe. Nothing was lost, tattered, ruined, burned or stolen. There was no accident, nor was there a trip to the ER. No one died. There was no memorial to plan. My house did not burn to the ground. As an added bonus: the zombies did not attack – yet.

I realize that my thoughts, fears, worries and obsessions are not remotely similar to those of mothers who are lucky enough to not have a dead child. I wonder if anyone realizes they shouldn’t be? Trust me, I’d trade my non-normal existence for their normal existence any day of the week. But my normal disappeared on May 8th, 2012…and was obliterated on July 2, 2012. All traces were expunged from my existence in February 2013. Anyone who feels the need to cast judgement, make assumptions, or spew conjecture about the thoughts which run through my mind on a perpetual loop should do the universe a giant favor – and fuck the fuck off.

I feel better knowing your “specials” are safe. I feel better because I’m writing to you. I feel better because I just said fuck a bunch of times too. Thank you for sending these lovely ladies into my universe…and for holding their hearts hostage. Half the time I am convinced the only reason they put up with me is because they are so deeply in love with you.

I wish you were here. Or, thatI I was there. I wish we were together – anywhere.

The sunshine always makes me think of you.

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Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox,

Momma

P.S. Today is your Uncle Stephen’s birthday. Sneak a butterfly kiss onto his cheek at the point in the day when you feel he needs it most.

 

 

 

hiraeth. you are my forever home.

Diddy,

I spent the afternoon doing one of my favorite things, with one of my favorite people. I had a “special day” (aka “Day of All Yes-es!”) with your super hero side-kick cousin, Finn Foo. Whenever Finn and I set into the world together, I feel as though I could conquer the universe. I also feel more vulnerable than when I am in the presence of any other person; as million an one vibrations of how life should’ve been echo through my bones. I remain convinced he carries pieces of your heart within his soul, and pieces of your soul inside his heart.

After an action packed day, Finny climbed into “his side” of bed and began fade into a slumber. Moments before his almond colored eyes closed for the night he said, “D.D., When can I meet your other kids?” Equal parts confused and rattled by his query, I quickly assured him I didn’t have any other children. Sleepily, he persisted, “…yes you do; you tell stories about them all the time. I want your other kids to be my cousins just like Paxton.”  Oh sweet, innocent, adorable Finn.

Silenced by the need to stifle my sobs, I was unable to explain that when I refer to, “…one of my kids” – I actually mean, “…one of my students”. For once, my lack of composure likely worked in my favor.  A conversation of that nature would’ve only further confused the little guy. My arm was the only part of my body that wasn’t paralyzed by the reminder of Finny’s ever-complex existence of trying to navigate life without you – his wing-man. So I used it to stroke his hair across the top of his furrowed brow. I managed to eek out the only words which needed be said: “Paxton is my only child.”

As always, the voice inside my head ensued on one of its familiar rants. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that it’s talking to the ‘other people’ inside my head. So it’s fine. “Paxton is my only child. He is my only, miracle child. He is my only, miracle child who I waited for my entire life. He is my only, miracle child, who I waited for my entire life – and he is dead.”

My only child died. He was diagnosed with cancer when he was just 12 weeks and three days old. In 146 days, he raised an entire village. In less than one second, he stole my heart. Without uttering a single word, he rewrote the definitions of bravery, courage, grace and peace. My son took his last breath while safely tucked in his Daddy’s arms…with his cheek pressed against my own. I felt the warmth of his last breath brush across my lips. It is the only good-bye kiss I will ever get. And, it will suffocate me for as long as I am breathing. My only child is dead. 

No matter how many times I say it, even if it’s not out loud and only to the ‘other people’ in my mixed up head, I cannot wrap my mind around the incomprehensible truth. You are dead. I am not dead; yet I am not alive. I am fighting to live; yet begging to die; breathing yet suffocating; attempting to exhale, yet holding my breath; smiling on the outside, yet crying on the inside. My existence is every parents’ worst nightmare; only it is not a dream-state nightmare. It is a real fucking nightmare. It is my life.

Other parents complain about their kids spilling kool-aide on their carpet, their homes being a mess, their laundry piling out of control. Whenever I hear such banter, I swallow my grief whole while I silently beg to choke to death on my wishes to have problems just.like.theirs. Mud-stained, sticky-carpets; spilled milk, smashed peas and crushed gold fish crackers randomly strewn across my kitchen floor. I ache for the signs of the living, breathing, playing, alive in my home version of you. I long for the iterations of all that could have and should have been.

Instead, I have an empty chair at every meal, ‘loads’ of laundry that make me twinge with guilt and shutter with rage that it’s all I have, again this week, to wash. The contents which encompass your entire life sit neatly stacked in plastic bins – which have been organized with acute precision, in my attic. I can’t bring myself to verify as much – but, I know in my soul they now smell more of ‘stillness’ than of you.

It is true, I refer to my students as my ‘kids’. It is also true that I love some of them in ways the majority of the planet could never understand. In many aspects, I consider parts of them to be mine. I also love your crazy daisy, adorably unique, and perfect in every way cousins well beyond my own comprehension. I know for a fact parts of them are mine.  From the outside looking in, my life appears to be chocked full of love, from a vast continuum of children young and old. Rest assured, it is always empty. I’m left with an equation that never equates.  No matter how many times I recompute, the only one that matters – the only one who is really mine, is missing. A million more children, and a trillion more blonde haired, blue eyed boys, could never replace or erase the pain of missing you.

There is an eternal hole in my heart and in my life. It is the precise size and shape of you and only you.  No one and nothing will ever be able to fill this hole. Despite the incomprehensible complexity of being a bereaved mother, all that truly matters is quite simple. You are my son. You are my heart. You are my soul. You are my dream come true. You are my home. 

Diddy, you are as real to me now as you were when you were here in my arms.

Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

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xoox,

Momma

next time a stranger comes a callin’…hang up.

Diddy,

As one of the worst ‘anniversary’ dates closes in on me – the air becomes increasingly heavier by the day. The closer Wednesday gets, the less oxygen Momma seems to be able to find. I was prepared for this week to be challenging. However, I was not prepared for the challenge to exponentially implode. The bomb that was dropped on me this weekend has officially made the first week of May the worst week of all time – ever. Times infinity. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by this unexpected blow; history sure has a funny way of repeating itself. Yet I am surprised…but not as much as I am horrified.

I have always lived by the adage that “knowledge is power”. However, I am not sure I agree with that any longer. Maybe there is such a thing as too much knowledge. Maybe ignorantly floating through life, even one riddled with deceit, would prove to be the ‘wiser’ existence after all.

Unfortunately, you only find your limit of how much ‘knowledge’ you can handle after you’ve already learned far too much. You find it in the call that should have been left unreturned, or the meeting that should have been left unattended. You find it in a story that twists your tummy into tiny, nauseating knots – and leaves you with a dry heave you honestly may never shake. You hear this story in its entirety. A story that can’t possibly be real: from the very beginning, throughout the twisted middle, right down to the bitter end. Not even two hundred and twelve Sazeracs could have dulled the blow. You walk away absolutely empty. All you can feel are the shards of a heart that used to beat in your chest. The contents of this story, the “knowledge”, causes those shards to methodically slice away at your insides. You cross into an entirely new plane of suffering – which seems impossible given you’ve already been treading water in a life seemingly determined to drown you in heartache.

Paxton, you were taken from me without my permission. Our little family began to crumble without my permission. The shards of what used to be my heart rake through my soul without my permission.

But learning the intricate details of the most unconscionable story of all time was my decision. I returned that call. I agreed to that meeting. I listened to that story. I choked back the lump in my throat as more and more unimaginable information was divulged. Now, here I sit – with an abundance of “knowledge” I wish I could unlearn. I replay the words in my head over and again. I am unable to bear this load. So maybe, just maybe, knowledge isn’t all so powerful after all. I really don’t know anymore.

Here is what I do know: Losing you shattered my heart into slivers of a whole. Gaining knowledge of a premeditated and soulless betrayal used those slivers to cut the rest of me into pieces. I also know that I will never be okay again. It is simply no longer possible.

Puke my heart out.

I miss you desperately. I want you back. I am so sorry you got sick.

Please stay with me, Sweet Boy. (I need you now more than ever.)

xoox,

Momma

two precious, miracle, blue-eyed boys…together forever.

Sweet Boy,

Tonight I am short on words, but not on tears.

When Bradan’s Daddy contacted me with the news of his baby boy’s passing, I was instantaneously transported back to July. I remember those days with such pristine precision, it seems as if it were yesterday: the suffocating grief, the overwhelming fear, and the pure and unrelenting love…which was all around. At the same time, given how drastically life has changed since you left, July feels like it must have been a million years ago.

Upon Bradan’s arrival, I see you reaching out for his hand. I imagine you holding it tightly and assuring him that he need not be afraid. I believe this because even in the ‘highest layer’, I know you are the bravest litte warrior – with the kindest heart, and most inviting smile.

Both of you precious, miracle, baby boys – with eyes as blue as the sky – belong here with your Mommas and Daddies. I have no doubt every angel would agree that children are meant to outlive their parents. Period. Because we cannot be together, I need you to remember this part of our forever-and-ever-pact: hold onto your angel (the one with the biggest wings) until Momma comes for you. Hold onto Bradan and to the other boys and girls who cross your path too. Most of all, please hold onto my love. And always, always know that you are not alone.

Close your beautiful blue eyes and sleep peacefully tonight, my love; Momma is right here.

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

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

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