I have been kind of whine-y and wallow-y lately for many reasons, some of them legitimate. I struggle sometimes with what to write because I don’t want to complain or appear ungrateful. I have a great life. But, I have also experienced extreme trauma and the recovery from that continues. The PTSD of our son’s cancer diagnosis strikes at the oddest times and without warning. Recently, we had to rent a car to get to NJ for my niece’s first birthday. Our car, it turned out, needed a new wheel bearing. Thanks Michigan winters and subsequent potholes. Then, we had an inch of water in our basement from a busted part in our sump pump. These things are minor, of course. But annoying nonetheless. And, they make me tired. Not sleepy. Like newborn baby, bone-crushing tired.
We have already endured the hardest thing. Haven’t we earned a pass for the rest to be smooth sailing?
Yesterday, I had to take L to a dermatologist for a suspicious mole. It is near the site of his primary tumor and was radiated, so his oncology team and pediatrician wanted it looked at by an expert. I left work early, pulled L out of school early, and then arrived to the appointment early. And then proceeded to wait 90 minutes in the waiting room. Blerg. Blerg. Blerg. Now, this is nowhere near what we endured while L was in treatment, but it is still scary. What if the mole was something? What if they wanted to biopsy it? Lucky for us, our five minute conversation with the doctor revealed that the mole is just a mole. He was nice actually. He didn’t apologize for being an hour late to our appointment, but he was knowledgeable and thorough.
As we drove home from the appointment, I got more and more angry. We waited so long in that stupid waiting room. L and I missed C’s T-ball game because we got home so late. Instead of being relieved that we got good news, I was annoyed and amped up. Turns out, Sean was hit hard, too. He told me later that he kept checking his phone looking for updates from me. Waiting really is the hardest part.
L and I decided to take a walk. As we headed down our block, L slipped his bony little hand into mine and started swinging. No prompting or begging from me. Just a moment of pure childhood innocence. As we walked around our block, he kept commenting on all the trees in bloom and how good they smelled. Lilacs, flowering crabapples, dogwoods, honeysuckle. The sweet, sweet smells of spring (Finally, spring!) in Michigan. “Spring and summer are my favorite seasons, Mom.”
Earlier that day, I had seen a tweet from the Children’s Cancer Research Fund (@childrenscancer) in MN about Zach Sobiech, asking people to share their stories and memories of Zach and how he has touched our lives. Today, May 20, marks the one year anniversary of Zach’s death from osteosarcoma. Although I never met Zach in person, I feel as if I know him. My sister-in-law Annie was his youth minister in Stillwater, MN. She provided updates to us about Zach and his treatment and we prayed for him and his family from the moment he was diagnosed in 2009 until his death. I read his mom, Laura’s Caringbridge posts and like all of us, hoped for clear scans and no recurrence.
I am not sure if I consciously thought about Zach and Laura while I was taking a walk with my own son. But, I think that subconsciously I was thinking about them. The Holy Spirit tapped me on my shoulder, or more accurately hit me over the head with a hammer, and told me to pay attention to that moment with L. There will come a day when he won’t hold my hand, or willingly take a walk with me. I know this. And through grace, I was reminded of that and paid attention to the moment that was right in front of my eyes. In his Soul Pancake video, My Last Days, Zach talks about life being a bunch of beautiful moments strung together. He is very wise.
The truth is, our family did a very, very hard thing. But, we didn’t do the hardest thing. We didn’t bury our son. He is here with us. He survived. And because of that, I must choose. I must choose to enjoy these fleeting precious moments that I have with both of my children. I must choose to make something good come from something so awful. I owe it to L. I owe it to Sean. I owe it to C. I owe it to Zach. I owe it to Laura. I owe it to my 46 Momma sisters who have also lost their children. I owe it to myself.
“I want to be known as the kid who went down fighting and didn’t really lose.”- Zach
Zach, you made one hell of a fight and you didn’t lose. Your life is a shining example to all of us here who continue to live in faith, and work hard to raise desperately needed money and awareness for all kids with cancer. Thank you, Zach.