HEre's what Happened:
I found myself laying next to my son in a children's hospital bed on the oncology floor. I was still wearing the skinny jeans & black sweater I wore to work.
The following is a sample of my recent essays and stories, always in a concise 500-words-or-less. These writings detail the death of our son, Jonah, from a 2.5 year battle with pediatric cancer, and the birth of his brother, Harrison, a few weeks after. It's been a hell-of-a-ride, but I was destined to tell our big, beautiful love story.
THE UNKOWN SOLDIER “He has no next of kin, no friends. I don’t think anyone will be at his burial,” the funeral home director said on the phone to Father Storey about the upcoming celebration-of-life for David Saint-John, veteran. . After mass last Sunday, Aaron came home excited to tell me, “On Wednesday at 10 a.m., Father Storey has asked that the entire parish attend a veteran’s funeral. He doesn’t have any friends or family.” . Wednesday at 10 a.m. the three of us walked into a standing-room only sanctuary for David Saint-John’s funeral. I can’t speak for everyone else’s reasons for coming, for us, it was Jonah. . The children’s choir serenaded us, “this journey is our destiny,” with endearing, imperfect harmony as Father Storey encouraged everyone to squeeze in and make room, “so we can be one big family.” . Father Storey said we only know about David Saint-John what his neighbors shared. He was 80 years old and passed of cancer that progressed quicker than he expected. The neighbors said he loved to garden, take trips, and was a devout catholic. He was soft-spoken. He loved his country. . I began to wonder about David Saint-John, how does one end up with no one to bury them, but dutiful neighbors? What if he has bodies buried in the basement? Father Storey reminded us, our presence here is Christianity at its best. He looked into us from his pulpit vantage point and talked about our humanity, “we don’t know him, but don’t we all know him? We will all question, did my life make a difference?” . I thought about Jonah’s funeral. Aaron and I eulogized him in front of our friends, family, and perfect strangers. Our final parental duty- making sure everyone knew Jonah’s life mattered. . No one at his funeral knew David Saint-John, but he was one of us. We occupied the same planet. He gave life his best shot. He was our unknown soldier, but not a soldier of the unknown. . The mass ended, and we gathered by the hearse that held David’s cremains, and a folded U.S. flag. Members of the Navy saluted him. David Saint-John, one of our own, was given the goodbye we all hope we deserve.
SCARY STORY: . Sometimes Grief is a good friend. It makes me appreciate what I have. We’ll be on a walk with Harrison, and it’ll say to me, “look at that beautiful baby. We are so lucky to have him.” I nod in agreement. . Other times Grief isn’t my friend. It will come be with me at night when I’m alone, and it will sit at the end of the bed with its projector and begin a slide show. Narrating each picture with a pointer, Grief says, “Look at Jonah, see that smile that we love so much? And, that nose, it’s your nose. Remember how you loved his toes?” . I nod and say, “Oh yes, I miss it all so much.” . “It all sits in a box down the road, doesn’t it?,” Grief torments me. I burn in pain. . I fall asleep. I know Grief will be better in the morning. That’s just who it is. . I wake up to Grief in a good mood, the light filling the room. I notice the projector packed away in the corner. Grief looks at Harrison and says, “look at that beautiful baby. We are so lucky to have him.” I nod in agreement.
Today Jonah would have started kindergarten. Ouch. Last year he was a model for a client's back-to- school ad that I was the copywriter for. Under the hat he's losing his hair, and behind the chalk board is his trach. The photo never got used, but look what a treasure I have! The truth: I didn't want Jonah to have to go to school sick. Aaron and I were distressed thinking at far how behind he had become. He was still in pull ups, and couldn't write, and we hadn't gotten him to wear his hearing aids yet. Jonah's first day of kindergarten was never meant to be for us. I accept that. But, ouch. It stormed this morning for Kansas City's first day of school. Sometimes I think the rain shows up for me, like a friend on the Real Housewives saying, I know you're being strong, so I'll throw my drink on her for you.
JANE AUSTEN She wrote, "I am half agony, half hope." One day in March, Jonah and I were driving and he said he wanted to "go get stuff for the baby." I took him to Nordstrom even though we had a dangerously low amount of money in our account post-Texas. I wanted to show him where I got his baby clothes. We went to the Little Me rack and he picked out two newborn pieces. Both with blue and white, my favorite little boy colors. He then picked out a baby blanket with blue and white clouds. I guided him around the store in tears because I knew- I knew in my soul- that he wouldn't meet Harrison on earth. Jonah stopped by a display of bows and said, how about these too? I said, "these are so pretty but Harrison is a boy he won't he wear bows." I regret this, I would love Harrison to have a bow from Jonah. We then went over to the five-year-old section and Jonah picked out a shirt he wanted to get married in. A blue check button down like Aaron wears. That's the shirt we buried him in. Today, Harrison is nearly outgrowing the outfits Jonah got for him. He's healthy. He will get married. And, I am half agony, half hope.