Grief is a constant companion. It is always there. I can be distracted from it. I can ignore it. I can even hide from it, but I can’t get rid of it, nor do I want to. Grief reminds me that my son exists.
When Eli’s biopsy four years ago today came back positive for cancer, I began to grieve for what could have been, had life not handed my son this difficult challenge. Like with any unexpected, life altering fork in the road, there was a period of adjustment and attempt at finding solid footing on a suddenly unstable terrain.
Eli took it like the champion he is and the only concern he expressed was that he not pass cancer on to his future children. Well, no worries there.
As time marched on, the seasons seemed to mirror our journey. We were well into autumn when we finally connected the dots and got a diagnosis. Winter brought an intensification of treatment. Spring saw no evidence of disease, while summer brought the end of intense chemo and eased us into maintenance as we came full circle to autumn, again. Treatment continued through winter and ended with spring.
Unfortunately, spring did not bring the summer we wanted. The summer we got was a return of cancer and the prognosis we dreaded. I had learned during the first months of treatment to live with the fear of death. I had learned not to waste time or energy worrying about an unknown future, when it was best focused on things I could control. The death sentence that summer brought an increased focus on making better use of time and living the life we had. It felt like one long winter, with glimpses of the sun, from time to time.
Fall, winter, then spring again. That spring was the last one while Eli lived. We packed in everything we could that summer and fall. It still wasn’t enough, but it had to be enough.
This time of year is full of memories. Last week was the first snow of the season. Eli loved playing outside in the snow, but when I watched the children playing, I didn’t see him with them this year.
This year, I didn’t see him a costume for FanX or Halloween. There was no Eli in a nest under my cutting table in the sewing room. As I sat watching Noah’s last soccer game of the season yesterday, I realized that, had Eli been alive, they could have been on the same team.
We’re making plans, though, to help us enjoy life while remembering Eli. I think he will be particularly delighted to know that we are setting up a skeleton at his gravesite tomorrow, for Halloween, covered with glow bracelet armor, holding a bowl of candy for anyone who feels up to trick-or-treating at the cemetery. I admit to feeling a bit mischievous about this.
We are also making plans for November 17th, one year after his death. We will be setting up Christmas lights early, again, and turn them on that day in his memory. The last time he left the house was to tour the neighborhood and all the lights the neighbors put up for him, so he could celebrate Christmas a little early.
The memories are bittersweet–sorrow mixed with joy and everything in between. Hope continues to carry me through from day to day. I miss my son. I grieve for his death. I choose to hope for a future with him again, God willing.
I love you, Eli!