There are defined points on my timeline that have molded my spirit. Those stinging pinpricks that have changed the way I interpret life as it glides past me with deep definition.
When I became a wife…a mother…a devoted writer…those points are elevated and celebrated often.
But there have been distinct times that have gouged a piece of my heart out, leaving it to heal on its own…pulling me downward instead of up. Days that I know I’ll always remember, but that I have a hard time swallowing. The hard times that have made me stronger, but that have given me defining scars even though they are invisible to most of you.
Today is one of those days that changed my course of life in one swift movement. A child who would have turned 14 today, he isn’t here, but I feel him move. To some that may seem strange, but if you’ve ever lost an important person in your life, someone you truly loved, whether through death, a parting of ways, or any other measure of separation, I know you understand what it feels like.
My twins were born 2 1/2 months too early. At only 3 pounds each, my husband could slip his wedding band over their forearm. I had no idea that 15 days after their birth, a lifelong friend, a brother they didn’t yet know, made his entrance into the world as well. It wasn’t until 4 years later that our paths crossed. The smiling faces of the Pacocha family standing on the front porch of our new house. Strangers we didn’t know, but immediately grew attached too, especially when our boys connected over Thomas the Tank Engine, Star Wars lightsabers, and Nerf gun wars. Friendship was instantaneous for all of us.
With birthdays so close together, July 1st for my twins and July 15th for Andrew, we shared a number of neighborhood birthday parties. Andrew was the adopted triplet to Alex and Austen. It was natural, that amazing bond that they had, it stuck. Fate intertwined the life of our family with theirs.
Years later, in late 2010, I slid to the floor, laundry basket in hand as I listened to the voice of Andrew’s mom whisper the words “Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia” on the other end of the phone. When cancer slithers into your life, it steals the breath from your lungs. Even if it hasn’t compressed your body, it still kills the joy when you know it resides in someone you love. Andrew was and still is, like a son to me. Even though he isn’t here physically, he still resides within the in between. At one point, I could wrap my arms around him. Now I can’t. And even though he’s left arms empty, he hasn’t disappeared from the memories I have of him. There are so many lives that have been changed because of the life he lived.
Cancer sucks. I despise the evil it instills into the world on a daily basis. The way it destroys things, in body, in mind, and in the cosmos of loved ones watching it take over like a ravenous beast through the eyes of someone they know.
My kids are quiet today. It’s hard not to be humbled when you know someone important is missing. Andrew is missing, and it isn’t fair. It will never be fair. But life isn’t fair. It isn’t meant to be.
So instead of cowering in the emptiness we feel, we relish the time that we had with him. My kids have defined points on their timeline too. The moment we lost Andrew, when he slipped away from us, that pinprick stings red hot for them today. I see it. A mother just knows when her kids are hurting. I can’t ease the burn, but I can remind them that the peaks and valleys of life don’t define us. They shape us.
To Andrew John. Your light lingers. You left your mark on all of us, but especially Alex and Austen. When the sun sets tonight, and the magnificent sky blazes orange, I know that is your sign to let us all know you’ve never truly left. And you never will.