I feel it first in my body. Something about the warmth of the air or the position of the sun or the smell of summer that triggers my body into a panic response. I feel the anxiety building, first with a knot in the pit of my stomach and then the tightness in my chest and then the sense of dread, fear, and sadness all rolled into one accompanied by the distinct realization of complete powerlessness and finally erupting into a volcano of emotions begging to be released through tears but held at bay until I am able to find a safe, secluded place.
This all occurs instantaneously before my mind catches up to remember the date. Oh yeah, it’s June 21. That’s what is going on. Here we go again. Six years later I relive the day my life was forever changed. The day I took my sixteen-year-old daughter Claire to the Emergency Room. Nothing would ever be the same again. Nothing.
I feel pulled back to that day and want to be there again. Because Claire was still here then. Because maybe if I could go back knowing what I know now things would have turned out differently. Maybe because I want to go back to not knowing what was about to happen? Maybe because hope (and denial) existed then.
But because it is six years later I now know everything that did happen. So I am not only taken back to the day, but to the pain, struggle and trauma of the following years which started with that day:
Learning about the disease Rhabdomyosarcoma, and that Claire had the worst type, Alveolar, and that hers was stage IV, and that older kids had less of a chance than younger ones. Watching her cry as her golden locks fell out and never returned. The emotional roller coaster of scans – feeling hopeful when the tumors shrank and feeling devastated when the cancer returned and took over. Being treated for my own breast cancer and going to radiation on the day she died, informing the staff (who also knew her from her own treatments) that she had passed. Attending her high school graduation and hearing her name called but not seeing her walk across the stage; my eyes burning with tears as her whole class gave her a standing ovation. Learning to live with the endless grief and hole in my heart and then learning to enjoy life again, but always in a different way. Standing beside my husband while he lost his only son at the age of 23. And now, just days ago, he said his final goodbye to his dear mother.
So I will honor this day as best I can, allowing the anxiety and emotion to ebb and flow, crying with the painful memories, smiling and laughing with the good ones, and giving Raja special food today, her birthday. The actual date is unknown to us, but Claire decided this was the date we should celebrate the birth of her precious kitty instead of focusing on how it was the date that changed her life forever. June 21.
10 thoughts on “Six Years”
Love to you on this day, Jane. Thank goodness for that cantankerous beast of a cat.
Nota fair at all! Beautiful writing. Beautiful Claire!
Thanks, as always for shining a light on grief. Grief shared speaks to us all in different ways. I love that you keep Claire in the moments of real life by sharing your most painful and intimate memories and present day feelings. It helps me. I pray that it helps you as well.
Happy birthday, Raja. And so much love to you and Dan and all.
Thank you, Jane. You are so generous with your vulnerability.
You write so beautifully, Jane, thank you. It has been a little more than 10 years for me, but the dates are forever etched in our hearts, the first diagnosis and all the other firsts that came after that. Peace and healing to you and Dan.
Jane, your writing and your spirit of sharing to bless others does just that! I am always so touched by what you share! My condolences to you both for the loss of his mother/your mother-in-law! 😦
Painfully yet beautifully expressed. Sending warm wishes.
Jane, you don’t know me. I was one of Ellen’s law professors. Just wanted to stop by and tell you that I do read your updates here and on CaringBridge. I am a cancer survivor and so Claire’s story has always hit home for me. I wish I could have met her. She is not forgotten – even by people who never met her.
Thank you for sharing your heart Jane. I am sad that you have to suffer the loss of a child! The bond a mother has with her children is (in my opinion) the strongest earthly bond! The bond that we have with our Heavenly Father is what gets us through this difficult life on earth! This is what you taught me when you lead my ladies bible study group at Grace Church. This is still true today! Let the Lord carry you through this tragedy!
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn frm me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Lifting you up to The One Who knows your pain