Throwback Thursday – remembrance

I would like to tell a very personal story today about my son who died.  Friends have told me: you should write about this.  But until now I have had had a hard time writing about it.  It is a sad story, and I was not quite sure how to express my sorrow and my grief without making it seem maudlin or morose.  But this week some of my writing friends have urged me to try to write about it and about him, so that others can hear the story of my sorrow.  Here is my attempt to do so.  Thank you for reading it and for being with me through this passage of remembering him.

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img_0361Here is a little about my son:  he was born in 1983, he grew up an artist – drawing all the time – and his college degree was in fine art: a B.F.A. in painting.  His senior thesis work was multimedia portraits using cast-off clothing and white latex paint to make collage-like portraits of men and women, and even groups of people.  (I’ll try to post a photo of one of his pieces later on.)

He supported himself and his family as a free-lance web designer through the early 2000s.  He had a daughter who was born in 2011; she was two when he was diagnosed with lymphoma, three when he died.  He also did a “horse-whisperer” sort of horse training – based on behavioral modification and communication – and he coached young snowboarders for several years at the nearby ski area.  He liked to play music on a ukelele, he went mountain biking, camping, and he was a runner.

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The first thing I would like to share is a poem that I ran across shortly after his death, a poem that really struck me as something I would like to say to him, if I could.

For My Daughter in Reply to a Question

by Daniel Ignatow

We’re not going to die.
We’ll find a way.
We’ll breathe deeply
and eat carefully.
We’ll think always on life.
There’ll be no fading for you or for me.
We’ll be the first
and we’ll not laugh at ourselves ever
and your children will be my grandchildren.
Nothing will have changed
except by addition.
There’ll never be another as you
and never another as I.
No one ever will confuse you
nor confuse me with another.
We will not be forgotten and passed over
and buried under the births and deaths to come.

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Here is what I wrote a few days ago about my son and his death:

leslie_1987She had a son who died. She had a son who died and was a kind kind soul. She had a son who died and was a kind kind soul and who loved her very much. She had a son who died and was a kind kind soul and who knew what it was like to have a mom like her. She was the kind of mom who made chocolate chip cookies and yellow cupcakes, who wrote science fiction and went skiing with him. She was the kind of mom who celebrated the poem of his life and who brainstormed with him about the possible world. She was the kind of mom who built Legos with him. He wrote his own stories because she did.

She was the kind of mom who did four loads of laundry for him – washed, dried and folded – the night his daughter was born. She was the kind of mom who drove him to chemotherapy appointments and stayed with him in the eerie infusion room for the most-of-the-day treatments. She was the kind of mom who sat with him in the hospital room for six hours while he took a blood transfusion when his own blood became too weak from treatment. She was the kind of mom who went with him to the appointment when he had to talk about the blood-thinning medication to counter the thickness in his blood that cancer brought.

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why did he have to die why did he have to die why did he have to die

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coffee-shop-tlqAll I wanted was to spend time with him even if it meant having to see him grow sicker and more frightened. He thought he could win. We all thought he could win. Just do what they tell you, take the therapy and medication they give you, and in the end you will beat this thing. Toward the end his fingers were numb and weak from neuropathy. Toward the end he shaved his beautiful thick curly hair in a “Daniel Craig” look that he hated. Toward the end his body betrayed him, weeping layers and layers of skin like blisters, plunging him into excruciating pain in an auto-immune reaction to the cancer. The pain meds made him a stranger, causing him to tear out catheters and IVs, insisting he needed to leave. “Mom, you have to help me go home.” I wept because I could not.

Improbably, he triumphed over the peeling skin.  He triumphed over a weekend episode of extreme acidification of his blood, when they expected him not to survive. His body fought to live.  In the last week of his life he was finally better, waiting for his blood counts to come back so they could try the next step – a bone marrow transplant.  He had many promising matches with donor bone marrow, and the idea was that the donor’s bone marrow would not only replace his cancer-ridden bone marrow, but also it would provide a different immune system to try to beat the cancer.  He had a long way to go – first rehab and then the transplant – and he was still very ill, but every day he did physical therapy and still strove to make the best of it.

Yet too soon it was over. They said afterward the cancer must have been all through his body at the end. Sudden, it was so sudden, at the end. Thirty-six hours of sudden descent into unconsciousness, his body overwhelmed by the acidification of blood from the cancer.

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Version 2Even though he is gone, my son lives on in the memories of his life from when he was young until the last few months of his life.  He will always be in my heart.

In the several months after his death, I had some dreams about him, dreams that gave me hope for remembering him, and hope for us who are still here.  I will probably write about those dreams soon.

They say that a person only truly dies on the day that their name is said for the last time.  My family still remembers my son and his special presence.  And now you have been a part of that memory of him, of my son Leslie (1983-2014).

Thank you for hearing my story.

19 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday – remembrance

  1. I am so so sorry about your loss – and the ending was something very special to read today – we lost a family member last week – who also was born in 1983 – still in shock mode. BUT very grateful to have read your post today – thankjs for opening up….

    They say that a person only truly dies on the day that their name is said for the last time. My family still remembers him and his special presence. And now you have been a part of that memory of him, of my son Leslie !!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, Y, I am so sorry. It is such a terrible feeling to lose a loved one, especially when it is sudden or unexpected. There is so much more we thought we’d be able to do together and say to each other. But I am happy to have memories and his kindness to recall. Take care!

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  3. Theresa, thank you for sharing as hard as it is. Something that we don’t understand – who is being taken away first, and who is being left behind. My sister lost her husband when he was 51, in a least expect moment. He came home from an overseas assignment, felt stomach ache, it was liver cancer, died in less than a year. They just had an old house gutted and had a brand new house built (my sister designed it). He barely moved in and announced to be in hospice…..You son Leslie will never be forgotten, he is with you, his daughter, forever in the heart and in the mind. There’s is no another Leslie – he is one of a kind, and is yours forever.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Miriam, thank you so much for your very kind words. I am so sorry for your sister’s loss, and it helps to hear of others’ grief as well. I am grateful for the times we had and the special moments we shared for all the years he was with us. 🙂 Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I witnessed many losses, I’m grateful that God spared my life. I can’t imagine what it would be like for my husband and my daughter, especially my daughter whom I was tricked into separation by her dad – my ex. But she and I reconnected and now we are as close as can be!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Theresa! You are an amazing mom! Your son can never leave you! I ensure you that he is going to meet you in afterlife! This is temporary partition. Beautiful souls are like soul mates. They keep on meeting.
    Keep him alive in your prayers and dreams. I’m sending you warm hugs and love!! I will pray for you n for him! Lots of love to a courageous mom of courageous son!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. May Leslie’s beautiful soul rest in peace. In those moments when you feel a bit lost wihout him do let the fact that he lived a full life and still lives on through you and his daughter comfort you. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh, Theresa, I feel you. I have tears in my eyes; understandably because I have children and I am a child of my mother. Either way, there will be sadness and I refuse to think about it because I know how heart-wrenching it is. I am so sorry. You are strong and your writing will help. I’m really sorry. I’ve been told many times that to lose a child is so much more painful than losing a parent because we don’t expect our children to go before us. That’s why I cry when I hear stories of children being abused and killed. I think it’s the most awful thing. You are brave and strong for sharing. Thank you for sharing this remembrance. You’re an awesome mom. Much love to you dear friend. Hugs xxx

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    1. Anne, thank you for your kind and heartfelt words. It means so much especially from another woman who is a mother as well as a daughter. It has been painful, but I am finding that having support and the thoughts of others has made it a little easier. Leslie always wanted me to write, he was happy when I was writing. I feel like it is a good way to honor his memory, and he would have loved that I have blogging friends like you who help me with the sorrow and grief. Since you have a son, you know what that’s like, too. A son’s love is, in some ways, sweeter than a daughter’s love. He really valued that I could be there for him. That was huge for me. 💕 💕 💕

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m sending you my love and hugs. It’s not easy. Another friend lost a son to leukemia a few years ago and although she has happiness in her life, she still grieves and will always. That cannot be taken away. I’m happy to hear he was happy when you were writing because then we’ll just push you to write. 😄 I bet Leslie will be cheering you on. And writing really helps, as you know. I never thought I could write until I couldn’t express myself verbally.
        True, a boy will always be mommy’s and a girl her daddy’s. 😊💖🤗

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      2. We all have our own deep sorrows, don’t we? A person can seem like they are unruffled on the outside, but they may have many sorrows on the inside. I’m lucky to have your friendship. That is an absolute truth! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Gebby, thank you. It helps so much to hear the heartfelt support from other people. Makes a huge difference. I’m trying to connect more with my feelings of sorrow, just to be able to remember him and to not be stuck in a place of trauma forever … thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

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