Bombarded but Thankful

Running on the narrow seawall I see the rain in the distance moving across the water. I choose to keep running, right toward it. As sure as rain, I ran right into it. I kept running. It is the time of year that I find myself running as fast as I can to chase away the memories, thoughts, and images that BOMBARD me moment by moment…when I say, BOMBARD, I mean BOMBARD-machine gun firing bullets-bombard. The images of what my mind traps and keeps hold of impresses me. I must be a masochist of sort to admire this about my mind.  It’s ability to muster up the most horrific, grotesque, fierce images at trainhe most opportune times, to get the biggest bang for its buck, mystifies me. Yet, I do admire my mind. The steel trap that it is; the ability it has to conjure, and dismiss at will. Well, at my will. If left unchecked it would kill me for sure. It is as if these moments seek to consume a mother like myself, like some sort of alien skin-eating bacteria for which there is no antidote. Why? For real, why? Why chase me? Wasn’t it enough for me to watch my son fight, win, lose, fight again and die from disease? Wasn’t that enough?

Frankly, I rarely ask why. Honestly, I have never asked God why. I just “do the why”. It is why I choose to keep running. It is why I choose to admire the insanity of it all when my mind, my very own mind, sets out to defeat, or at the very least corrupt and sabotage my days. It is also why I choose to take “captive every thought” and sift through them like rubble…

The seawall is slippery now. I keep running. My eyes hurt when the rain pelts them. I am glad I chose to wear a shirt over my white tank top because no matter what I am not stopping. I stay sharp and focused fully aware I am running on a narrow seawall that is slick. I choose not to leap over the gap as I usually do when I come to an opening of a dock. I am not an complete idiot. I have slipped and missed this leap before when it wasn’t raining; fell hard on my knee and as it bled, I got up and kept running. Today, in the rain, I stayed focused and found myself thankful for this season of BOMBARDMENT. Listen, I can’t toss out the horror and only recall the goodness can I? Is the horror not part of his life too? I think Robert would love that I remember it all. He hated being sick; but man he was a champion in it. He rarely acted sick, he pushed through “shit” I am not sure I could. This kid never quit. And I, his mom, remember it all. I hope I never forget one moment of it. I think he loves that I run in the rain and still watch my step. Like I said, I am not an idiot, just a little foolish at times. I am glad it wasn’t lightning because I would not have stopped today. I had work to do. “Do the work!” The memories are here, remember, but keep fighting, don’t let them win this time—it’s been 14 years woman, give up would you? Forget them all, let them go—stop remembering, MOVE ON! Get a Life—stop the madness…NOPE. It’s gonna rain. There will be lightning and the wind will blow me off course and life will want me to quit, “shit”, my own mind has challenged me to quit. Come on, my own mind betraying me, how can that be? Keep running. I chose this path, can’t quit now. Yes, I know it is narrow. I know it isn’t easy and I know I am “alone”. Yeah, yeah I am fully aware that there is no one at home right now. I am fully aware there is no one waiting to greet me, hand me a towel, ask me how I am or give me a hot cup of coffee. I am also fully aware that I am sitting here typing this right outside the very room where he died…his spirit left so much of him here…that room is a few feet away, my mind gently reminds me…And I am sitting here, like I have countless times, “running in the rain.” I am sitting here, like I have countless times, not asking “why” just trying to “do the why”.

Today my shield against the bombardment was my choice to be thankful. I am thankful. I am thankful that I am sitting right outside of the very room my son died in. Thankful that he was able to die at home, in his own bed, surrounded by love, with his head resting on my shoulder. There’s a lot in that moment to be thankful for. Thankful is how I choose to be. The contrast of the moment I choose to be thankful is just as real as the beauty of it, believe me. It comes at a price, a high price. It costs me morsels of my heart every time I indulge in those moments. Behind the thankfulness is the horror my mind faithfully reminds me. Today I recalled when a friend said, “At least you got to say goodbye…” Ah, such a sweet sentiment don’t you think? At least I got to say goodbye to my dying son as cancer consumed his body, stopped his heart and took his last breath. Here is the thing, she is right. I agree with her. It dawned on me as I “do the why” of it all, 14 years later, as far as the lottery in “Death of a child” goes, I won. Its like those movies where a child from the family is randomly selected to go to battle; or when the sorting hat in Harry Potter selected your “house”.  In this lottery, this was the best case scenario. Ok, so maybe that is a little twisted way of looking at it, but for me, I respect that it is true. Isn’t that all we want at the end of our life: to die at home, in our own bed, surrounded by love, at peace? You know it is. So for me, as the horrific images of the final days of my son’s life chased me down the narrow, slippery seawall in the rain today, I chose to fight back and “do the why” by being thankful.

Not long after my son died, a dear sweet friend’s son died. He was brutally murdered. I still vividly remember her face as she looked at me saying how I understood what it was like to have a child die. She knew my son and loved him. I still see her face as she said, “It really doesn’t matter how they die does it, in the end, they are dead.” She. Was. Fierce. She couldn’t bear, or dare ask why, she chose to “do the why”. She too runs in the rain…

I am thankful my son died at home, in his own bed, surrounded by love, with his head resting on my shoulder. There. Take that! Oh mind of mine that wants to send me over the narrow edge of the seawall, take that!

I am blessed to have images attached to his death, just like I have images attached to his life. I don’t have to wonder how or what caused it; what his last moments were like; if he suffered, what his last words were. We didn’t say goodbye to him that day, we just helped him find his way. It may be twisted, but I am thankful for the way my son died.

I didn’t slip off the seawall today.                                                                                                              It was cold in the wind.                                                                                                                                  I was dripping wet when I got home.                                                                                                       And here I sit.                                                                                                                                             Warm, safe, content to ponder the insanity and beauty of my mind.

And here I sit, thankful for it all. Peace, Katherine

Why Did You Start?

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I don’t know how long I will be able to run, but I know why I started running in the first place. Trying to regain my strength and endurance again after being injured for several months, I was reminded why I started in the first place. It wasn’t because I wanted to watch the sunrise, but that is a nice bonus. It was because I could not run. It was because one night when I needed to run as fast as I could to get to my dying son, I could not run. Yes, I know the phenomenon of needing to hurry and feeling like you are stuck in quicksand, or your legs feel like they are not moving at all-sort of spinning in one place like a cartoon character, but this was different.

We were in church. We were standing next to our friends who’s son was also dying. We were singing, and I was clutching my phone. We had left our son in the PICU under the watchful eye of his grandmother. She called me. I scooted out of the room to be able to hear her-she was hysterical. Our son had a seizure and she was panicked; and his room was in full chaotic life saving mode. When your child is inpatient in the isolation room of the PICU and this happens, you run as fast as you can to get there. And that is what we did. Or tried to do. I. Could. Not. Run. I remember thinking, “ah hell no-no one out runs the mama when her child is sick! MOVE FASTER.” I. Could. Not. Run.

The child in PICU was an athlete. He loved to run. We used to talk about when he was better how we would get back into shape together. At that point, we were content doing laps in the hospital hallways. Now, here we were, he could not run, and I could not run.

He died. I began running. I kept my word and got into shape. Now, mind you, I do not consider myself a runner. A couple miles several times a week is my idea of running. I wish I could run. Believe me, there have been days I wanted to put on my sneakers and run all over the place like Forrest Gump, and never come back. For me, being able to run became my little slice of heaven where I talk to God and let the stress of life leave my body. So when an injury robbed me of this freedom last spring, I had to simply give in and let it go. Just like my son had to let go of his freedom to run.

So, here I am, trying to run again. I remember why I began running, and I ran with this thought the other morning as I chased a sunrise. I indulged my mind and heart in the memory of that horrific night days before my son died. My legs felt just as heavy as they did that night racing to get to my son. I realized, 14 years later, I have not forgotten why I began to run. But that morning, I realized it is important to know why I started, but its more important that I did not stop, and I keep going . It is one thing to start on a journey, it is another to stay the course of it.

I laughed out loud as I chugged along thinking of my oldest son and my youngest son. Laughed because I started to run because of the oldest one, and now my youngest son runs with me. Fourteen years later both sons make me laugh. I started running because of one, and now, the other has given me reason to run for a different reason. Zombies. Apparently they chase you.  One son is a “ghost” who runs with me; the other son runs with me to keep me strong to outrun the “ghost”.

It is important to know why you start something, but its more important to know why you keep doing it.

Peace.