Tonight's picture was taken in April 2008. Before Mattie was diagnosed with cancer. Mattie received this beautiful dragonfly kite from his preschool buddy, John, and Mattie loved it. As I look at this picture tonight, I find that I have to dig very deep to remember Mattie walking and running. My only recollection of him now was how he spent the last year of his life, in a wheelchair.
Poem of the day: Footprints on the Heart by Flavia
Some people come into our lives and quickly go.
Some people move our souls to dance.
They awaken us to new understanding
with the passing whisper of their wisdom.
Some people make the sky more beautiful to gaze upon.
They stay in our lives for awhile and leave footprints on our hearts.
And we are never, ever the same.
I couldn't agree more with tonight's poem! Mattie changed our lives while he was alive, and even in his death we remain forever changed. Peter and I learned a lot from Mattie, he pushed us to grow as individuals in ways that seemed unimaginable. His creativity, brilliance, humor, and stubborn nature were all aspects that caused us to pause on some days to figure out how best to parent Mattie. So yes he did "awaken us to a new understanding" and because of his sheer energy and innocence did make the "sky more beautiful to gaze upon." Mattie's footprints are all over our hearts and we will never be the same without him.
Today, I looked at the collage of photos Linda (Mattie's childlife specialist) made for us. She put this collage together as a gift to acknowledge Mattie's final chemo treatment. That seemed like a happy occasion, but now I look back on that moment as the beginning of the end! Without those toxic chemicals coursing through Mattie's body, the cancer ran rampant. The collage is lovely because it captures Mattie's nurses, art therapists, childlife staff, and doctors at Georgetown University Hospital. It is a beautiful remembrance of the fine professionals who helped Mattie and us, and who became our family for 13+ months. However, as I was looking at the collage, I admired Mattie's beautiful face, his smiles, and twinkling eyes. Of course, absorbing all of that in only made me sad. There are times I truly can't accept that he is gone. Not that I expect him to walk through the door, I am very much aware that he is dead, but my heart can't match what my head is telling me. There is a special magic shared between a child and a parent, and without Mattie's presence in a way, the magic and spark has been extinguished from my life. Each day seems just like the day before it and I assure you this isn't a good feeling.
Ann is visiting family this weekend, and while she is away, Tanja and I are helping to keep Mary (Ann's mom) busy at her assisted living facility. In a way, coordinating with Tanja reminds me of the shifts we took while helping Ann care for her dad, who was dying a few months ago. Coming together for a cause is very important to my day to day existence. Mary and I had a nice time chatting with each other while I was doing her nails. I sat with her while she had her dinner, and in the process Mary and I got to know her table mate better. The fellow who sits next to Mary is 87 years old. The funny part is no matter what is on the menu, he always chooses to eat a hot dog for dinner. I also love the saying on his hat, "Life is too short." He is a real character and full of charm. I have sat next to him before, but tonight he was in a talkative mood. He told me that he fought in WWII and that he lost his wife and daughter to illnesses. Despite all the incredible tragedies he has witnessed and lived through in his life, he has an amazing attitude and a beautiful smile. He is the perfect example of resilience and I enjoyed hearing about his life.
While I was with Mary this afternoon, Peter was working hard on Mattie's Foundation website. The website is truly coming along quite nicely, and I am impressed with what he is creating. The Foundation is hosting its first board meeting on Tuesday and there seems to be so much to still brainstorm before that point.
I would like to end tonight's posting with two messages. The first message is from my friend, Charlie. Charlie wrote, "It sounds like yesterday was overall a positive day with notes of sadness and reflection included. I do think it was important for you to be in this sort of social setting with friends even though one of the strands of connection that you used to make the initial contact is gone. I believe you will find that the bond between you is there nonetheless, although changed in type and strength. I too, have read much about altruistic behavior and it seems it is coded into our genes but as with every other behavior, it becomes stronger when reinforced. While it would be nice to say that we should do "good deeds/mitzvahs" simply because they are the right thing to do, it is gratifying to hear that your efforts made a difference to someone. Sometimes it is the small things that make a big difference, one often never knows so it is worthwhile to do those things as often as you can. I will tell you that your style as a teacher and a caring professional have made the difference for many; we (the cohort)often talked about how much we admired you and used you for a role model as we went about learning our skills as counselors. I hope that you can find your way back to teaching at some point; it is a "good deed" of a special sort that many wish they could do as well as you do. I hold you gently in my thoughts as I practice today. Namaste."
The second message is from a colleague of mine, who is a faithful blogger. Martha wrote, "I read your Blog every day -- haven't missed doing so every morning first thing -- and if I'm up late I read it before going to bed. Especially, with my personal and professional experience, I appreciate you sharing your feelings and experiences along your daily coping path. I admire all of who you are and particularly resonate with your experiences. I remember months of only feeling good because I was getting through a day -- not because I had even one moment of happiness, but only I had made it and even accomplished keeping myself and those for whom I was responsible alive and moving along. Even now, forty years later, I can remember the horrible shock and pain of John's death, the loneliness and cares followed. The scars will always remain and the memories. You certainly want the pain to lessen, but none of the memories, good or bad to fade. This experience is part of what makes me who I am today and hopefully a better helper for others. I do know how hard it is to keep going and appreciate your strength and love of Mattie that makes you able to share yourself in your Blog each day."