Today, we bid farewell to the old year and welcome in the new and as is the case this time of year, we reflect and resolve.
2014 was a year filled with pain, grief and sorrow but amidst it all, there were also moments of beauty and joy. I am not the same person I was last year; I have since watched my little boy fight for his life and take his last breath. I also welcomed my second son a week and a half after burying my first. And, I have learned the following:
Life is to be lived. We knew we didn’t have long with Theo but I am forever grateful that the memories we have with him are not exclusively of a hospital. Our remaining time with Theo was spent travelling to the top of the CN Tower, visiting the zoo with his cousins, taking in the beauty of High Park, even going for a swim. We tried not to let his palliative condition deter us from living life. Theo defied death multiple times and in his short life, he lived and inspired. His strength and perseverance encouraged others to see the beauty and miracles present in each of our lives every single day.
Family. Everything else is insignificant. Over the course of Theo’s illness, we lived in several hospital rooms and later slept in a bed next to his crib in a family member’s dining room filled with his medical supplies. We sold our family home, left the community we laid our roots in, and had no choice but to leave the jobs we loved. We worried about how we would pay our bills with Theo requiring such complex care. And yet we have no regrets. Every decision we made was because of Theo and so that we could be together as a family. And there is nothing more important in this world.
True love is unconditional. True love is raw, vulnerable and unfaltering; it is not something that is seen or even heard, it can only be felt. During Theo’s illness, he taught me what it means to love unconditionally. I am a kinder, more patient person because of Theo and this has made me a better mother, a stronger wife, and a gentler individual.
We are not alone. People are inherently genuine and compassionate. They are selflessly generous and ready to help. My community, small in numbers but not in heart, has embraced my family and carried us through our most difficult time. Countless strangers have expressed empathy to our family and bereaved parents have wrapped their arms around us. There will always be those individuals who are too scared by your grief and pain to offer support but fortunately they are outnumbered.
There is life after death. Every morning, when I look into Freddy’s eyes, I am reminded of this. Life must endure but it will never be the same. The death of a child leaves an emptiness that cannot be filled: an emptiness that is consumed with tears and loneliness and longing to hold them in your arms again. I now live partly in this world and partly in the next because a part of me is already in Heaven. And, I no longer fear death in the way I formerly did because it means a joyful reunion with my sweet Theo.
Theodore lives. Theodore is still with us. We carry him in our hearts and in the many memories we have of him. He left a legacy for Freddy who will grow up hearing stories of his brave big brother. And he finds signs to show us that he’s still with us, still making miracles. I will forever be Theo’s mother, his departure from this earth doesn’t change that.
In 2015, I resolve to love and cherish my boys in every way possible and ensure that Theo’s memory endures. You will never be forgotten, my son.