Three years ago today this picture was taken. Twenty-three days before our lives were forever altered with a terminal cancer diagnosis. Two years ago today Gabriella came home on hospice. Five days before our world crashed when Gabriella died.
I look at pictures like this where childhood innocence and pure joy of life are shining through the eyes of my children and I cry because it has been stolen from BOTH of my kids. That was our last “cancer-free” Halloween in 2012. We got the diagnosis 13 days after Halloween. It was our last Halloween as a family of four. Gabriella died 11 1/2 months after diagnosis on October 26th. Two days before Mark’s birthday. Five days before Halloween. We buried our Sweet G on Halloween morning.
All of our nieces and nephews were in town. They went to Gabriella’s funeral in the morning. Then they went trick-or-treating that night. I remember it being so important to me that Jake go trick-or-treating. I just wanted him to be a kid and do what all kids love to do on Halloween. I needed something to be “normal” for him and for his cousins. Not that it was “normal” for Jake to go trick-or-treating with his cousins that live in different states. Not that it was “normal” to go trick-or-treating without his sister. But, it was exactly what the kids needed. No kid should have to go to the funeral of their sibling or cousin. The following year Jake reminisced about trick-or-treating with his cousins. He didn’t remember that we had buried his Sissy on that same day. I am so thankful that. I feel that Jake would have always remembered that Gabriella was buried on Halloween if he hadn’t been allowed to go out with his cousins. He would have thought that he was being punished for her dying.
Last year at this time Jake was going through a horrible grieving period. Therapists told us that as Jake mentally matures and has a different understanding of death he would go through the entire grieving process all over again. And, that these grieving processes would occur many, many times as he grows up. Last year Jake was frightened of everything. He was afraid that he would get cancer. He was afraid that Mark or I would get cancer. Whenever we were at home Jake had to be in the same room with me. I couldn’t even go to the bathroom without him panicking. He slept with us for several weeks.
This year Jake is quite. He has matured so much in this past year. Now he wants to protect me. Jake told me that sometimes when he is sad about Sissy he will tell me that he is sad about something else so that he won’t make me sad and cry. This breaks my heart. I don’t want my little boy to be looking out for me like this. I want him to just to be a little boy. But, that childhood innocence and joy of life that i mentioned earlier has been stolen from him.
I worry about me nieces and nephews as well. And, Gabriella’s friends and classmates. What do they remember? What triggers their memories of Gabriella? How do they handle their feelings? Who do they have to turn to for support if their grief? Childhood cancer is such a horrific thing. It steals from so many people and leaves wreckage in its path.