Today I took Jake to a party at the temple that we used to belong to. As soon as I parked the car Jake took off to play and hang out with his friends.
It was a very spontaneous decision to attend. I generally need to psychologically prepare myself to go to places that had been a big part of Gabriella’s life. Jake was happy and I ran into so many people that I miss. It was really good to see them and have the opportunity to catch up. But, I wasn’t prepared for the avalanche of emotions.
I was talking to a friend of mine when I saw two of Gabriella’s girlfriends; one of whom was her best friend. They are so tall and grown up. They both have braces. We talked for a good while as they shared what was going on in their lives – school, dance/cheerleading and plans for the summer. They are so beautiful and life is good for them; as it should be.
After they walked away I started to cry. It was as though someone had turned on a faucet. Tears just leaked down my face. I couldn’t stop them. I was standing in the middle of a crowded room crying and crying. The friend that I was talking to just put her arm around me and hugged me. Her oldest daughter, who was younger than Gabriella, is now older than my daughter ever got the chance to be. I can only imagine how uncomfortable that thought was/is for her. But, she didn’t run away. She just hugged me.
Then, the mother of one of Gabriella’s friends walked up to say hello with her youngest child. They could see that I was crying. I pulled myself together though and proceeded to have a conversation with the mom and child. The dad walks up and somehow or another we had a conversation about his new shoes and the quest that he had to find them. He never asked how I was. We talked about his shoes. All the while I was screaming inside that our girls used to sleep over at each other’s houses, they were friends since they were three years old and you can’t even ask me how I’m doing!?! Our families used to be friends. We hung out with each other. And, now, you can’t even ask how I am.
Cancer took so much away from us. It took away our daughter. It took away our future memories that our family was supposed to make. It took away my son’s sister/playmate/friend. It took away friendships that I never thought would disappear. It keeps taking and taking. It leaves behind sadness, emptiness and despair that never leaves and never recedes.
Here are a few things people need to know about (when talking to) bereaved parents…
1) We really don’t give a s#!t about your shoes.
2) When you ask us how we are doing we really aren’t going to tell you the truth because we know that you can’t handle it.
3) The fact that you do take the time to ask us how we are is appreciated more than you will ever know. Too many people go out of their way to avoid us because it “painful” for them to be around us.
4) When we hear someone say that it’s too painful/difficult to be around us we think, “Try walking in our shoes for five minutes. Then, we can a conversation about painful.”
I hate that the adults that won’t come up to ask me how I’m doing have no compunction going up to my child to “dig” up some information about how our family is doing. Really!?! Shame on you! That’s beyond despicable! My son has suffered more than any child his age should ever have to. He’s scarred for life. We all are. That’s how we are doing.
As I was writing this post Jake came into my room and asked if he could sleep with me. He said that it would help him fall asleep and would make him happy. I look at this sweet picture of my children from a time before cancer entered our lives. We were happy then. We still want happiness in our life. We deserve it. Especially Jake. We owe it to our memories of Gabriella to be happy because that’s what she would want and expect for us. Happiness has taken on a very different meaning from what it once was. We struggle every day to work on getting to the happiness. Some days are more successful than others. And, some days we talk to former friends about shoes…