It is harder to write these days. We are spending a lot of time making preparations for Caemon’s service, and the rest of the time I just want to check out. There is no easy way through this pain, so we tend to take it a moment at a time, a breath at a time, hoping somehow it will pass or ease up. There is nothing easy about losing our son.
But the effort is there to ease the burden. Even in the week or two before Caemon died, people started coming around more to care for us. Our dear nurse friends would stop by on their days off to deliver food or care packages, even wine. They would bring coffee and tea when their shifts started in the morning. Family came in to love on us and to love on Caemon. All around us was support.
After he died, people stuck around. Our social worker friend took us to a room where we could receive grieving nurses and doctors and eventually family from out of town. People stuck by our sides, but they also stayed with Caemon. Two of our beloved nurses cleaned him up, removed tubes, and held his hands, while his child life specialist and social worker made crafts with him, taking footprints and handprints (oh how he hated getting paint on his hands–they knew this and joked with him, all the while making sure he was clean after each print). I had heard about this and had to see him one last time. To see him flanked by these beautiful nurses who were stroking his hands and loving on him while others so lovingly took his body through these rituals felt ancient and sacred.
And just as his body was surrounded in women tending to him, so were we. We were met at the house by family members and friends ready to receive us and feed us and hold us through the pain. Our fridge was filled with fresh food, someone else brought us tea, another brought alcohol. Our family and friends have spent nights at our home to fill it with more than the deafening quiet. They have coaxed us into the fresh air and sunlight and then allowed us to hide again behind the dark curtains.
Our mom friends keep coming bit by bit, bringing food or candles, warm hugs, mothering us. On one such visit, our friend told us that as she spoke with one of the other moms, they decided what they needed to do was distribute the weight, for this is too heavy for anyone to carry. And that is precisely what all these people are doing. They cry with us, they admire photos of our boy, they hear our stories over and over, they comfort us, they stroke our hair and hold us and rub our feet and hold our hands, and they try, try, try to take away bits of the pain. I suppose in those moments they do. They carry a little of this burden while they are here, and once we’re alone, we brace ourselves to shoulder it again.
Yesterday, Jodi and I went to BloodSource here in Santa Rosa (we plan to start donating blood and/or platelets in Caemon’s honor). We walked in and immediately the woman working recognized us and hugged us, offered us water and anything else we needed. Our neighbors have been bringing food. A sweet friend came by to mow the lawn and fix a few things around the house. People are coming together to create music and flowers and art for the service, and we’re seeing why it’s so important to have a community. We wanted to be celebrating our boy’s homecoming, his recovery, his life without cancer, so we gathered people around with those intentions only to find that we need everyone out there for something so much harder. But we’re glad you’re all here to share an ounce here, a pound there. I don’t know how we would make it through this without all of you.