I would like to share with our readers a few elements from Caemon’s memorial service. It was a beautiful service full of music, big photos of Caemon, and an alter space graced with Caemon’s remains in a special box made by one of our community members, candles, a favorite blanket, and even Caemon’s favorite teapot. A number of our family members spoke, and I don’t have all of their words to share with you, but I do have mine and Jodi’s. I won’t have the music to share with you, but I can tell you that some wonderfully talented friends played some Jack Johnson and then played and sang Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” and John Lennon’s “Beautiful Boy.” (YouTube clips of Marley and Lennon’s versions of these songs are at the bottom of the post, so feel free to play them if you wish to capture a bit of the mood.) A dear friend of ours wrote and shared a beautiful story to help the children there understand where Caemon has gone and what he is doing. Caemon’s grandma shared stories about one of Caemon’s favorite appliances–her wall heater, which he named “Homer.” People shared so much of the love they have for our boy, what he learned from them, and what they hope to carry on, and our minister from the Unitarian Universalist congregation framed it all gracefully. It was beautiful, the perfect celebration of his life.
As I said, I won’t be able to share all of it with those who weren’t there, but I can share a few pieces. Below is the first video/photo montage we shared at the service. The song is Jack Johnson’s “Go On,” an early favorite of Caemon’s:
Below is Jodi’s tribute:
You know, Timaree and I have been using a lot of metaphors to explain first Caemon’s illness, and now his loss: he’s been a hibernating bear cub, a snake shedding its skin, a butterfly emerging from its cocoon. We have climbed mountains, crossed deserts and navigated troubled waters. But in reality, he was our beautiful, perfect boy. A little boy who liked to cook in his kitchen, befriend appliances, and play the occasional naughty trick on one of our poor cats. Before leukemia, there was learning to skip rocks in the river, story time, and family dinners around our kitchen table. He was a funny kid who liked to wave his stinky foot in my face just so I would overreact and make choking sounds. He was articulate beyond his years, had a vocabulary that allowed him to express exquisite three-year-old thoughts, and he was so sweet, so loving. He often comforted his Mommy and I when he was sick in the hospital. I am enormously proud of him, and so loved being his Mamma. It was the greatest pleasure to be in the world with my son. I didn’t know how to be a Mamma until he showed me. He taught me how not to take myself so seriously, how to stay in the present, how to forgive, how to have fun, and ultimately, how to let go and trust. He showed me the enormous, endless capacity that we have to love, and that is Caemon’s legacy to me: the pure joy of loving everything about him. I was so in love with him every day of his life; I couldn’t help but kiss him, hold him, hug him, dance with him, and tell him constantly how much I adored him. Yes, I was THAT mom, and would have continued on in this embarrassing fashion forever had he lived. Part of me thinks he wouldn’t have minded so much; after all, he loved big, we all did, and will continue to. Caemon has returned to the light, and his love radiates far and wide. I can feel it here right now, and I take comfort in that.
And this is Timaree’s tribute:
Three and a half years ago, I was awaiting the arrival of our baby boy. I knew even during my pregnancy that Caemon was someone I wanted to know, and when he was born, and I saw his face and heard his sweet voice for the first time, I felt like I was seeing and hearing someone I had always known. I loved him immediately and fiercely—so much so that it felt my heart had split open. I remember in those days following his birth how I loved him so much it hurt, and I even wondered how I could love this big when life could be so fragile. But for Caemon, I was willing to take that risk because I could feel already that there was no alternative but to love him completely, and that is what I kept doing because he was so worth it.
From Caemon, I had so many lessons to learn about letting love rule. He was a wise child from the beginning. From the time he was about six months old, if Jodi and I were having a disagreement, he would pull the two of us together to make us kiss. His life was full of similar wisdom.
This morning as I was ironing my clothes, I looked down to find a Band-Aid on the iron. Undoubtedly, the iron had hurt himself at some point, had needed some tending, some love, so Caemon gave it a bandaid. But Caemon was terrified of the iron. To him, it must have looked like some sort of silver dragon with all its steam. That is, until the iron became his friend. In fact, while people know of Caemon’s love of appliances, this love was actually born from fear. When he was barely two, Caemon was scared of the vacuum cleaner, so much so that he would quiver in our arms when it was turned on, but it wasn’t long before he decided “Big Vacuum” may have needed a friend. He would ask to play with the attachments, help it take naps, even make it French toast, and soon Big Vacuum, while still a little intimidating, was something Caemon could handle. Before we knew it, Caemon was doing this with every machine or appliance he feared: the mixer, the Cuisinart, the vacuum cleaner, the iron, and later his IV pole, the ultrasound machine, his chemotherapy. In his own brilliant way, Caemon led with curiosity and with love to overcome his fears. And as he translated this to his treatment and disease, we saw what could have been a terrifying experience for any person, let alone a three-year-old child, turn into one that was enriching and beautiful and inspiring to us all.
Caemon has taught me, someone who has often led with anxiety and fear, how to instead lead with love. We’re all afraid; it’s what we do with that fear, how we channel it, how we frame it that lets us escape its grips and really, truly live.
Yes, my little boy, the one to whom I gave life, taught his Mommy how to live, whether it was through making muffins together each week and always remembering to save some batter for tasting, taking the long way home to see the geese, swirling his milk in a wine glass, picking him up to dance anytime a good song came on, stopping in the middle of laundry to read a huge pile of books, having a nice luxurious lavender foot soak in a his hospital bed, or simply sitting and snuggling while we listened to music. Caemon brought me so many gifts, but in teaching me how to love with my whole heart, let go of fear, and truly live, he brought me the greatest joy of my life. I will so miss his hugs, the way he comforted me when I was sad, the way he told me he loved me. In some ways, I will always feel like a part of me has been amputated, but because of Caemon, I am also more whole than I have ever been.
We had a second video, which some of you have already seen. We played this following the words one of Caemon’s nurses shared. The music is Ziggy Marley’s “I Love You Too.” This song taught a one-and-a-half-year-old Caemon to say “I love you.” As you can imagine, it holds a pretty special place in our hearts:
Below are the songs that were played by our dear friends at the service. They were expertly performed with so much love, but we didn’t allow video taping or recording, so I’ll simply provide the originals here:
Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds”:
John Lennon’s “Beautiful Boy”: