closing a chapter

Yesterday, Jodi and I delivered a suitcase full of Caemon’s clothes to one of his nurse practitioners who is Tanzania-bound. Soon, we will have photos of beautiful little ones running around in his t-shirts and jeans, and it will feel good, right, comforting. It was a quick hand-off, so there was little time to really feel the enormity of what we were doing, but it weighed heavy on me throughout the day–in part because I couldn’t believe I just gave all his clothes away and in part because I knew there was more to come.

On the way home from San Francisco, we stopped at our old house to give our landlord our keys and take a final walk through our old place. Jodi and I have been in the process of moving for the past few weeks, and then last weekend, we finally had our big moving day. The last few days have been spent cleaning and finishing up at the old house as we relive memories of our boy sitting at the kitchen counter eating breakfast and drinking tea, cooking in his little kitchen, dancing around in his room, reading with us in front of the fireplace, and stealing green cherry tomatoes from our garden. That home, like Caemon’s clothes, is filled with so many memories of a seemingly healthy, certainly vibrant child. Caemon loved that house and its little yard. He loved peeking into the shed which housed not only the big lawn mower and other scary (but friendly) yard tools. (In fact, during his stay at the hospital, when we talked about going home, he talked about going to see Leaf Blower.) He loved running down the hall and the sound his feet made on the wood floors. He loved standing on his stool in the bathroom to look in the mirror and play with water. He loved locking me in my closet, shutting the door on me when I was in the garage doing laundry, locking us out when we went out the sliding door to the yard. Yes, Caemon had a naughty streak as so many children do, and it was wonderful and hilarious and perfectly suited to this beautiful family home of ours. We never intended for Caemon to live his whole life there. We wanted to buy a house in the country by the time he was five to give us all room to run and breathe and feel free, but Caemon loved our house.

Our move had been nothing short of excruciating. There was the pain of sorting through Caemon’s, things, yes, but there was also so much in packing up the life of our little family. Even packing up jars or books or tools proved painful, and knowing that we would soon not see Caemon everywhere was difficult to anticipate. Even thinking about our new home where there would be no reminders of our son was too much to bear at times.

But the truth remains that in order to start the healing process, we had to move somewhere where a fresh start might be possible, and what felt really awful at the time is that we didn’t need to consider a child at all in the process. The place where we have moved has no yard for little boys to run around. It has three sets of stairs, a hazard we would have wanted to avoid with a little one. Still, I can’t help but imagine him here exploring all the closets, checking out the cabinets, marveling at the little nook under the entryway stairs. When we moved in, somehow, an errant pair of his socks landed in that very space under those stairs, and I left it there for several days because that’s precisely the sort of thing he would have put there: socks, books, blankets, toys. It would have been his space. In fact, I think he would have liked a lot of the spaces here. Of course he would have; it’s our home now. So long as we were all together, he loved wherever we were. Even in his death, I can’t help but consider how Caemon would have liked this place, and that too has made this move so challenging.

Closing this chapter is fraught with so many feelings. There is the sadness of letting our home go and parting with a place that harbors so many beautiful memories for our family, yet there is also relief in leaving that house. The memories it harbored were beautiful, but many of them carried with them so much weight. The air there felt thick after Caemon died, and the heft of it all was suffocating. In this new place, there is no door to a boy’s room that I have to avoid. There isn’t a chair at the counter where I’d rather others not sit. There are little reminders of Caemon all over this new place, but they aren’t the same. Sometimes I go a couple of hours without thinking about him, and it’s strange, sometimes terrifying, but it’s also a necessary respite from the agony of missing him.

Yesterday before we left the old house, Jodi and I crunched through the rocks in front of our house one last time for Caemon. we admired the beautiful orange flowers of the ice plants Caemon picked out and helped me plant last spring. Then we held hands, tears streaming down our faces as we took one last glimpse of the house where our boy was once well, and we drove away, toward what I do not know.

I don’t know what our new life is going to look like here. Right now, it’s hard to see beyond the stacks of boxes and difficult to imagine what we’ll do with all of his things that we saved. I can say it feels better though. I like waking up here knowing that if I need to, I can avoid most of the triggers that send me spiraling downward. If nothing else, this place feels easier and lighter, and while it can’t take away the pain, it’s not contributing to I either. I appreciate that.

And also, much to my chagrin (and probably Caemon’s delight) I learned today that leaf blower lives here too.

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11 thoughts on “closing a chapter

  1. Brittany

    The closing of one chapter and the opening of another. Good luck with your new place. I admire your strength throughout this process. No parent should ever need to go through what you two have. But sweet little Caemen will live on through the memories that are forever in your hearts.

    Reply
  2. Tiffany

    Carrying you both in my heart as you close this chapter, and open another. Hope this place will be new beginning for you both. Love you and continue to send you both strength – every.single.day. Xo

    Reply
  3. happygoluckytireegal

    I found this post so heart breaking. I know it’s about a kind of letting go, and it’s about finding a lightness where there has only been heaviness. I feel the pain of that weight in your words. I like the thought that Caemon is with you in the new place, in nooks and crannies and by the leaf blower.
    I am holding you all in my thoughts and my heart and praying for the way forward for you to be peaceful.

    Reply
  4. Janet Streight

    Tears and Hugs, my sweet daughter. Your strength is so much greater than mine…Thank you for those special, vivid memories of our sweet Caemon. They DO make me smile. I love you and Jodi so very much..

    Reply
  5. Carolyn

    Thank you for continuing to write. I ache for your little family and think about you and your amazing boy every day. Good luck in your new place, I hope you eventually find comfort and happiness there.

    Reply
  6. Amy

    Thank you so much for Caemon’s beautiful clothes which Jenelle brought out to Forever Angels last week. We are so touched that you chose to donate them to the Baby Home. I have followed your story, via Amber and your website, and just wanted to send my heartfelt love to you both. I have lived in Tanzania for 10 years and have seen way way too much pain, sufffering and death of children. The pain is so hard and never seems to stop. And they aren’t my own children….they are children I simply love and care for at Forever Angels. I can’t imagine the pain of losing my own child. I hope you can find some comfort in the knowledge that so many people know who Caemon was, and today, some beautiful babies were running around in his clothes. Thank you for your kindness and please know you are in my thoughts.

    Reply

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