Four years ago today, I finally got to meet you. For months, you had been rolling around in my belly, sticking your foot as far out as you could (I imagine you were a bit cramped in there, big boy that you were), but finally, on September 5th, just four days after my own birthday, I received the best gift of my life: my beautiful Caemon.
Every month after you were born, I wrote you a letter about all the things you had been doing that month. Some months were pretty eventful, like the one where you learned to sit up or say “mama,” and some months were mostly love letters, telling you just how much love you had brought to me and your mama. I loved writing those letters, reflecting on who you were becoming, reveling in all the joy you had brought to our lives.
This year, your fourth year, was your last year on this earth, sweet boy, your last year in our arms. I remember last September 5th well. You had gone to the hospital for a platelet transfusion the night before, and in the morning, we got up and went to your favorite place: the Exploratorium. You were tired that day, but you were overjoyed to spend time with your cousin, your aunt, and your moms. I remember soaking in every moment of your birthday, loving that we could be out in the world together. Earlier in the week for your birthday party with the whole family, the local firefighters brought a couple of their engines to our street so that you and your cousins could play on them. Do you remember, Caemon, how the fireman on the medic truck let you lower and raise the ladder? Do you remember how hard you laughed every time it went, THUNK! Afterward, you would tell the story and hit me so hard as you said, THUNK! I didn’t mind; you just wanted to recreate that sensation. You loved that smaller engine with all the medical supplies. You had just started learning about them. We were all fairly certain that one day you would practice medicine one way or another. But what am I saying? You already did.
This year brought us a Caemon who was so very sick, a boy who had to stay in bed, a boy who had to have pokes, who had to go into surgery (the warm room is what you called the OR), who had to be hooked up for ten-day-long chemo infusions, and who had a bone marrow transplant. You had to endure so much, and when I find myself trying to imagine going through the same, it terrifies me. But you did it with such grace, my son. You laughed, and you loved, and you made friends with your fears. You cradled your syringe pumps, made friends with your “sad, sad boingy tubes,” and even scolded your IV pole (“Stop, staring at me, Beeper!”). You showed your doctors and nurses and social workers and dietitians and child life specialists and book buddies and anyone else who came in the room just how brave a person can be when faced with countless medical procedures. You showed them how to play in the face of fear, how to laugh, how to read a good book, how to take on a new name when you don’t feel like yourself, and how to always, always accept a hug from a handsome blue-eyed boy.
And you taught me and your mama, Caemon. You taught us things about ourselves, about just how brave we could be, how we could do anything if it meant saving you, and you taught us that enough love can get a family through just about anything. You danced with us, read with us, made crafts with us, raced with us down the hospital hallways, and you held us in your arms as though you were a big man there to comfort his moms. You hugged me and patted me on the back when I was sad, telling me it was okay, that you had me. You told your mama that the two of you would get through the night together. You loved us as big as you could and we loved you right back.
We started to talk about the big party we would throw you for your fourth birthday, where we would invite all your friends from the hospital and all your friends and family from home, and we would celebrate. We would blow up water balloons, and you would throw them at the cats (that’s another thing you did last year), and you would have as much ice cream as you wanted, and we would listen to your favorite music and dance and dance and dance. We would celebrate being leukemia-free.
I remember a few weeks after your bone marrow infusion, when you started feeling a little better, enough to do some eating, and I said, “It seems like you’re feeling better, Caemon. Do you feel like you’re getting better?” You nodded and smiled. But a week or so later, after your relapse, after you started feeling really miserable, I would assure you that it would be okay, that you would get better. Every time, you would shake your head no. You knew then you weren’t going to be here much longer. You kept us in your bed with you as much as you could, and we stayed because we didn’t want to miss one more moment with our precious boy.
We didn’t get to throw you that fourth birthday party, not the one we talked about. Today, we’re throwing a different kind of party instead, one that you would absolutely love. You see, today, I went teaching with mama. I’m sitting at her school, in her very cool office with the little fridge you liked so much. In a few moments, I’m going to go hang out with people who have a whole bunch of medical supplies: they have blood pokers and different colors of Coban. They have tubing and alcohol swabs and syringes and vials for labs. Lots of people are going to come and get poked and give their blood for kids like you. They’re going to help save kids’ lives so that they can celebrate their fourth and fifth and eighth and fiftieth birthdays. I know you would approve. I wish you could be here to show them how to hook up the tubes, how to hold still when the poker goes in, how to make friends with all the machines.
But mostly, I’m feeling a little selfish. I really just wish you were here so that I could hold you in my arms, kiss your whole face, see that brilliant smile, hear that infectious giggle, and feel the most wonderful feeling in the world again, the feeling I learned about four years ago today: the feeling of being your mommy. I love you more than the ocean and the moon and the stars. I will miss you for the rest of my life.
Happy birthday, my love, my light, my beautiful Caemon.
25 thoughts on “a letter to my son on his fourth birthday”
Through tears, I am in awe of you.
Words can’t convey the feelings I have reading this love letter to such a beautiful soul. What better mommy’s could there have been than Timaree and Jodi. Bless you three today and always. Marylou
Beautiful. My heart is so heavy for you always, but today especially. Sending warm wishes your way and big birthday happies to sweet, brave Caemon.
I am awe of your words, you ability to express the unimaginable and how you can find grace in the darkest of moments. Sending light and love to you today.
Love to you
Lots of love and hugs to you gals today. What a wonderfully unselfish thing to do on Caemon’s Birthday. You are inspirational women. I wish he was here with you celebrating. Lots of love. xxx
Beautiful letter. Sweet boy. Beautiful mom’s. Praying for you always from Minnesota.
[…] I’m so touched by this article late tonight.. Happy birthday Caemon a letter to my son on his fourth birthday. […]
I am at a loss for words. I’ll point to the comments above who expressed it so well. Love you.
I am crying at my desk reading this beautiful birthday letter to your sweet brave and wonderful Caemon. Having a little three year old girl I recognise some of the fun things and viewpoints of a quirky child that you describe in Caemon’s reactions to his experiences. Seeing the fun in things, being mischievious, talking to inanimate objects like they are fun, silly people, etc. I am glad you can be at school today with your wife, doing the blood drive and honoring Caemon in this way. It breaks my heart that his respite from the disease was so hoped for but so brief. He was wise beyong his years. Big hugs to you and your wife:)
Like so many others who read your blog, the tears are running down my face, Ironically today is also my birthday and at age 64 I am nowhere nearly as brave as young Caemon. You were so blessed to have him in your life. And those of us who didn’t get to meet Caemon have been blessed by the sharing of his life by his loving mothers. Sending you special thoughts of love and appreciation.
Reading your beautiful letter. Sobbing. I wish he was here with you too. Happy Birthday, dear, sweet, sweet, Caemon. You are so loved. ❤
He was so special. You loved him, and Continue to love and honor him so well.
Caemon is truly a brilliant light to the world. What a brave, warm, curious, smart and amazing soul he is. Happy birthday, Caemon. Timaree and Jodi, my heart goes out to you, always, but especially today. Thank you for writing.
Happy birthday to the boy with the wise gorgeous blue eyes! May shower your mommies with love and peace on this special day.
Brightest Blessings to Caemon and to his mamas. Thank you for sharing your beautiful letter to your most incredible sweet son. Love, Jeanne
I thought of him and you both all day today. I still can not fathom how you must feel.
Linda and I lit 4 candles, and thought about our Kevin, showing Caemon how to ride a bike. Maybe, just maybe there is a place where those souls can giggle together, can watch us go through our petty troubles and maybe they send love our way to get us through. I know that remembering them, in the best of times and the worst of times, helps me. Tears from Heaven, Sunbeams from Deep Space, and Wind from the Big Big Sky, may they comfort you.
Happy birthday sweet, beautiful boy.
You are still Caemon’s moms. As long as you remember him this way and are still acting on his behalf and best interests… you will always be his moms.
Also, I found this:
So, it seems as if Caemon will quite literally be a part of you forever. I hope this brings you a bit of comfort.
This is a beautiful, sad letter to your beautiful boy. I’ve been thinking about you this week and on this day which is no doubt intensely difficult and lonely. And I’m sending love.
I can barely see to type through the tears streaming down my face. What an incredible soul he was… My heart breaks over and over for you and Jodi and I’m continually in awe of your strength. Sending love love love…..
Beautiful words….sending my prayers and love.
It took me almost a week to read this….yet I still can’t contemplate the strength and loss you feel. You have become one of my heroes and you will probably never know how many people look up to you in awe.
My son will be four in one month and your words simply remind me of the beauty that glows from the life of a young child. Nothing can compare to it. Thank you for reminding me of the simplicity and beauty of the love of a mother and her child. It will never die, nor shall it ever be forgotten.