Part of our duty as Caemon’s surviving mothers is to tell his story because he cannot. His was a hero’s journey fraught with fear, uncertainty, dangerous trials, and ultimately, tragedy. Viewed through the lens of Joseph Campbell’s work, our boy’s life and death are even more remarkable. For the uninitiated, Campbell identified several stages any mythic hero goes through, beginning with a call to the underworld. In Caemon’s journey, his call came when he was diagnosed with leukemia, and suddenly, his quiet, safe world, so carefully protected by his mothers, was upended. In its place, the underworld of the pediatric cancer floor became his new home (and ours). Once there, Caemon would face many fears; he gave them names and treated them with love; he made allies along the way, other warriors who taught him skills and gave him the battle armor he would need to fight his arch nemesis: leukemia.
Throughout his perilous journey, we have written and spoken about him, about his courage, his humor, his incredible intelligence. We do this for a number of reasons: we tell his story because it makes us feel closer to him; because it helps us remember the details of his personality; it reminds us to stay strong and keep living; it honors him, and in some small way, it heals us.
But we are not finished. The final stage of his journey has not been completed:
RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR. The hero returns home or continues the journey, bearing some element of the treasure that has the power to transform the world as the hero has been transformed.
When a hero dies before completing the journey, those left behind are duty-bound to return to the Ordinary World and share the elixir. I wish we had a magic elixir from the underworld, a potion that would prevent children from dying of cancer, but that’s not what we return with, at least not yet. We continue to fight on many fronts. What we bring back from Caemon’s Hero’s Journey is a treasure of lessons and wisdom from a three-and-a-half-year-old warrior/hero. We continue to learn them and share them as we trudge through our own journeys. But has Caemon’s elixir of lessons and wisdom “transformed the world”? I think so; his legacy is continually unfolding all around us. Just last week we learned that a supporter ran the Boston Marathon in Caemon’s honor. We saw his picture on a news broadcast about a local bone marrow drive. People privately write to tell us the many ways his journey has transformed their lives. It seems that our son has moved into the realm of myth: the little boy nurse who liked to be called Croc lives on in stories, just as all great mythic heroes ultimately do.
The story that is being written is incomplete, however, without an understanding of how Caemon has transformed the Ordinary World. We are asking people to send us their stories of how their lives, work, relationships with family, etc. have been altered or impacted because of Caemon’s story. Those of you who have been inspired by him are the reason we keep writing, speaking, and sharing his journey. Now we want you to share yours, publicly. Email us with your stories. We’ll share them on the blog and watch his legacy grow.
To email us your story: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more on the Hero’s Journey: http://www.thewritersjourney.com/hero’s_journey.htm
Please let us know if we can use your name (or any part of it) and city/state/country.