Posted on December 31, 2015
It’s been 3 months since Nathaniel was taken from us. I know many of you have wanted to reach out to see how we are, or send your well wishes. Perhaps you’ve been at a loss for words, or are afraid to say the wrong thing. Or maybe you are afraid to bring up Nathaniel because you don’t want to make us sad. As for us, our lives have stood still. There isn’t a moment during our day that he doesn’t pop into our memory, or a smile or a tear appear as a result of those memories. I will tell you though, that you should never be afraid to say his name, or bring him up. Just as I loved to talk about my son when he was here on this earth, I still love to talk about him. It’s what keeps his memory alive. I don’t ever want to stop talking about him or thinking about him. The day we stop talking about Nathaniel is the day we pretend he didn’t exist, and as his mother, I know that will never happen. I miss him, more than I ever thought possible. I remember when the reality of losing him became more realistic, there were times I would think of how empty my life would be and I would cry at the thought of things to come. The true reality of losing him is far worse than anything I thought at that time. There is an emptiness in all that I do, and that emptiness will always be there. Once you have a void such as losing a child, there is absolutely nothing that can fill that void. Even though there are moments of happiness, it will never be the level of happiness you once knew. If Matthew and Lucas were not in our lives, I can honestly say I don’t know where I’d be right now. I do however, feel as though I am not 100% the mother I once was. Just like an innocence ripped from their childhood, a certain sense of security has been ripped from my ability to be a mother. For those who have never given birth to a child, this is the only way I can explain how I feel: Until you bring a child into the world, you can never experience that level of joy because none of us know it exists until we experience it. Along those same lines, until you know that kind of love, you will never know the kind of pain that losing a child brings into your heart. Before I became a mother, I had no idea.
Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas have all passed. We survived the holidays, just barely. Halloween was difficult without Nathaniel, knowing how much he loved to trick or treat and dress up and count his candy afterwards, negotiating with his dad how he’d be willing to “sell” his dad’s favorite candies to him. Thanksgiving last year, we celebrated the fact that we’d just passed 9 months of clean scans. I was so positive we were finally going to get to our very coveted one year mark and 2015 was going to be the year of being over the hump and cancer free. Obviously, that didn’t happen. Then came Christmas. Oh boy, where do I even begin? I couldn’t even turn on KOSI 101 this year, knowing they play Christmas songs all day long. The first time I heard Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, I lost it. It reminded me that this would be our first Christmas without him. What kid doesn’t love Christmas? Nathaniel would shop all year long and make a list that would make Santa need a nap. Nathaniel would always make his list and research prices, so his Christmas wish lists were very accurate. I’d purchased some Christmas ornaments earlier this year with all of our names on it, and while I very much treasured them, it was heartbreaking over and over again, a constant reminder that he is gone. We managed to share some moments of happiness thanks to Lucas and Matthew, and our family who surrounded us. One of the hardest moments for me was Christmas morning when I woke up Lucas and told him Santa had come. He sat there for a minute and just looked at me and said “mom, I’m sad. I miss Nathaniel”. Nathaniel was always the first one up and always the one who woke up his brothers announcing Santa had arrived while they were sleeping. I know that’s why Lucas was sad. It was evident in all that we did that we all missed having Nathaniel here with us in person. He was very much with us in spirit, but to be honest, that’s just not the same, no matter how hard we try.
As everyone invites the new year, hoping for better fortune, good health and never ending possibilities, I find myself hanging on for dear life to 2015 for one reason and one reason only – it’s the last year our son was alive. My fear with each passing year is that he will seem further and further away from my memory. I know the reality of that is very unlikely, but it’s more about the fear, not truly remembering what it feels like to hold him to hear his laugh, all of those things that I can still hear in my heart when I take moments to absorb all I can about him.
2015 has so many memories for us, obviously many of the most painful. We lost our 9 year old first born, we had a series of “FIRSTS” that no parent should ever have to experience. Our first Halloween, Lucas’s 7th birthday party, Thanksgiving, Christmas and plain old every days – all without him. But 2015 also made us realize the importance of letting him know the depth of our love before losing him. We appreciated our family life more than ever before. We played board games, prioritized game time and movie nights over house cleaning and laundry. We took our very last family vacation together in July 2015. If we had scheduled our vacation any other time that year, it may never have happened. Nathaniel had a seizure in March, another surgery in May and while we knew he had a very small tumor growing before we left on vacation, we had the time of our lives, and gave Nathaniel his dream vacation – LEGO LAND in Florida. We even experienced Christmas in July thanks to the wonderful group of friends that we hold close to our hearts. They knew Christmas without Nathaniel was a big fear of mine, so they decorated our house with Christmas décor and gave us Christmas in July. Nathaniel also had his very own Hero Party, where a video game party bus arrived at our house, and was visited by Batman, Captain America and Wonder Woman. We held an amazing prayer vigil at our home, and while Nathaniel was not able to go outside, when I showed him pictures of everyone who was out there, he was honored. Our 2015 was blessed with so many wonderful moments and memories that we will always hold dear. It was also the most devastating having lost him on September 22. Holding him in my arms for the very last time is a painful memory that I will also never be able to forget. The one thing that I will always remember is when DJ and I were crying by his side on a day he truly wasn’t feeling well, he looked at both of us and said, “I know how much you both love me”. That helps me get through some days.
We have much healing to do. We are seeking assistance from grievance counselors, and I am hoping it will help us move forward somehow. I feel like I’ve been dragging my feet a bit on getting Nathaniel’s foundation started, but I will be pulling things together on that soon. Until then, we are looking forward to celebrating Nathaniel’s 10th birthday on March 14 with the room naming ceremony at Corky Gonzales Branch Library located at Colfax/Irving. Having no idea how to get through his birthday, I thought it was fitting to fill the day with a celebration in honor of this cancer hero. The Denver Public Library Friends Foundation has decided to name the art room located in the library after our brave hero, Nathaniel –an honor of which he is most worthy, and we are thankful for such an honor.
We are also collecting Legos to be given to cancer patients at Children’s Hospital in honor of Nathaniel. Thanks to a beautiful soul who was touched by Nathaniel’s story, we will deliver those Lego’s sometime in May once visitation restrictions are lifted at Children’s Hospital. It truly warms my heart to know that Team Nathaniel continues to live on in the hearts of many. I will continue to post periodic updates on this site until a site for Team Nathaniel is officially launched. On that note, if any of you know an attorney who would be willing to work with us pro bono to help us establish a foundation and work on patents, please let me know. I will provide details on what we need, and what our plans are for the foundation if there is someone willing to help. Happy New Year to each and every soul that has been touched by our son’s life. Giving life to Team Nathaniel is the only way we can keep him alive now, so we will continue to keep his memory and his love for life in the forefront of everyone’s heart by doing our part to combat childhood cancer. It’s all we have left.