Saturday, April 20, 2013

Butterflies and Gerber Daisies

I am doing that kind of breathing when I hope that each little breath scoops up a particle of my broken heart and puts it back where it belongs. Tonight was incredibly hard. While Gideon was taking his chemo, we were excitably talking about how his sharks are being harpooned and how the good fish are strong inside of him (kind of like THE FORCE, and then we went off on a five minute tangent. We are both good at those side street conversations). Out of nowhere, Gideon asked, “Mommy, how is that girl from the clinic?” I began naming different girls being treated and describing them. He kept shaking his head and saying no. I could tell he was losing his patience with me as I diligently went through my mental list. He added this detail, “We sang together in the hallway and played instruments together. She loves butterflies. Remember?”

I did remember. When I named her, he nodded his head emphatically and said, “YEAH! How is she?”

Here is when I was at a moment's loss. I promised myself and Gideon that I would never lie to him about his cancer, about the treatments, not any part of this process. I want him to feel like he could always trust me. He knows that when I say it won't hurt, it won't. He knows to get brave when I tell him something will hurt. There is a strong trust there. But, the selfishness in me did not want to tell him the truth. I didn't want him to know. I wanted to guard his innocence. How could I protect him from this heartbreaking truth? What if her name was mentioned at the CureSearch Walk and he hears the news that way instead of from me?

So, I told him, “She is in heaven now, Gideon. She's in her real home.” Then as I saw Gideon's little lip jut out, and heard him try to talk but no words would come out, my breaking heart screamed out to God to keep my tears away, to keep me strong. As I leaned closer to his lips, barely a whisper was escaping. He kept repeating, “That's not fair. That's not fair. That's not fair.” And tears streamed at a steady rate down those empathetic cheeks of his. I agreed it wasn't fair and I scooped him up.

Why, mommy?” he barely choked out. I told him that we are all on this temporary home for a little while. Once we have done what we were sent here to do, we go home. I told him that this precious girl got her job done very early and no one understands why or how, but we have to keep living and loving and remembering.

He then said, and this part makes me shake my head in wonderment and immense sadness, “It's also not fair because I have cancer but I am still on this earth, but she isn't. Why do some sharks beat the good fishies? She should still be on this earth with me.” It was as if he felt guilty that he is beating his cancer!  I told him that we all would rather have her on this earth, too, but we have to let her memory cause more love and light than anger.  I added that I knew for a fact that she wants Gideon to win against the sharks, too.

Gideon said, “Mommy, can we hatch butterflies this year for her (I am omitting her name because I am not sure her parents would be okay with it)? Can you find out what her favorite name was and we'll name the prettiest butterfly for her and watch it fly away to heaven?” I nodded.

He then said that she loved pink and that he thinks her favorite flower was the Gerber Daisy. I am not sure where he came up with that tidbit, maybe the flower reminds him of her, I don't know. He said he would plant those flowers just for her, and when they are tall enough and pretty enough, he'd cut them and would like to give them to her mommy. I told him we could do that...

I then laid down next to him, and he moved my hand so that it covered his heart. He said, “Could you just leave your hand right here, mommy? It hurts right there.” And that's when I let a few undetected tears fall. Whenever Gideon has a sore leg from treatment, he wants me to keep my hand on it because it makes it feel better. Somehow that physical pain is easier to deal with than this broken heart feeling he was experiencing.

Last week, in the car and on the way to school, Gideon said two beautiful things. I wrote down his words, and I think they make sense for me to add here as a post script.
Gideon: “Mommy, what color was invented first?”
Me: “I'm not sure, Gids. What do you think?”
Gideon: “I think it was either white or black.....Soooo, I think it was white since that is the color of light, and God is Light, and He was here first.”

Next conversation:
Gideon: “Sometimes when I look outside or I am just thinking about nothing at all, I feel God.”
Me: “What does that feel like?”
Gideon: “It feels like God is rubbing my back very, very lightly and then that feeling is everywhere. Then, it's like he tucks my heart in with the softest blanket.”

While I was holding Gideon's heart, I reminded him of those two fresh conversations, and an instant smile spread across his face. No matter how unfair, how horrendous, how heartbreaking it is to lose a child to cancer, Gideon knew he had to find the Light. He found it in butterflies and gerber daisies.  


  1. Oh, dear heavens, sweetheart!!! I cannot begin to imagine how hard that was for you both! My heart aches along with yours and Gideon's for the unrealized promise of that young life too quickly extinguished. I think, though, you explained it in the best possible way - and by reminding him of those precious convos, you also reminded him of the light that will always surround him, even in times of great darkness.

    All my love to you all over there... and my deepest hopes that Gideon's progress continues unabated! As I promised at the outset, my Facebook profile pic won't change until Gideon's status changes, but I'm looking forward to the day I can post a pic of my face with a HUGE smile on it because Gideon will be cancer-free.
    ~~Aunt Nancy~~

  2. Such a beautiful story, thank you for sharing once again with us. If only the world could see it through Gideon's eyes, we could all be better humans.

  3. Mary (Lacy's MomApril 22, 2013 at 9:30 PM

    You have a very special little boy. Thank you for sharing. It brought tears and smiles. I remember that day...I believe it was our first day, or at the very least, the first week at the clinic. Lacy was scared and apprehensive, however the music therapists, Suzanna and Diana were able soothe and calm Lacy through many procedures. I remember sitting on the floor with our children as Diana played one of Lacy's favorites..."The Wheels on the bus". I still catch myself humming that tune on occasion.
    I read with amazement and gratitude, as your son recalled the events of that day. Children must have a special connection. How could Gideon possibly know the significance of butterflies and flowers, or remember a brief encounter from two and a half years ago...and happened to recall it on a day when I needed such a story the most. Our children are remarkable.
    We continue to pray for you and our entire "clinic family". Take Care and God Bless
    Mary (Lacy's Mom)

    1. Mary,

      Thank you for sharing so much of your beautiful girl. Thank you for your gorgeous email. I am so happy you gave us six favorite names since we do have six caterpillars! I loved your description of Lacy sniffing flowers (even on murals) in your email, and I wonder if maybe that's a memory Gideon has... I don't know, but I do know she made an impression on Gideon and I am thankful she did! We will honor her memory. So much love to all of you!

  4. You write beautifully dear friend. I know, you'll say it's not hard with such muses as Gideon and Brody, inspired by all the good things in life - including your loving family. We are always thinking of you all, and saying prayers. Love to the boys. Love to you. xoxox