Thursday, August 6, 2009

His name means "old man"

June 4, 2008
Subject: his name means “old man” in Swahili

He was 10 years old and this morning I read his obituary. I met his mother a while ago and wrote about that brief encounter. We were standing in the hallway and exchanged glimpses of our stories. I told her Aria had been diagnosed with ALL and we were just starting the process. She told me that her son had been diagnosed 5 years ago with an 85%-90% cure prognosis. However, that was not their experience. Instead, he would endure a year or so of chemotherapy and enjoy a brief remission of a few months followed by a recurrence of his cancer somewhere else in his body. He'd been doing that for the last 5 years. This time, she was told that it was time to say good-bye. "How do you do that?" I asked. "I don't know." she replied. She told me there was one other treatment they could try and that's what they were doing. I remembering thinking, "Right, how could you live with yourself knowing you didn't try everything available?!" I remember exchanging a look with her. I don't have any words to describe this exchange but I knew instantly that I would never forget her.

I saw her while we were in the hospital and her son was receiving outpatient treatment and I've seen her a few times since. I wasn't surprised to see his obituary but I am very......something......about it. I can't say that I feel sad, nor do I feel happy that the struggle is over or even relieved. I feel this strange sense of 'empty.' I will sit with that thought all day today. He was a beautiful little boy and I am so sorry for his family and friends left behind without him. In many ways, his mother's journey is now just beginning again. I'm planning on going to his wake on Friday and funeral on Saturday. It will be my first experience is this regard. I feel compelled to go and I know I'll learn a great deal.

I send out thoughts of peace in this moment. Peace to those who have died and peace to those who have life yet to live. ~j

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