Monday, August 25, 2014

1st Day of Kindergarten

Today was Caden's first day of kindergarten. This was a day I have been both looking forward to and dreading at the same time, but maybe not for the reason other kindergarten moms are. I've been looking forward to Caden being in school. Meeting new friends. Learning new things. And, I have to admit, I've been looking forward to having some time to myself. Grocery shopping is so much easier when I'm by myself.  But I've been dreading it because it reminds me of the past.

It is a day of memories. Memories of taking Caleb to school on his first day of kindergarten. The pictures we took. The excitement on his face as we drove to school. The joy of meeting new friends. Watching him console a classmate who was nervous. The exhaustion at the end of the day for the ride home.



But today, was a time to celebrate Caden. It is the first day of a new step in Caden's school journey and a rite of passage as he continues to grow into a wonderful young man. He's been nervous and excited about school. He's been looking forward to riding the bus and was most excited about that. He's a little hesitant because he's realizing he'll be away from me for almost 8 hours a day.


His teacher said he had a great first day. Richard and I are so proud of him, and I'm sure Caleb is proud of him as well.

The good news is that I made it through the day without crying. The best news is that Caden is still excited about school and ready to go back tomorrow. And, he still wants to ride the bus.




Lilypie - Personal pictureLilypie Angel and Memorial tickers
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We still miss Caleb every moment of every day. He is always in our hearts, always in our thoughts, and is loved today, tomorrow, in ALL ways to infinity and beyond.

Angel, Richard & Caden

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Happy 9th Birthday, Caleb!

Wow! It's still so hard to believe this is your 4th birthday away from us. I got up this morning and had a hard time realizing you weren't here to enjoy your special day. So, I decided I would spend the day with Caden doing things you liked to do and some things I think you would have liked if you were still here.

We started with going out to breakfast and having donuts. We'd told Caden how much you liked the white sprinkled and pink sprinkled donuts. Caden much prefers the chocolate ones. Of course, he loves just about anything chocolate. I still have trouble believing you never really liked chocolate. Anyway, Caden decided he would have white & pink sprinkled donuts this morning since those were your favorites. He still wanted his chocolate milk to go with it.





For a little boy who normally eats every single bit of donuts and wants more, Caden got full sooner than normal. Surprisingly, he actually ate them more the way you used to - eating all the frosting and sprinkles and then some of the donuts. That was something I had never told him. And, I didn't tell him that until after he was done eating this time. 




After breakfast, we came home and played on the Wii for a bit. Super Mario Galaxy 2 was the game of the morning. We turned it off after a couple hours. It is amazing how time flies when you're having fun playing a game together. I didn't even realize we'd played that long.



We went to the store to buy the balloons for the balloon release after dinner. I ordered them and made plans to pick them up at 5:00 p.m.  Since there's a chance Gma and Nana will be here, I got extra balloons. This year, we'll have a full rainbow and 5 gold balloons.


 I also had to get 2 extra blue balloons because Caden still doesn't want to send all the balloons to you. He wants to keep a couple to remember you. He actually still has the two balloons he kept from March's balloon release. They're looking kinda rough, but still have a small bit of air in them. He keeps them on the shelf in his closet so the cat won't mess with them.


When Gma and Nana arrived, we took the balloons to the back yard, took several pictures, said a few words each, and released the balloons. Caden decided at the last minute that he did want to release a couple of them himself. When we did the release in March, he didn't really even want to be outside with us. So, that's a small step in the right direction.


After the release, we went inside for dinner. Dinner/dessert plans changed slightly from what I had planned. I planned fried shrimp and french fries with pineapple upside down cake for dessert. We ended up having the shrimp with tater tots instead. And the cake was a total bust. I just couldn't bring myself to make it for some reason. I'm still trying to figure out why. So, when I went to the store to get the balloons, I bought some Angry Bird cupcakes and ice cream for dessert instead. 

While we were at the store, Caden says, "Mom, did Caleb ever like to have dessert-first nights?"  

"Yes, Caden. He certainly did."

"Well, I think since we're celebrating Caleb's birthday, we should also have dessert first tonight."


And, we did.

We all miss you so very much. Not a day goes by that we don't think of you or talk about you. You are so very loved. Happy Birthday, my sweet, sweet boy.



Lilypie - Personal pictureLilypie Angel and Memorial tickers
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We still miss Caleb every moment of every day. He is always in our hearts, always in our thoughts, and is loved today, tomorrow, in ALL ways to infinity and beyond.

Angel, Richard & Caden

Friday, August 15, 2014

Happy 16th Wedding Anniversary, Richard!

Sixteen years ago, I married my husband. He was, is, and always will be the love of my life, my best friend, my "more than a dream come true." We promised to love each other through sickness & health, richer or poorer, good times & bad.

And we've definitely had our share of all. We've both dealt with health issues (more me than he). We've gained and lost employment. We gained new family members through marriage and birth. We've lost family members through divorce and death. We've gained and lost friends for various reasons. We've experienced many highs and lows. From the highest highs of our marriage and newlywed years to the lows of infertility. The highs of adopting Caleb, to the lows of struggles in our marriage. Back to the highs of Caden's adoption. Then the absolute depths of the ocean with the diagnosis of DIPG, the 5 1/2 month battle, and death of Caleb.

Throughout it all, we've stood. I won't say it was always easy, because it wasn't. There were times we both wanted to give in and/or give up. But, we didn't. We've weathered the storms. We've persevered. With God's help, we have stayed together.

Looking back, I can't imagine going through all we have without God. He's been the one constant in our lives that's held us together. I am so grateful for God's love, mercy, compassion & grace in our lives.

I'm also so very grateful for Richard's love, mercy, compassion & grace towards me when I've been less than loving, merciful, compassionate & graceful.

He may not be the most handsome man on the earth to anyone else, but he is to me.
He may not be perfect, but he's close enough to perfect for me.

I can't imagine what my life would be like without Richard in it. I pray daily that I never have to find out. And, I can truly say, without a doubt in my mind, that I love him more today than I did when we first married 16 years ago.

I love you, Richard. Here's to the start of the next 16 years (and all the years that follow) in our life journey with each other.

Angel





Lilypie - Personal pictureLilypie Angel and Memorial tickers
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We still miss Caleb every moment of every day. He is always in our hearts, always in our thoughts, and is loved today, tomorrow, in ALL ways to infinity and beyond.

Angel, Richard & Caden

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

AJ Soars, Prayers for AJ (#AJSoars)

Former NFL Chicago Bears player (2002-2009) Adrian Peterson's son, AJ, was diagnosed with DIPG on June 18, 2014. He and his wife, Angela, have now started the DIPG journey with AJ, and as of today, are on Day 23 of radiation. They need our prayers and a miracle for AJ to survive against all odds.

I have contemplated sending this note directly to Angela and Adrian, but decided it would be better served to write it here for all the parents in the future who hear those dreaded words, "Your child has an inoperable brain tumor called DIPG."

Please understand it is not my intention to deny hope to anyone. I hope and pray every single day that a cure for DIPG is found. Right now, I'd be happy for a better chance of surviving longer than the normal prognosis of 6 - 12 months from diagnosis. These are strictly observations and comments from MY point of view and things that I personally have had happen to me.

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Angela & Adrian,

I have struggled for days on how to write this message to you, and I'm still not totally sure of all that I want to say.

I am the mom of a DIPG warrior. I have been where you are now with treatment. I know the emotional, physical, and spiritual ups and downs of this battle.

I'm going to share with you some of the things I wish someone who had been there had told me when Caleb was diagnosed. Some of these you may already know. Some you may not. Some of them may make you laugh. Some may make you cry. Some may bring you to your knees in prayer.

1. PRAY without ceasing!!! Rejoice in the small things.
There may be days when you have a hard time seeing any reason to rejoice. No matter what happens with AJ, one thing will always remain true - God is still in control. He is still on the throne. This diagnosis did not surprise Him. He has a plan that is greater than you could imagine. Though we don't know why this is happening, God does. God didn't cause this to happen, but He can use this situation to make something good come of it.

2. Take as many pictures as you can to remember this time. You will be glad later that you did.
I didn't want to take any pictures during the first couple of months. I couldn't stand to look at what the steroids had done to my sweet boy. He gained over 40 pounds in 5 short months because of the steroids. If it hadn't been for my husband, I wouldn't have as many pictures to look at now.

3. Record his voice as often as you can. In videos. On your phone. However you can. While he still has a voice to use.
Caleb's speech was impaired because of the tumor. I so wish I had more videos or recordings of his sweet voice. The last recording I have of him was taken by my sister-in-law just a week before Caleb died. He was singing "Awesome God." He struggled through every word, yet he made it through. I treasure that recording even though it is not the voice of the little boy I remember.

4. Make frequent videos with him doing the things he loves. The time will come all too quickly when the tumor robs his ability to do those things. You will want to remember those moments.

5. As soon as AJ is finished with radiation, take a trip somewhere fun as a family.
I still wish we had taken Caleb on one more fishing trip or taken him on his first camping trip. But our time ran out so very quickly.

6. If you haven't already done so, contact Make-A-Wish. Stress the seriousness of the situation and get them moving quickly to fulfill AJ's wish.
Caleb wanted to go to Disney World to fight Darth Vader and so his little brother could meet Mickey Mouse. We contacted Make-A-Wish in December 2010, but didn't hear back from them until near the end of January 2011. I don't think we (or the people we were dealing with at Make-A-Wish) really grasped the gravity of the situation or just how quickly things could change. By the time they started getting information on what his wish was, we were put on travel restrictions and he couldn't go. We weren't able to have Caleb's wish of going to Disney World fulfilled. Some day, we hope to take Caden to Disney and remind him of his brother's wish. Maybe, Caden can fight Darth Vader at Disney World on Caleb's behalf.

7. Never, Ever Give Up! Yet, know when it is time to let go.
The hardest thing I have ever done was knowing it was time to change my prayer from, "God, heal him," to, "God, if You're going to take him, please take him soon. Don't let him suffer any longer."


Please know that I am praying for your family. Allow God to hold you in His arms and lean on His strength. It is the ONLY way to get through this time.

Signed,
One who has been there.
#CalebIsMyHero

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You can follow AJ's story on Facebook at: AJ Soars, Prayers for AJ.
They have also set up a GoFundMe account to help with expenses at: AJ Soars by Angela Bailey Peterson


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Lilypie - Personal pictureLilypie Angel and Memorial tickers

We still miss Caleb every moment of every day. He is always in our hearts, always in our thoughts, and is loved today, tomorrow, in ALL ways to infinity and beyond.

Angel, Richard & Caden


Caleb administering his own anesthesia before radiation.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

What's in a moment?

What is 2043 days, 1 hour, and 54 minutes? It can also be represented as 5 years, 7 months, 5 days, 1 hour, and 54 minutes.

Some people would think that is a long time. Others, not quite so long. To some, it is just a blink in light of the time we will spend in eternity. For our son, it represents his entire lifetime. A lifetime cut short because of cancer. Although Caleb isn't with us on Earth any longer, it doesn't mean he didn't exist. It doesn't mean he wasn't my son. It doesn't mean that his time here was any less important than anyone else's.

July 2, 2014, marks another milestone in our journey. As of 4:10 p.m., Caden will have officially lived longer than Caleb. 2043 days, 1 hour, and 55 minutes (and counting). I pray every day that Caden's number of days on Earth keeps growing.

It amazes me that one moment could make such a difference in a life. One moment in time. That's all it takes. One moment marks the exact time of birth. One moment marks the exact time of death. One moment marks each of the minutes in between. Caleb spent the moments in between by loving others, giving to others, being happy, making the most of every moment he was given.

I admit that I spend some of my moments grieving. I spend a lot of my moments remembering. But most of all, I choose to make the most of every moment I've been given. I will spend my moments living. Living in the now. Living in the "what is" and not the "what could have been." Living for the life I have and not the life I thought I would have. Living the life that God has given me and being grateful for it. He blessed me with a wonderful husband and two handsome little boys. Living. Loving. Playing. Giving. Praying. Knowing I will see Caleb in eternity. Knowing I will spend that eternity with God. That's how I want to spend my moments.

How will you spend your moments?





Lilypie - Personal pictureLilypie Angel and Memorial tickers
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We still miss Caleb every moment of every day. He is always in our hearts, always in our thoughts, and is loved today, tomorrow, in ALL ways to infinity and beyond.

Angel, Richard & Caden

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

3 Years

I've been doing a lot of remembering today. I'm enjoying "most" of the memories. As I look through pictures of Caleb's earlier years, I laugh at some of my favorite pictures of him. The pics from his last 6 months are the hard ones to see. He changed so very much during that time because of the steroids that it hardly seems possible that it was the same little boy.


 It feels odd to sum up his life in 18 pictures. But pictures are are the only tangible evidence of his existence. People who never met him will only ever know about him through pictures and the stories we tell about him.

I started the morning using the "On This Day" feature in FaceBook to look back at my newsfeed from 2011. As one can imagine, I was kinda preoccupied that day. I was so surprised to see how many people posted about Caleb that day and asked for prayers for our family as we were going through the most difficult day of our lives. It's three years later and today I saw much of the same thing. It's good to see that he is not forgotten and has had an impact on others. He meant so much to so many people. We all mourn his passing.

We have started a tradition of sending 5 gold balloons to Caleb twice a year - his birthday and his angelversary. When we did our balloon release for Caleb's 8th birthday, Caden had a really hard time with it. Richard and I began talking to him a couple weeks in advance of today to remind him what we are doing and why. He told us, "I don't want to release balloons. I don't want you to release balloons. I don't even want to see it if you do."

We decided to get 6 balloons this year (5 gold and 1 blue) so that Caden could keep at least one balloon. Then we told him we would each take two balloons to send Caleb, but Caden had the choice to release one, both, or none. He chose not to release his balloons. Since we gave him the option, he did much better this year.

We love you, Caleb.
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We still miss Caleb every moment of every day. He is always in our hearts, always in our thoughts, and is loved today, tomorrow, in ALL ways to infinity and beyond.

Angel, Richard & Caden

Friday, March 21, 2014

Today...


Three years ago yesterday....
  • Caleb spent his last day in the sun. He practiced throwing a baseball in preparation for opening day of baseball. He played with sidewalk chalk with Caden. It was a great day.

Three years ago today...
  • Caleb left home for the final time. He couldn't speak any longer. He wasn't eating. He wasn't able to swallow his meds any longer. 
  • We were finally told there was nothing more they could do to help. We were told to "make him comfortable for the time he has left," which was anywhere from 4 days to 4 weeks.
  • Caleb entered the hospital, at his request, for the last time. We would be there until he died. He never slept in his own bed again. He never saw his dog or cat again. He never saw his best friend again.
  • He never left that blasted hospital bed again.


I've been by myself during the days this week because Caden's been spending time with G-ma for spring break. I've actually kept pretty busy and have been doing okay. Until today.

Today:
  • I can't stop thinking about Caleb, no matter how hard I try.
  • I cry for the child we've lost and the man he will never become.
  • I weep from memories of his final days.
  • I laugh while recalling wonderful memories of his entire life.
  • I pray for a cure for all kinds of pediatric cancer so no other parent has to endure what we have.
  • I HATE what cancer did to our little boy and how it has impacted our family.
  • I LOVE that Jesus is now taking care of him.
  • I LOVE that Jesus continues to comfort us and change us, for the better.
  • I LOVE that, one day, I WILL see Caleb again.

Tomorrow...
  • I don't know what tomorrow holds, but I do know Who holds tomorrow. And I am thankful for that.

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We still miss Caleb every moment of every day. He is always in our hearts, always in our thoughts, and is loved today, tomorrow, in ALL ways to infinity and beyond.

Angel, Richard & Caden

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Just an ordinary drive, until...

I picked Caden up from pre-school today and was taking him to get a haircut. Just an ordinary drive, until...

Me: Hey, Caden! Yellow truck!
Caden: Mom, you're not playing the game right. Yellow trucks don't count. Those were Caleb's rules and he's dead now, so I get to make the rules.
(Way to go, son. Just drive that knife deeper into my heart and twist it around a few times. You didn't mean to make me cry. You were just stating a fact - Caleb is dead. How could either of us know that grief would choose that moment to rear it's ugly head and cause me to lose control?)
Me: Oh?! Just because your brother is dead, should we stop playing things he liked? Should we get rid of things that were his? Okay, we won't ever play the "Yellow Game" again. Then, let's get rid of Super Mario Brothers, Star Wars, Super Mario Galaxy, and Super Mario Cart because they were all Caleb's, too. Then we'll get rid of Candy Land, Chutes & Ladders and Mouse Trap along with all the books in your room that were his. Oh, then there's half the toys that are in your room. They were his, too. Is that what you want? Should we just get rid of everything that reminds us of your brother. Because I can't do that. And it really hurt my feelings that you would even say something like that to me.
Caden: No, Mom! That's not what I meant. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you cry. I don't want to get rid of those things. I don't want to get rid of anybody's things.
(Yep, I lost it. Totally lost it. Took out my grief on my 5-year old son. Caden didn't deserve any of it.)
Caden, how could you possibly know that it's all I can do to get through each day this month without breaking down in a pile of tears. How could you know how much it tears me apart when you come out of your room at night saying, "Mom, I miss my brother." There's no way you can understand how much it hurts that you even know about death so early in your life. You're only five years old. You weren't quite even 2 1/2 when Caleb died.

I never know when grief will strike. I never know HOW grief will strike. The most mundane thing can be taking place. Then, BAM! "Hi! I'm Grief! Just wanted to make sure you haven't forgotten me. I'm still here!"

These next couple of weeks will surely take their toll as we approach March 25th. For those who say, "This, too, shall pass," I say, "Not bloody well likely." We'll never stop grieving Caleb. Our grief may change as the years continue to pass, but it will likely always be here. Hiding in the background. Waiting for the most inopportune moment to slam us to the ground again. It doesn't get easier. We just learn how to cope with it better.

Oh, and after we got home, I did apologize to Caden for what I said and how I acted. And, sweet little boy that he is, apologized to me, again, for making me cry. We then held each other and cried together. Then Caden said the most profound thing to me and I just know that he means it to the very depths of his soul.

"Mom, you know that when we die, we'll get to go to Heaven and Caleb will be right there waiting for us, right next to Jesus."

And with that simple comment, peace came over me again. Thank you, God, for giving this special little boy to us.

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We still miss Caleb every moment of every day. He is always in our hearts, always in our thoughts, and is loved today, tomorrow, in ALL ways to infinity and beyond.

Angel, Richard & Caden




Sunday, February 9, 2014

Pitter Patter Little Feet

When we bought our new house back in November, one of the things I knew I would someday hear would be the sound of running all across the upstairs as Caden had friends over to play. Well, it hasn't taken long. Our neighbor's grandson and Caden have become friends and when "T" is visiting, there is the constant sound of running throughout the house. Forget the pitter patter of little feet. This is the sound of full-out running little boy feet. Upstairs. Downstairs. Inside. Outside. Upstairs. Downstairs. Inside. Outside. Over and over it repeats.

Mostly, I smile as it happens. I've had a few moments where the sound is hard to handle, but only because I am once again reminded that I should have been hearing that sound every single day. Caleb and Caden should have been doing that together for a couple years now.

I never fully realize the extent of how much Caden is missing his brother until his friend has to leave at the end of the day, and Caden begins to cry. He says he's afraid he will never see his friend again and won't have anyone to play with any longer since Caleb is gone, too. It's hard to get him to understand that "T" will come back again another day. It may be a while, but he will come back.

And, when he does, the pitter patter pounding of little feet will begin anew. 



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We still miss Caleb every moment of every day. He is always in our hearts, always in our thoughts, and is loved today, tomorrow, in ALL ways to infinity and beyond.

Angel, Richard & Caden

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Obsessed

When we were at our bereavement camp at Camp Sol in October 2013, Caden decided he wanted to learn how to scrapbook and have his very own scrapbook. So, we picked him out one and brought it home with us. Now that we've gotten settled into the house, I'm starting to teach Caden to scrapbook. I told him the hardest two parts of scrapping are picking the pictures to scrap and the paper to put them on. We start looking though some extra shots I had made of Caleb fighting Darth Vader for him to start with.

As he's looking at the pictures, he says, "Mom, when I die am I going to be in the hospital and will Darth Vader come to fight me?"



I have so very mixed emotions about that. I'm glad that he remembers his brother, but I'm also sad about some of the things he remembers and how it impacts his life. He seems obsessed with death and dying lately. That's a difficult thing for me to grasp. I understand that as Caden grows older, his understanding of death will change, as will his grief, but that doesn't help in the here and now, when I don't know how to answer his questions. I don't even remember how I answered that question.

The hardest one was a couple days ago. I'm driving him to preschool, and he says, "Mom, will you miss me when I die next year?"

I'm not even sure how to describe the range of emotions I went through in a split second before answering him with "Honey, I will miss you very much when you die, but hopefully, that won't be for many, many, many years and NOT next year. Why do you think you're going to die next year?"

"Because my brother died when he was 5, and I'm 5 now."

Again, I don't remember the rest of the conversation. Later that day after getting home, he walks past Samson and says, "Mom, you know Samson's gonna die, right. Because he's 10 now and he should be dead soon."

"Caden, everyone will die one day. Let's just hope it's not anytime soon."

It hurts so much to hear him talk about death so straight forward when it is tearing me up. I just want to scream, "PLEASE STOP TALKING ABOUT DEATH & DYING!" But I can't. He's processing his grief the only way he knows how and I have to let him work through it, while trying to work through my own.

This part of the journey is almost as hard as losing Caleb. Here, in the aftermath, we are left picking up the pieces of our lives one a time. I try to be strong when Caden wants to talk about it. I try not to cry. I try not to change the subject. But, it's so very hard.

I am so grateful that I have someone to lean on during these difficult moments. I truly believe that I would have fallen apart long ago if not for my faith and trust in God Almighty. He hears the cry of my heart. He knows how much I hurt. He comforts me like no one else can. I couldn't make it without Him.

Although...
My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak. (Psalm 31:10)
My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes. (Psalm 38:10)
My eyes are dim with grief. I call to You, LORD, every day; I spread out my hands to You. (Psalm 88:9)

I know...
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)
The LORD gives strength to His people; the LORD blesses His people with peace. (Psalm 29:11)
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)
But I will sing of Your strength, in the morning I will sing of Your love; for You are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. (Psalm 59:16)

You are my strength, I sing praise to You; You, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely (Psalm 59:17).

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26)

In peace I will lie down and sleep, for You alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:8)
You turned my wailing into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy (Psalm 30:11)
As we draw closer to the third anniversary of Caleb's death, I have to lean on Him more each and every day. I'm diving into Scripture for words of strength and comfort. I find it amazing how God has heard the cries of my heart and written those cries and the answers for them in His Word long before I was even born.

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We still miss Caleb every moment of every day. He is always in our hearts, always in our thoughts, and is loved today, tomorrow, in ALL ways to infinity and beyond.

Angel, Richard & Caden