Each year, after sending my son off for a week at Camp Kesem, he emerges a little more in his own. He is unique, that young man. Sometimes he is a little quirky, clumsy, introspective, curious, or flighty. He, like all of us, embodies different qualities on different days. Now more than ever, as manhood begins to take hold of him, he is ever-changing. Although his friends have come up with their own nickname for him, rather than the sweet way he referred to himself when he forever-suffered from ear infections and couldn’t hear his name quite right, he will always be “YaYa” to me — not so little anymore but still my YaYa.
The leaders at camp, all amazing college students who really do “make magic happen.” Having created this unique experience through their own efforts, these student-leaders put their fundraising, financing, marketing and project management skills to work to create a fun, emotionally-supportive environment for kids who have a parent with cancer, or have lost a parent to cancer. These kids need to be kids, but their needs are often overshadowed by the demands of cancer treatment (or grieving). Here, they get a full week of having their needs met.
This is my son’s 6th year of this invaluable camp. He looks forward to it every year and we insure that nothing stands in his way of attending; he has only a year or two left before he is no longer eligible to attend. With 5 years of healing, YaYa is now in a good space to help the kids who are still overwhelmed by what Cancer has robbed them of. It’s quite different from his first time here, just 3 months after his dad died. The counselors continue to sing praises of YaYa’s leadership and mentoring qualities when we reunite at the end of camp. Already, my son is talking about the upcoming year where he will enter into OLP (outdoor leadership program), as well as the possibility of becoming a camp leader when he attends college. It’s a pretty cool thought.
Lately, I’ve been craving twists and heart opening poses in my yoga practice. Fortunately for me, the yoga studio is serving these up in super-sized portions. When the invitation comes, I latch onto it, take the pose as far as I am physically able, and bask in the moment. It feels as luxurious as a hot summer day, and the sweat rolls off of my skin as if it were.
They say that these twists have a way of wringing out “toxins,” and that the heart opening poses work to fill you up so-to-speak. Toxins, in my current reality, means this sickness that my body has been fighting and the pent up emotions that have been buried deep within. As I move towards the coming of Spring, the hurts of years past comes bubbling up — as it does every year at this time. It seems that I am more neutral to it this year, but the season has just begun.
I’ve done a lot of grief work in these past 5 years. The therapy, writing, sifting through years and years of medical records, and everything else has been quite a process. There is only one thing left for consideration. This one remaining thing is to write a letter to the oncologist to ask why, when the hospital records clearly noted less than 6 months, he told us that we had a year to prepare for the inevitable.
Death is never easy. I’m not sure that 11+ more months would’ve helped. Nor am sure that Tom wanted the suffering to go on that long. Why would he? But the truth most certainly would have been better, if only so the kids did not feel like we lied to them. Obviously, that was not our intent.
Although this letter has been on my list of things-to-do for quite some time, I wonder if writing this letter give me the closure I am seeking. I do not expect he will even remember us. If he does, it is doubtful that he will even know what he was thinking back then. As I consider this last task, I wonder what I want to say — today. It is different than the message I had a little as one year ago. I grateful for all the healing.
YaYa returned from camp with a little more maturity and confidence. It’s like this every year but, this year, it hit me harder than usual. Teenager! My son is well on his way to being a teenager. Given BoBo’s rocky path, this frightens me to no end. And yet…