Like a moving-picture, the images fluttered in my head. And my pen started to transcribe all that I was bottling inside my heart.
October 13, 1991
My Dearest Eli,
Yet again tonight I went to bed crying for you, Eli. Heart wrenching sobs escaped from me and in between them I relived your short life with such clarity.
I knew you were very special, Eli, from the day you were born. And now, with the first anniversary of your death upon us, I realize fully just how special you really were and still are. You affected so many people in your short life, Eli.
Even now, I have moments when it is hard to believe that you are really gone. Or are you? You’re in my heart now and forever Eli.
Will it ever get easier, Eli? Sometimes, I am very happy for you. Those times are when I know you are pain free and happy. Heaven must be such a wonderful place.
Then there are times when my heart aches and aches for you, honey. Those are the times when I relive moments of your childhood before the doctor diagnosed you with cancer, and also moments after being diagnosed.
I remember vividly the day you were brought home from the hospital after your birth. Your brother, Noah, only one year old, took to you instantly. Throughout your short life, the two of you were inseparable. Best playmates you two were. But you were the most daring, Eli. You had such a zest for life.
I remember the day you and Noah were on your hot wheels and racing around and in and out of the garage. Noah came running into the house to tell me you had a snake cornered in the garage. Upon investigation, there you were, laughing with delight, and riding your hot wheels in circles, closer and closer, to a coiled king size bull snake.
Sometimes when I wake in the morning Eli, I start to think about what I’m going to make my “boys” for breakfast. And then I remember.
And sometimes in the evening, when Noah is taking his bath, I remember how it always was two boys in the bathtub and not one.
My precious Eli, oh, how I miss you. I miss your sweet smile, shining blue eyes and pale blond hair.
You had to grow up so fast, Eli. It was such a shock to learn that you had cancer, one month before your fifth birthday. In a flash, I would have traded places with you.
You went from being a happy little boy into a world of doctors and nurses, needles and IV’s, catheters and spinal taps.
I was selfish, Eli. I loved you too much to let you die. And so you suffered. You went through head and neck, and open chest surgeries. How my heart ached for you, Eli, when, four hours after surgery on your lungs, I helped a nurse stand you up in bed. How you hated ICU.
Because I loved you too much to let you go, you suffered such horrible radiation burns on your sweet head and neck. The chemotherapy made you so very sick. Even under sedation, you were sick. But you knew the “good guys” were out to get the “bad guys”. At four years old, you knew you would die without treatment.
It hurt me so bad that you were unable to eat for seven and a half months. Your only nutrition was IV. You always ate so well before. You had always relished the sheer taste of food. It was unfair of me to bring food into your room in the hopes that you would eat something. Sometimes you tried. I remember when you woke during the night once and asked for watermelon. I drove half of Denver to get it for you. You only ate a couple of bites, but it was worth it.
I remember the long days and nights in the hospital those seven and a half months. I was able to take you home only four different weekends. I remember the isolation in times of high fever and the ice blankets, lots of oxygen and machines everywhere.
How I cried Eli, on the morning that we woke up and found all your hair lying in your bed and not on your head. You were too proud to wear a hat.
I also remember good times, like when the group came from the Denver baseball team and you received an autographed photo of George and a Royals’ baseball. Or I would be wheeling you around, outside the medical center, and you would point out cars and ask me if they were “race cars.” How we would talk about the race car we would have someday and how much it would be worth.
Having lived two hundred and thirty miles away, you were awestruck by the freeways in and out of Denver. You thought they looked like race tracks.
And how about the time I was able to take you to the Denver zoo? You did not mind that I had to push you, a boy at five years of age, in a stroller, up and down the hills. You were so weak. You did not care; you only wanted to see the animals.
And on good days, I also remember how you would hide under a gurney in the hall and wait for a person to be passing by, only to give them a good dose of water from your squirt gun. It did not matter to you whether or not you knew the person you squirted. Sometimes you would sneak around the nurses’ station and into the medication room, fully loaded with water, and let loose. No doctor, nurse, or visitor was safe from you.
Or how about the times an IV would complete and I would unhook you. You headed straight for your three-wheeler and down the hall you zipped. Everyone stayed out of your way and laughed. Such sport you had.
Other times, when you had to stay in bed, you made me chase down a VCR so you could watch Superman or Ghostbusters. You never tired of those two movies. You knew them by heart and delighted in telling anyone who would listen what would happen next.
I remember the times when you would have to undergo yet another series of X-rays, CT scans, or MRI and I would stay by your side throughout them, telling you stories and keeping you from moving.
I’m sorry, Eli, that I was not able to make you well. I think that you went through all that you did, those seven and a half months, simply because of how much I loved you and did not want to let you go.
I remember the times that I would feel down and you would come up to me. You would put your arms around me and say, “I’m sorry, Mom.”
I remember when we were together, waiting in the OR before your lung surgery. You were feeling well and you looked at me and said, “I want to go to Heaven, Mom.” I went speechless. And then I told you that sometimes we don’t get what we want and that you might have to come back to me.
And yet, I remember so well how after your last chemo, you picked up yet another “bug” and ended up on a respirator; just how much you fought for life as we know it, those last fifteen days.
Most of all, Eli, I remember how I cradled you in my arms, and whispered into your ear that soon you would not have to have any more pain and it would be okay, as your heart stopped for the third and last time, and you died in my arms.
Thank you, Eli, for going through what you did because I loved you and did not want to let you go.
I’ll always love you Eli.
I had so much to say. I didn’t think that I was prolific, and yet, when it came to you, Eli, I wrote down pages. The pages were bleeding, not with blood, but with the ink that were blotched with my tears. I had no courage before today to write down these words because doing so would make it so real that you were not really coming back to me.
As I read the letter once again, I broke into sobs. Up until now, I still couldn’t let you go, Eli. What every parent said was true—that it was so wrong to have to bury your child. I never really understood the depth of those words before, until my turn came to bury you. It was so wrong to have to see you go away, Eli. But like the angel that I knew you were, you flew. Far away, another angel awaited you as I was sure that your brother Joshua would be delighted to finally meet you. And this time around, with two angels watching over my shoulders, the burden of losing two of my children may somehow be more tolerable.
But who was I kidding? No amount of words would comfort me now. Not yet, because I was still grieving. Another year would pass by, and another, and another—and maybe then, I would get accustomed to having only one son here on earth with me instead of three.
I love you, Eli, I whispered repeatedly. I love you. Always and forever, Mama