First day of school came upon us quickly. Maybe I ignored the hints and displays, inverting myself to protect my heart. No school supply shopping. No new clothing requests. We were in our own world, happy for the summer. First day of school still came and reared its ugly head at us. First day photos infected social media. Happy faces, fancy clothes, new friends, new school. New school. That hit me the hardest. Madox would be starting at a new school this year. High school. Grade 9. Back with Valin after only a year apart. Instead, Madox never made it to grade 4. Always stuck in elementary school. Never experiencing the changing of schools, meeting new people and making new friends. Never having nervous feelings about entering high school, being the youngest group in the school, or joining school sport teams. There are too many nevers.
First day of school was only a half day for Valin. So I dropped him off as I was running errands. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary until a friend of mine sent me photos of her kids first day of school. I sat outside of the grocery store and tears streamed down my face. I had forgotten to take Valin’s first day photo. It hadn’t even crossed my mind. I have never forgotten to take that important photo, yet here I was, completely shattered at my forgetfulness. Or did my brain just shut it all off to cope? Regardless, I need to remember to take a photo on the second day of school. It’ll still work, right? ugggg
Shaking it off, I went to the bank. While there, I needed to change Valin’s account over to a student account from the start up Leo account. I know, I know, I’m way behind. Clearly my focus is amiss. Once inside, the teller asked if I will be changing over Madox’s account. I froze. I purposely never told the bank of Madox’s death. I liked seeing his name in my group of accounts. Today I felt I couldn’t carry it on anymore. So I swallowed hard and said ” transfer the entire account over to Valin’s and close Madox’s account.” I had to say it quickly. Huge frog in my throat. Everything went silent around me. I couldn’t hear anything because I was so focused on what I had just said. Close his account. It may not seem like a big deal to some, but it’s pretty huge. So final. I will never see ‘Valin’ and ‘Madox’ when I log into my banking. My heart broke again in that moment. The teller was good. She didn’t ask why I was closing the account. She just did exactly as I asked so I was on my way quickly. I hadn’t even made it to the door when tears began flowing. I made it to my car and sobbed. The finality of it all. Constantly giving me reminders I never want.
Before Madox died, he had a moment with Valin. Specifically told Valin he can have all his money and all his toys. When I told Valin later that evening that I had transferred Madox’s savings into his account he just looked at me in silence. Quietly he said “thanks Madox.” I stood up and walked away with tears in my eyes again. Those that think it gets easier, you are very very wrong.
I have seen over the years, posts of parents sharing how long they are without their child, in years, months, days and even hours. What I thought would be interesting, just overwhelmed and saddened me more.
Oh my gawd it hurts as it gets broken down. I can still remember as if it was yesterday. The softness of his hair. The brightness of his eyes and smile. The kindness in his heart. Then realizing how long it has been since I have heard his voice, touched his soft skin, or felt his loving hugs. 5 years! 5 long debilitating years. Over those years, not only do we have to live our lives without him with us. We also need to deal with ignorance around us. Words that don’t help. Words that hurt.
“It’s been 5 years already? You haven’t gotten over it yet?” No, parents don’t get over their child dying. 1 day. 5 years. 20 years. It all hurts. And it will be forever.
“You still celebrate his birthday? Isn’t that morbid?” Actually no, it honours our son on the day he was born and joined our complete family. It allows us to celebrate him on a very emotional day.
“You haven’t changed his room? Make it an office or something.” Wow! Thanks for the suggestion. An office is a great idea, but don’t suggest that to a parent who finds peace at looking at their dead sons room. Better yet, don’t make a suggestion at all. Until you bury your child, no one wants to hear what you think is “healthy” for us. Some people need to change their child’s room soon after, while others, like us, prefer to enjoy his room as he left it.
Besides all the noise that surrounds us, we have been able to remember Madox on this difficult day. Good and bad. We remember his last days. We remember his last hours. The last breath. The gut wrenching scream from his brother. The utmost hopelessness we felt as parents. It will never leave us. We also reminisce about the good times and memories we shared. His infectious giggle. His unwavering love for us. His goofy noises and faces. Those funny saying that still makes us smile. My favourite still after all these years, was when he was crying during swimming lessons. When I asked him why he was crying he responded “I’m still getting water in my nose even with the goggles”. I started laughing and told him that didn’t make sense. He just responded “I know!” and continued to cry and jumped back into the water. I instantly thought of that moment when I grabbed an old bag the other day and those blue goggles were sitting in there. It definitely put a smile on our faces when I pulled them out.
These days are hard, and I know they will always be hard. We are just learning how to handle them a little better each year. We visited Madox at his plot and laid next to him for a long while as the sun shone down on us. It was peaceful and needed. No one else around us. No words. No outside voices telling us what we should and should not do. Just us and our thoughts.
Madox, you are so missed. We love you with every cell in our body. We wish August 8 had no significance, and that we were just enjoying our summer day like every other family. We are sorry we couldn’t protect you and keep you safe. We are sorry life continues on, while you will always stay 9 years old. We are sorry. We are so very sorry. We love you so much.
Today Marco and I went to the Valour FC soccer match. Valin was sitting with his soccer team as they all got a free ticket for winning the provincials the other day, so his aisle seat next to us sat empty.
As we were watching the game, in the row in front of us, a man leading his son then wife were trying to walk out of their middle seats to get snacks before half time. It was clearly a struggle for them to try and move between people in the row. Marco made a sad noise as I looked up and saw their sweet little boy. He reminded us so so much of Madox when he was going through his battle. This little guy was a little unbalanced with his walk, and had the typical moon face caused by steroids. To add to our heartache for this cutie, he looked at Marco and apologized for standing in his view. Marco immediately said “don’t worry about it buddy. Take your time”. I felt Marco’s body sink in sadness that this boy felt he needed to apologize for nothing he did wrong. After they left, we just sat there in silence, sad for that young boy and sad for his parents.
Eventually as I was going to the washroom, I saw them standing near the top of the stairs holding snacks. I couldn’t help myself and approached them, offering them our aisle seats to make their game more enjoyable. They were kind enough to take me up on my offer and we began talking. This cutie and his family were thrown into a brain cancer diagnosis, eventually figuring out it is DIPG (doctors called it midline glioma but we know it’s a new term for dipg). It is no wonder he reminded us so much of Madox. Then as if I had known them for years, I grabbed dads drink and food so he can concentrate on his son, and started walking them to our seats. 🤣 G
lad he didn’t slap me for just taking his food. Luckily, the 2 seats in front of us were empty so we sat right in front of this sweet family and were able to get to know them a little more.
I don’t know what the odds are that we bumped into a family whose child was recently diagnosed, but I am happy we did. I just hope we were able to make their day a little bit more comfortable and maybe helped them by sharing a few things we knew worked for Madox.
It doesn’t take much to be kind to people. Paying It Forward can even be just sharing your heart with someone. We don’t know everyone’s story, so be gentle. If you take the time to talk to people, you may end up meeting some pretty amazing humans.
End of school is tough on me. The relaxed nature of the kids having fun with their classmates. The feel of summer with kids biking to school, wearing shorts and staying up later than they should. Madox always loved the last few weeks of school, but in elementary, they just had field trips, movies and games. Who wouldn’t love the end of school? Madox shouldn’t be in elementary anymore, he should be finishing up grade 8. Sadly he is forever stuck in grade 3. My mind is a fog.
Last week his classmates all went on the school trip to Quebec. I viewed all the parents posting photos of their kids at the airport; group photos of students pre boarding; then photos the kids sent to their parents during the trip. One by one those photos ripped my heart apart. I was still happy for my friends, for Madox’s friends, to get this amazing experience. I just feel robbed. Where was my excitement standing at the airport with Madox? Where was my fear letting him go onto that airplane without me? Where were my texts and photos of historic sites he has seen? It was taken from us, and I still can’t accept that.
Now today is graduation day for the grade 8 class, Madox’s class. He never made it to this new school, so there is no connection there. The connection is his old classmates and friends. Of Madox not moving onto high school with them all. The missed experience of new things, like writing exams, managing life as the young kids of the school, or trying new sports. That won’t be happening for him, for us. Instead I sit at my computer with tears in my eyes, and a lump in my throat wishing I was at the school right now clapping for each new grad. Laughing at the kids all acting goofy with each other. Listening to the kids figure out who will be in each others classes. Standing with other moms and dads sharing fears and worries about the next year. We don’t get that because Madox died.
Some people act as if life can move on no problem. That we should be able to accept his death by now. He was only 9 years old when he was taken from us. 9 years old! No life experiences were done by 9. Life still continues after 9. How are we as parents suppose to feel when all his friends start to drive? Start to date? Get their first job? Graduate high school and move on to university? We will never accept his death, because there will be too many reminders, too many wonders, and what if’s. My mind is a fog and my heart aches.
I will continue to be happy for all his friends moving into the new waters of life. I will be proud of them, like I would be proud of Madox. I just hope some of his old friends remember him and miss him at grad.
Another Father’s Day has come and gone, and missing Madox has not lessened. Valin and I planned a nice day away for Marco. We planned a day of hiking out in the Whiteshell, called Pine Point Rapids (Trail). It was a long drive but worth it. The air was fresh, the trees were full and green, and the weather was perfect. I wanted to do something different this Father’s Day, to help Marco get through his broken heart.
We had a great day together. Sitting by the rapids, eating lunch and listening to nature. Just being able to be in that moment helped us get through the day without Madox. As we walked behind Valin running ahead with his dog, Marco and I would talk about Madox and how he should be running with Valin. We talked about the last Father’s Day with both his boys, which was hard to think about as Madox was so ill. It was good to remember but also to live in the moment of the day. I think it was healing for all of us.
Once we got home, Marco wanted to visit Madox’s plot. We still need to visit his plot on specific days, even though it just crushes us. As I sat on Madox’s bench, Marco knelt down at his plot. We give each other time alone to be able to speak to Madox about what is on our minds and hearts. Marco knelt there for a long while. The more I watched, the more I sobbed. Marco was so excited when Madox was born. So excited to be a dad again, to hold his baby boy. Now he cannot watch his son grow older. Will not teach him how to shave. Will never teach him how to drive. Will never have a talk about girls and dating. All that was taken from him and now he kneels down at his sons grave instead. Thinking about everything we are missing tears me apart. I wish it was so different.
So now we celebrate Marco, the father of 2 beautiful boys. The man who would do anything for his kids, and his family. The dad who can only hug one son now. The father who is broken inside but rises above his hurt to be present for his living son. We love you Marco. Happy Father’s Day.