September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Each day a different guest blogger will be featured who will generously share their personal experience with childhood cancer. Stories are always more potent than statistics.
By Anita Wagner
As we walked up to the mortuary where we had viewed, touched, and seen my beautiful little boy’s body silently laying there, still, just three years ago, the place we had him cremated at, I wondered how I was going to get my brain to tell my voice to speak, to tell the person, the poor stranger at the front desk, why I was there.
Images of touching Ryan’s dead little body ran through my head, my hands ran over his fuzzy hair, his stomach was flat now, no more bloating from the chemo. No more pain. My fingers gripped his lifeless hands, my lips kissed his cold little checks that still felt so very much like him — too much like him.
“I need some certificates,” I spit out somehow, “To fly with my son. My son was cremated here three years ago his name is Ryan.” I placed a small square white box wrapped in cloth on the table to show her and I said, “This is Ryan’s ashes.”
She had kind eyes, and a sympathetic look instantly that made the tears well up inside of me and then the tears just fell, but I spoke, “I need to take my son’s ashes on a plane, we are traveling with his urn and a small box, this box.” She went to the filing cabinet to retrieve a small white sheet of paper. “Aaahh, Ryan,” she said with a sad smile. “How old was your baby?” I said Ryan was six. She looked down and then back up and said with a gentle smile, “Where are you going?”
It’s funny how some days I can plan a party, head to the beach with friends, campfires, s’mores, drinks, laughter, weekends filled with nonstop agendas, busy weekdays and nights with dinner, homework, playing taxi to my two boys, scheduling their music lessons, watching my oldest son now 15 turn into a man practically — he’s shaving now, my twelve year old dealing with all the struggles of middle school, but something never feels quiet right. Something is always a little off. The empty feeling still has not gone away and I don’t think it ever will.
I stopped waiting.
Today I packed away some of Ryan’s things. Sold his beloved 4X4 orange jeep power wheels. OUCH! That hurt just about as much as I knew it would. He was not his things, and I keep telling myself that. It still hurts like hell, though, to see all that is left of all that he last touched go away! His room still is filled with all his favorite pillow pets, khung zhu toys, Legos, and far too many beads of courage, a ukulele he will never play. So many things, but it’s hard to part with them.
It was so very hard to part with Ryan.
My family of now four is getting ready to partake on a journey. A journey of lifetime — a two month trip to Europe. We’ve never been there, unless you count my husband’s layovers from his military deployments, but we don’t really count them. We will be headed to Ireland, France, Italy, Spain, Germany…the most important part of the trip is Germany.
It will almost be Christmas time there when we arrive in late November to Bavaria. Years ago I showed Ryan and my other two sons pictures on the web of Bavaria’s Christmas market. Like something out of a movie. Beautiful Christmas lights dazzled, people filled the market which was covered in bright white Christmas snow, and Ryan began to cry. Not sobbing, but tears streamed down his cheeks and I said “Why are you crying?” He responded, “Because it is so beautiful that I just want to go there,” as he wiped tears from is cheeks.
Well now you will Ryan, now you will, as I wipe the tears from mine.
My family of now four will spread the little white box of Ryan’s ashes in all the beautiful places he will never go to while my mom watches Ryan’s urn, his ashes all that remain of his body. Sometimes life doesn’t go as we planned and sometimes you just have to take a deep breath, and “just keep swimming.”
This is it. This is what we’ve got and I’m going to give it my all and make the best damn life and memories I can because I am living for Ryan now too. We all are. We are all living for Ryan now, and he will go wherever we go . . . always.
Poem by Robert Frost