2663...on the surface, not a very significant number. It could mean anything, everything, or nothing at all. For my family, 2663 days was the ever so brief time we were able to spend with Darrel. Today marks seven years since neuroblastoma took him away from all those who loved him. As hard as that is to comprehend, December 24, 2014, Christmas Eve, will be 2663 days since Darrel's passing. Next to his birthday, Christmas was his favourite day on the calendar. To think that after this date, Darrel will have been gone for longer than he was here is unsettling to say the least. What seems like yesterday on so many levels in my mind is truly becoming more distant, yet ever present too.
2007 marked the end of our family as we knew it at the time. Both Darrel's life and death equally changed all that we were, and set us on the course for all that we were to become in the future. This evolution continues, and has and will bring many more highs and unfortunate lows along the way. As a family, we emerged both stronger and diminished from that had happened through Darrel's diagnosis, treatments, and those final horrific hours. Those emotions, strains, moments of personal growth, and even enlightenment echo in positive and negative terms through each of us as much now as they did back then. It is impossible to discuss where we all are today without remembering what happened on September 9, 2007.
Over the Summer seven years ago, I took Darrel to see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) and the original Transformers movies while they were still playing in the theatres. He thoroughly enjoyed each of them, as I did as well. Most movies we went to back then had the entire family attending, but none of the girls had any interest in seeing either, so these were rare, and as it would turn out, fleeting moments of Father and Son time together. Jump ahead to this year, and both franchises have had new films out. I went to see them both of them, primarily because Darrel could not. The Transformers series is quite worn out now, but at least the Turtles movie is/was a reboot, so it was a bit fresher and entertaining (ironically featuring Megan Fox, formerly of Transformers) to watch.
I don't necessarily believe in coincidences, but when I noticed a young boy, obviously fighting some kind of cancer, at the Turtles screening I went to, it both tugged at, and warmed my heart. From a few rows back, I could just imagine the anticipation and excitement for this boy, in seeing his heroes (in a half shell) on the Big Screen, far away from whatever treatments and hospitals consumed much of his daily life. I had seen a look like that before in Darrel's dancing eyes seven years ago, and the flashbacks were unavoidable. As I watched this boy slowly struggle to leave the theatre afterwards, with his parents ever ready to assist him, I remembered all the "Airlifts" I had given to Darrel from place to place when he was too weak to make under his own power. If I had been out running an errand, Darrel would always give me heck when I returned for not being there in time to have moved him when he had wanted. He was a friendly kid, with a amazing wit and humour, but Darrel could also be quite opinionated and impatient when he felt the need to be. There he would be, with one hand on his hip, and wagging his finger at me with the other. I'm sure that if he had made it to be a teenager, these traits would not be recalled or deemed to be so endearing by me, but that was not meant to be.
2014 is also marking an end, change, and new beginning for me personally, and my family. The time had come earlier this year for Darrel's mother and I to go our separate ways. The issues and circumstances are not important, or for public discussion. To say that the loss of Darrel played no part, or was a deciding factor in reaching this decision would be a disservice to his memory. Like all members of our family, his presence or absence, actions or inactions, and hopes and dreams have brought us to the point we have arrived at together, and where we will part. I am aware that the long term survival rate of marriages after suffering such a loss is not favourable, but I do not want our years together to be simplified, and merely added to these statistics. To quote from Transformers, there is "More Than Meets The Eye".
Like seven years ago, moving forward is what must and will happen. Like seven years ago, adjustments will need to take place, as well as defining what the "new normal" is for myself, and each of my daughters. Though we will all continue to move forward both together and separately, our times and experiences with Darrel will always play a role in everything we are, and everything we will be. For that, at least, I am very thankful.
Love and Miss You Little Man
"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end" ~ Semisonic