"Children with cancer are like candles in the wind who accept the
possibility that they are in danger of being extinguished by a gust of wind
from nowhere and yet, as they flicker and dance to remain alive, their
brilliance challenges the darkness and dazzles those of us who watch their light."
Here we are...May 26, 2008. Eight years ago today, we were celebrating the
birth of my son Darrel. Eight years later, it's still his birthday, but
there is little left to celebrate. There will be no gifts, no balloons, no
parties, nor cake, but most important of all, no smiling young boy sitting at
the end of the table...there is no Darrel.
Darrel always had a difficult time holding back blowing out the candles
until the "Happy Birthday" song was finished. Perhaps it was due to the rather
extended version that was tradition in my family. Everyone would go through
the verse at different speeds and volume levels, with my mother always being
the last one done. I'm sure it seemed like it went forever, but he knew what
would be coming, even before the first candle was lit. Then again, sitting
quietly and still were never two of Darrel's stronger characteristics. Maybe
it was the knowledge that he could only the presents and "cash money" (he
thought it was great...even better than the gifts sometimes, to get a card
filled with money on his birthday. Afterwards, he'd run up to his room and
admire the colourful bills for a while) after cake part was over with. Who
knows, maybe he had watched so many episodes of Rescue Heroes, and he wanted to
be a fireman, so putting out flames came naturally to him.
Before Darrel was born, Rebecca had quite the collection of scented candles
scattered around the house. The girls never seemed to be as fascinated with
them as Darrel was when they were that young. For them, especially Lauren, it
was more about the scented fragrance each one gave off, not the flame itself.
Once he was mobile enough to get around, the candles, for the most part, became
less prominent in our home (though we still had several cases of them in the
basement bought years earlier...Thanks Tanya). We weren't so worried about him
accidently burning himself or causing a fire (as he always kept a respectful
distance), it was simply the fact he kept blowing them out once Rebecca or I
left the room! Even though he was told that they were safe to be left
unattended for short periods, they would still somehow be extinguished by the
time we got back a few moments later. Throughout the year, on many occasions,
when we were quicker to return than Darrel expected, we'd see him standing in
front of the candle, humming the tune to Happy Birthday as fast as he could,
before blowing out each and every tiny flame. It was hard to get angry with
him for doing this, as the grin on his face was often brighter than the flicker
of light had been only moments before.
We knew that barring some miracle, Darrel's birthday last year was going to
be his last one with us. It didn't matter what he desired as a gift, he
received it, and then some. The Nintendo DS, countless games, DVDs, the much
sought after 'cash money', and of cousre, more Model Magic were all there for
him. Earlier in the week, I had taken him to Zellers to pick out a new bike.
It really wasn't much bigger than the one he had before, but he had seen it in
the store flyer, and really wanted it. As things turned out, he never actually
did get to ride the bike more than once or twice. All his future two-wheeled
adventures were to be solely with his wheelchair, as his condition would
contiune its downward spiral throughout the summer. Though both bikes are
still sitting in our shed today, they will be never rode on again by their
rightful owner. There would be the driving lesson in the empty parking lot,
followed by the TMNT movie in Guelph. It was a great father and son excursion,
but so bittersweet knowing it would also be one of the very few we would have
So here we are...May 26, 2008. I wish I could say I spent the last few
days searching for a certain Transformer or video game for Darrel's birthday,
but I haven't. I wish I could say my house was about to be invaded and
ransacked by a bunch of 8 year old boys for a party for a very special young
man, but it isn't. Most of all, I really wish I could have him standing in
front of me and say "Happy Birthday Darrel, I'm so very proud of you", and give
him a big hug, but I can't.
Happy Birthday Darrel! We all miss you every second of every day!
Love you Little Man.