Darrel would often call out "Freedom" when I arrived to take him Home after a lengthy stay at SickKids in Toronto, or Grand River in Kitchener. This of course, was preceded by usually telling me that I took too long to arrive, as he had been impatiently waiting for me to get there. At 4:06 PM, 15 years ago today, some would argue that Darrel received his Final Freedom. My son was now free from pain. free from suffering, and free from the utter Hell neuroblastoma had put him through for the previous two long years. More religious people than I would often say that Darrel was "now in a better place", or that "God had different plans for him", and/or "Called him Home early". How could there ever be a more "better place" for a 7-year-old boy than being with his family that loved him, and tried to do anything and everything they possibly could do to protect him and keep him safe?
Is this truly the kind of Freedom anyone would desire if given a choice? I am in no way trying to belittle those who find comfort and solace in their faith of choice, but after you cradle the small and frail body of your son seconds after his last breath, it is more than a struggle to try and find sense in it all, as if it was part of some Grand Design. That moment would, has, and is constantly redefining everything about who I was, and who I would become. It is unavoidable to not be altered in some way after dealing with that kind of loss. Whether a person attempts to move forward, by finding strength in embracing the pain, or by attempting to push the sadness of their loss away to cope with it all, it is a choice only that individual can make. Over these many years, I've been in contact with grieving parents that have traveled down each of these paths, along with many variations in between. It is not my place, or anyone else's, to question the moral rightness of any of these decisions, even if we can relate first-hand to some of what they have been through. After all, even 15 years later, I still have moments when I question my own actions and reactions, as the "What Ifs" never...ever completely go away.
As I mentioned in my last Blog, Darrel's sister Lauren was married this past June. It was a beautiful sunny and warm day in Hamilton, ideally perfect for the Royal Botanical Gardens location. Lauren and Jacob (but most likely it was more Lauren) had everything planned out to the last minute, and the last detail. Walking my daughter down the aisle was a very proud moment, yet it probably made me feel older than when I turned 50 in 2021! Lauren had taken extra care to include both Darrel and her Grandma Robb at the reception. In addition to mentioning them in her Speech, a "Wishing You Were Here" Memorial Table was set up in the Hall. This was a thoughtful and moving gesture for me, and especially my father. I had given him a 'heads-up" about her planning to do this, but hearing Lauren's words, and seeing the Photos was more overwhelming than he expected them to be. Later this month, it will be 5 years since my mother passed, and we all miss her deeply. For Lauren to set aside a part of her "Big Day" for them was simply amazing.
Another Milestone was reached a few days ago, as Darrel's dog Lady turned 17! There have been several serious health scares over the past couple of years, but Lady has shown great resilience, and somehow bounced back. Unfortunately, sooner or later, Old Age can and will catch up to her, but today is not that day.
Although it certainly doesn't look like much, and can't provide any real comfort at all, Lady often still curls up in the Classic Pooh Blanket that was on Darrel's bed from the time he was a baby. It is in complete tatters now, with little to none of the plush stuffing that once filled it, or have it's vibrant colours. I only wash it now by hand when needed, as I doubt it would survive a trip through the Washing Machine!
This is a connection between Darrel and Lady that the Blanket embodies to me, so I still keep it around. I doubt Lady shares any such memories of this Blanket after all this time, as she can barely see anymore, and any tangible tie to Darrel has long been removed over the many, many washes since it became one of the Dog Blankets. Yet, it means something to me, and that's all that really matters.
Thank You once again to everyone who continues to read these Blogs, and allowing me to share my thoughts and memories of Darrel with you all.
Love and Miss You Little Man
Here is my Blog about that day Darrel died. It is not a pleasant Read, but like many of my older entries, I do revisit it from time to time: http://www.darrelsplayground.com/blogs/sept-1507-the-day-darrel-died
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, so please consider turning your Social Media GOLD to honour all the children who have, are, and will battle one of the many forms of childhood cancer in the future.