The Signature

There I sat wiping away tears in a crowded restaurant – again.

I gazed down onto the three letters I – A – N … strung together in a manner so that I could pick it out in a line-up of a hundred other “Ian” signatures.  It was his actual signature cast perfectly into a delicate silver ring. The signature looked exactly how I had seen it so very many times before when he signed his name to an important letter, note, and later in life, on a sales contract.

The ring featured the “neat” version, not the signature he used when signing a check or on one of those ridiculous credit card machines. In those cases, you’d only see the “I” and the rest was barely more than a straight line. I remember that I chuckled the first time I saw it. I think he was in middle school and I asked him if he thought he was a doctor or a rock star. Actually, I love that he learned to use the sloppy signature at such a young age, as if he intuitively understood that sometimes it mattered and other times it simply did not. Sometimes you steal away a few seconds to keep for yourself – because seconds add up to minutes, minutes add up to days.

We know — all too well — that every single second matters…

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There was Patience, There was Peace

Ian stared up at the ceiling from the bed at the naturopathic treatment center, unable to move any part of his body below the neck. For most of the 10 days we spent there, he was getting intravenous high dose Vitamin C and a host of last-chance protocols commonly used in European countries to fight cancer. During this time, Ian’s mind was relatively strong. Except for the last few days his life, he was aware of his rapid decline.

I often wondered what was going through his mind.

This was new for me. I had always known exactly what was going on his mind — Ian could talk and he loved to share! He easily filled up an entire 30-minute drive home from school with colorful stories of the day’s adventures.  Things didn’t change much when he started his new job straight out of college.  I knew about the potential clients, the presentations, the contracts that closed and the ones that did not. He texted me often and kept me posted on just about everything.

But, here I am, 22 months since our beloved son’s passing to Heaven, and I’m left still wondering what was he thinking in his final days on earth?  Was he devastated?  Was he still hopeful?  Did he ever resign to his soon departure?  If he did, he never shared that with me. He chose not to talk about the end.

One thing I know is that through his entire 8-month battle with cancer, he never uttered one word of victimized complaint to me.  I never heard him ask, “Why me?”

Not once.

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The Hedge

I feared the hedge would die.

One day, in the middle of the chaos, I dared to dream that the hedge would make it.

I imagined how we would later tell the story of the dying hedge in our front yard as a metaphor of how you faced down your near-death experience with cancer, but you came back with vigor to live out the rest of your days with renewed focus and perspective.

We would explain how the dry branches appeared beyond resuscitation. It was that pesky, destructive white fly that snuck in under the radar and spread relentlessly beneath the abundant beautiful green leaves and orange hibiscus blossoms. Continue reading “The Hedge”

#18 Months

Is it strange that I count the months you’ve been gone in the same way that parents count the months of an infant child’s life?  Each month, as time slips by, I can’t believe we’ve made it this far without you here.

Yet, if the pattern holds true, I’ll stop counting the months soon.  Just a few more months and we will likely start referencing your absence in years — should anyone ask how long it’s been.

No matter how or if I express the breadth of your absence on any given day, I always know exactly how long it’s been …

because losing a child is nothing like having a child.

To watch your child grow is the ultimate privilege. Fully in awe of the miracle, you instinctively know that he or she is a gift and you celebrate the milestones, month by month, and then year after year.

When there is life, this formula is sustainable.  It propels you forward.

When there is death, this formula is difficult to sustain.

For 18 months, I have quite literally been walking with my head turned in the opposite direction … looking backwards.

If I continue this formula, I fear it will sink me.

So, where do I go from here?

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A Smile to Remember

The hospital bed in the middle of our living room was surrounded by sofas that served as seating for those who came to say goodbye. Hospice workers came and went, addressing Ian’s “comfort” needs that changed drastically with each passing day.

Pastor Glenn arrived on Monday to pray with us, again. This time, he gently told Ian that while we continue to pray for a miracle, it was time to consider that God was preparing a place for him.

But, Ian was not ready…

Even Jesus asked God to “let this cup pass from me” before going to the cross.

Pastor Glenn later reassured us that even if Ian wasn’t ready to leave, God had him – his child – by the hand and would not let go.

Six days after returning home from our Hail Mary attempt at the naturopathic treatment center, the good Lord dispatched his Angels for our precious Ian.

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A Glimpse of Heaven

“Ma, can you show me around?” Ian asked as daybreak arrived.

Grimacing in pain, Ian slowly sat up in bed. I pushed the wheelchair as close as I could to the large king-sized bed. Taking hold of him under booth arms, I moved him onto the wheelchair. I then pushed him very carefully over the sliding-door track so as not to put any more pressure onto his aching neck.

We exited the room onto the grounds of the naturopathic treatment center where we were scheduled to stay for the next 14 days. I wheeled him through the property that featured lush trees, hammocks and a mostly empty lava pond. He soaked in the beauty for about five minutes but suddenly said, “Let’s go back.”

I knew the pain and pressure on his spine had caught up with him. I rushed him back into the room. As I transferred him back into bed, he sweetly thanked me for taking him outside. “I just wanted to be sure I wasn’t going to be stuck in this bed forever,” he added with a small smile.

The very hard truth is that Ian would not leave that bed again under his own power, as paralysis continued to take over.

When we arrived at the treatment center the day before, Ian was too exhausted from the plane ride over to notice the beautiful surroundings. As soon as we arrived, he was placed into a large, quaint room with ample space for us to stay by his side.

My heart surged with hope for the first time in weeks. We made it to the Big Island. The center was beautiful and very unlike the harsh hospitals Ian had come to know all too well that year.

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With Hope

If positive vibes and hope could save a life – as so many of us innocently believed during Ian’s cancer trial – then Ian would be alive today. But, sadly, positive vibes and hope did not halt the cancer that continued to advance.

The reality of this relentless cancer came crashing upon us, yet again, when Ian’s mid-section became completely numb, just days after his 23rd birthday . Was it growing tumors pressing on nerve structures within his spinal cord? Or, perhaps a severe case of peripheral neuropathy, a side effect of one of the many harsh chemo drugs that pulsed through Ian’s veins for many months.

Ian was no longer a candidate for chemo trials on the mainland or immunotherapy, an emerging cancer treatment discussed at length with Ian’s oncologist. Ian decided — with our full support — to hang his hope on naturopathic treatment protocols designed to wake up his immune system so it could fight the cancer naturally.

I knew what treatments Ian needed, including the highly touted high-dose intravenous Vitamin C. However, driving him around to various appointments on Oahu was getting more and more difficult as Ian became weaker. In addition to his core being numb, Ian’s hands soon malfunctioned, just as his legs had. In time, he could no longer hold a fork, write with a pen, or text on his phone.

I searched and prayed for a one-stop facility that could care for Ian and provide all of the naturopathic treatments in a concentrated manner. My prayer was answered when I came across a naturopathic treatment center on the Big Island. It sounded perfect.

They could administer all of the treatments we desired and more, all in one place, under the care of an experienced naturopath doctor. They administered the world-renowned Gerson Therapy diet, a strict diet of juicing and specific whole foods – much as we had been doing on our own for the past month. Plus, they could administer progressive protocols commonly used in Europe to treat cancer.

Ian was sitting in the recliner in our living room when I gave him the news about the treatment center and what they could provide. He listened carefully and then a huge smile came over his face. He looked over at Lei and said, “Want to go to the Big Island?” Of course, she did.

We all could feel the extreme urgency of the situation; this was Ian’s final stand.

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