On December 31st you may recall a tumor had been discovered to the right of Max's spine and I was marooned in Mexico. The only thing I wanted was the one thing I could not have...a conversation with Max. I closed myself off in a bedroom, sat down on the bed, and wrote the first of many letters to my little Maxamillion. The following day after endless hours of travel along the highways of Central Mexico...I wrote yet another letter to Max. That afternoon we learned that the source of his tumor was infact leukemia. I had so many things I wanted to say to Max that simply could not be said. That post-diagnosis letter was by far the most difficult one to write. I'm not sure why I continued to write these letters. Would I let him read them someday? I didn't know then and I'm unsure now. All I know is that I have written over 200 letters to Max and it has been a really theraputic and healthy way for me to purge really honest, raw thought and emotion from my system. These letters have always been very private. I have said some things to Max in these letters that I have never said aloud to another human...ever. Today is Max's Birthday. He's 10 years old today! Nine months ago there was a small part of me that was unsure if this day would be one that we would celebrate. Today my heart is overwhelmed with gratitude. I'm a lucky lucky woman. I've just finished writing Max's letter for October 4th. It feels inappropriate to say nothing here on such a significant day, but I'm drained of words so I'm going to let his letter stand in for today's blog entry. Happy Birthday, Max...You amaze me everyday!
My Darling Boy
You are 10 years old today. An entire decade has graced us with it's presence and disappeared like a plume of smoke in the amount of time you have been living and breathing on this planet we call home. Ten years ago I woke up at 5a.m. with great anticipation of this day and headed off to the hospital to usher a tiny little version of you into our world. I was (this will be no surprise to you) a complete train wreck. You would have cracked up at my absolute panic. I was so excited to meet you. You and I shared this private little relationship for 9 whole months. It was tough to tell where I ended and you began. You were with me every minute of every day and although I had never seen your face...I knew you. I knew when you had your "do not disturb" sign up. I knew when you were ready to greet the day. I knew when you were restless. I knew when you were at ease. I knew when you were feeling cramped up. And I knew on October 4th that it was time for you and I to start a new chapter and meet face to face. I was so nervous. My fear and anxiety of child birth paled in comparison to my fear and anxiety of who I would be as a parent..as YOUR parent..as your "Mommy". I was really only a kid, myself. What did I know? I was surprisingly brave and somewhat calm during your c-section...that is, until you emerged. You see, Max, you came into this world fighting and struggling to remain a part of it. The silence in that operating room was the most terrifying thing I had ever heard. "Come on, baby, cry" I thought. "You can do it, pumpkin...show us what you've got..Breathe, baby boy". I looked across the room and saw your little breathless body and knew in that one horrifying moment that I had been hit in the soul with a whole new and different kind of love. You were strong, Max. Goliath strong. The NICU became your home for a while. You had been alive for nearly 9 hours before I FINALLY got to meet you. My precious Max, you were so beautiful. I lost my breath when I turned the corner and saw you hooked to that respirator. Your lungs could not figure out how to breathe on their own, but my goodness your will was strong. Your tiny little legs were kicking around in frustration. fearlessly, resolutely, stubbornly. You were GOING to make this happen. I thought to myself "My son has not been alive for a full day and already determination has befriended him, this boy is going to do big things in his life". Here we are ten years later. Max, you are the most incredible person I have ever met...and likely ever will. I have been proud of you and who you are since the day you were born. My spirit is absolutely paralyzed by your fortitude. I hope that one day I posses just a fraction of your strength and resilience. Your sense of humor is so smart, and absurd, and electric. Something fascinating stirs inside of me everytime I hear that guttural laugh of yours. Your heart is bigger than the tiny body that it resides within. It bleeds with care and concern for those around you. You must have been about 6 when you first cried over the small misfortune of another person. You have always been aware of what someone else needs or yearns for without them having to say a word to you and if you can help...you do...always. It still gives me chills and blows me away to know that you tried to give your make-a-wish away to someone you thought needed it more than you. It takes a special heart to be so selfless and that selflessness is fundamental to who you are. You have no idea how rare that is in this world, Max. You are so delightfully easy to be around. Even as a baby, crying was not really your thing. Go with the flow...that's you. What a blessing it is just to be near you. I was uneasy ten years ago when I welcomed you into to existence. Of course, I knew that you would experience joy and love and excitement and so many other wonderful things that this world has to offer with it's sturdy right hand. My greatest reluctance in releasing you to the world was the disturbance of knowing that you would have to endure much of the yuckiness that this world offers with it's other hand. I knew that you would hit pitfalls along the path of your life. One day, someone would hurt your tender feelings. One day, someone would break your loving heart. One day, you would be seduced by the rat race and you would be introduced to stress and disappointment. One day someone you love would die. One day....I never imagined in all of the One day scenarios that you would come face to face with such immense challenge in such a short span of time. You are so brave, pumpkin. I know you don't understand why I say that...or why other people say it. That's part of being brave though isn't it? It comes without coercion. You are not brave because you have decided to be so. You are brave because you are brave. That simple and that complicated. It is difficult for me to look back at the last year of your life without tearing open a healing scar in the fiber of my heart. Those months of horrendous back pain. I still feel angry when I think of all the doctors that missed it. You were so weak and pale and my heart aches all over again when I think about how long you must have been feeling that pain before we figured out what was really going on. I'm your mother, Max. I'm suppose to protect you and shield you from as much of the yuckiness as I possibly can. It is agonizing for me to revisit the fact that no one was able to give you relief and help you feel better more immediately . I want you to know that I am so profoundly sorry, baby. This was my JOB and I missed it somehow. It is unsettling beyond measure...even now. It broke me and shattered me into a million pieces when I found out just how sick your little body was. My goodness, Max, to know that you would suffer. To know that you would endure such exponential pain. To know that childhood as you knew it would be washed away. To know that I would be able to do nothing to stop it. There is nothing in the world that I wouldnt do for you. And yet nothing was what I had to offer. You had to go into this battle alone and so you put that iron will of yours back into full force. Courage does not come easy to just anyone, but you're not just anyone now are you, Maximo? Your attitude is beautiful. Watching you slay this disease has been the most powerful and inspiring thing I will witness in my lifetime. You are unbreakable, Max. No Fear. No Complaints. Just seek and destroy. I have no doubt that you will be able to do ANYTHING you put your mind to in this life. You are a testament to the human spirit...to YOUR human spirit. You are 10 years old today. You are 10 years old and you, my love, are the celebration. I celebrate you everyday. How blessed I am to know you! When I think back and try to remember what life was like without you...all I can imagine is that it must have been terribly gray. You are my puzzle piece. My heartfit. Thank you, pumpkin for making me laugh. Thank you for being such a warm and kind soul. Thank you for encouraging me when you know I need a pep talk. Thank you for giving the best hugs in the whole world. Thank you for teaching me a new perspective on a regular basis. You are wise beyond your ten years. Thank you for reminding me what it means to be grateful. Thank you for awakening me to see and consider other people when I can't see past myself. Thank you for putting up with and cracking up about my absurd and undying neuroses. Thank you for never being too old to hold my hand or snuggle up in my lap. Thank you indeed for loving The Beatles :). Thank you for being exactly who you are. You have such a pure, honest and gentle heart beating inside of you. Thank you for sharing it with me for the last ten years. I cannot wait to watch you grow into the strong and charismatic man that you are bound to become. I am so thankful today and always that somehow...someway...the miracle of your love found me. Happy Birthday, My Sweet Max!...And Many Many More!
I love you to the moon and back...Eight days a week.