I Carry Your Heart With Me

Last week, The Lexiebean Foundation went to Sunrise Day camp, a camp specifically for children with cancer and their siblings on Long Island, to host our annual pizza party and give out nearly 400 goody bags for the kids.  We do this every year, and every year I go with mixed emotions.

That morning, after getting Chase on the bus to his own camp (he doesn’t attend Sunrise because Tanner, who was too young during his treatment, didn’t attend), I went for a run.  Running has become my therapy.  It is my time to be in my own head, to think about anything and everything, and to exhaust myself mentally and physically.  After my run, I feel I have gained a sense of clarity.  “Runner’s high” really exists.  During my run that morning, I set out and started to think about going to Sunrise.  I was filled with anxiety, I am going to a camp with close to 400 kids, many of whom have or had cancer.  I know a good handful of them, mostly through helping them with Lexiebean, but many on a more personal level.  There are a group of kids there who went through treatment with Tanner.  They were in the hospital at the same time, they were in clinic together, they went to the Morgan Center (a very special preschool for kids with cancer) together.  Out of our close-knit group of kids, there are three whose absence would be felt.  My Tanner, Jack and Jessica.  These three children, who were together so often, all lost their battle with cancer within one year.  Jack in September, Jessica in March, and Tanner in April.  They should all be at Sunrise with all their friends.

I worried that when I saw their friends, it would hurt.  Please understand this:  the children who went through treatment with Tanner, who battled cancer and fought for their lives – I was and continue to be rooting for them.  I rejoice in their accomplishments.  I am thrilled to hear when they are another year “cancer free”.  I love seeing them, their bald heads now covered with hair, color back in their cheeks, eyes sparkling rather than sunken as they once were.  We were a cancer family with these other children, in this together forever with their parents, and seeing these children thriving brings me so much joy.  That being said, it is also a reminder of the fact that Tanner isn’t there.  Why couldn’t Tanner be one of them, thriving and playing and growing… a survivor.  I look at them with joy and pain at the same time.  Two emotions, both felt so deeply, completely simultaneously.

I worried about these feelings as I ran.  Then, and I’m not sure I can explain this in words, I felt excited.  I felt excited like a small child on Christmas morning.  It was felt inside me, in my heart.  A very strong feeling of “I’m going to see my friends!!!”.  I can only make you understand how this felt by saying I know where the sensation came from.  You can call me crazy, you can say I imagined it, but I was there, and it happened.  Tanner made me feel excited.  He was with me, and although I say that, and I know that, sometimes I forget it.  Tanner was with me, and to calm my fears and anxiety, he made me feel as he felt about going to Sunrise that day – excited to see his friends.

I know people are skeptical about things like this and may not believe, but I know how I felt at that moment, and with all the anxiety I had right before, it is the only explanation.  I continued my run, and began thinking of other things – tasks that needed to get done around the house, and other nonsense.  As I rounded the last mile of my run, my mind drifted back to Tanner and to the day at Sunrise.  At that very moment, the song “Count On Me” by Bruno Mars came on my iPhone.  I don’t believe in coincidence.  Just as I started to worry about seeing Tanner’s friends again, the song, which is played every year at our Lexiebean Gala, specifically for our group of mom-cologists who all get up and dance, sing and cry in one big, love filled, supportive circle, came through my headphones.  Another sign, without a doubt in my mind, that Tanner was telling me – it’s going to be ok momma, these kids are my friends, and those moms, they are always there for you.

And you know what?  He was right.  When I got to Sunrise that day, seeing those kids, especially Tanner’s friends, gave me joy.  The most special of moments that day (for me, personally) was when Tanner’s friends, survivor Anais, and Matthew (sweet Jessica’s little brother), came up to me saying “Tanner’s Mom!” and hugged me.  Just the hug I needed, and the reassurance that even at such a young age, and while suffering a horrendous time in their own young lives, they will always remember their friend.  I can only believe Tanner was just as excited to see them and was joining us on those hugs.

To my fellow mom-cologists, my friends, my support group – the ones who understand me the most – I just hope you all know forever how very much you mean to me.  To the kids who should have been there last week, especially Lexie, Nick, Jack, Jessica, Tati, Ty, and my Tanner, you will be remembered by so many, in everything we do.

There is a quote by EE Cummings – “I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart) I am never without it (anywhere I go you go, my dear…).  I believe all bereaved parents carry their child’s heart with them, but my special angel Tanner, he made me feel his, and although sometimes my hearts feels as if it is shattered, that day at Sunrise, it was so full of love, it could have burst.

Love Always,

Tanner’s Momma

momcologists dance

dancing with my mom-cologists to “Count On Me”, our song. Lexiebean Foundation Gala, 2014

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Responses:

  1. thank you,again, for sharing your thoughts and feelings. You are a wonderful writer to say exactly how I feel. I’ve come to love those words of e.e. cummings. I will always carry my Christopher in my heart. glad you enjoyed camp <3

    Comment by betty siegel on July 24, 2014 at 3:18 pm

  2. Thankyou Betty. It is the support of other mom-cologists that often keeps me going. Xoxo

    Comment by Tanner's Momma on July 24, 2014 at 11:52 pm

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