Calling All Angels
We recently had a family holiday in New Zealand these past few weeks. Rachel and the boys headed over on a Sunday and I joined them the following Wednesday after another chemotherapy session. The boys love going to NZ as they get to see their two younger cousins as well as their Nana and Poppa and uncles and aunties. It’s also an incredibly valuable time for Rachel to recharge and just be in a familiar place with people who know her best.
We went down to a little beachside town called Onemana (pronounced Oh-Knee-Mah-Nah) which is near the town of Whangamata (pronounced Fung-Ah-Ma-Tah) for a weekend away with all of Rachel’s brothers and sister and their husbands and wives and kids. It was pretty crowded. Our little family stayed in the converted garage which is separated from the main house by a 20 foot walkway while everyone else stayed in the main house.
So after dinner one night it’s bedtime for Cody and Jakob. They say goodnight to everyone and we take them to our room where they watch a movie on the portable TV/DVD combo we bought for the times when we travel (soon to be replaced with an iPad). It doesn’t take long until both boys are crashed out and sleeping peacefully, usually, so we put them into bed, said our prayers and lay with them for a bit while they started to doze. After a while we headed back inside to join the rest of the gang… me first, then Rachel. As usual, one of us goes back in periodically to check on them to make sure everything is ok. It was my turn this time so off I went thinking everything would be fine.
Somehow, after trying to get back to the main house and deciding it was too dark and scary to walk the 20 feet between dwellings, both boys had locked themselves in the ensuite bathroom and were crying their little hearts out. When I got inside I found them standing, Cody up front and Jakob clinging to Cody’s leg, terrified and sobbing.
“Daddy, we couldn’t find you! We were lonely”, Cody sobbed. “Yeah”, Jakob replied through teary eyes. I knelt down in front of them and they ran into my arms, their little bodies heaving. I wrapped my arms around them and told them everything was alright now, Daddy was here. Cody again looked into my eyes and said: “We called out for you but you didn’t come. We were all alone”. And then it hit me…. and I started softly crying with them. I crumpled into them as much as they had crumpled into me. Rach came in right about then and we all hugged and explained to Mummy what had happened. I was still fighting tears as we climbed back into bed and rubbed their backs and played with their hair to settle them back down. We stayed with them until they fell asleep.
As the days since that moment have passed I have had something gnawing at my insides, like something just isn’t right. I’ve been playing the scene over and over in my head and the memory of their little faces, sad and afraid, upsets me deeply. And the other day it hit me.
Cody is incredibly intelligent and has a large vocabulary. He knows words and is very capable of expressing himself clearly in most situations. What has absolutely shaken me are the words he used to tell me what was wrong…. “we were lonely”…. “we couldn’t find you”…. “we were all alone”.
And I realised… this is what they will say if I die.
And the worst part is I won’t be able to put my arms around them and tell them that Daddy is here, it’s going to be alright… and we won’t have big family hugs where the boys are comforted and reassured that Mummy and Daddy love them very much and are here to protect them… and that will be the way it is for them for the rest of their lives. While I will pass instantly into eternity, where there is no sadness or pain or sorrow or fear, Cody, Jakob and Rachel will live out their days on earth, full and productive, but with a sadness buried deep inside them. Beautiful little boys, growing up into fine young men, without their father. Rachel forging on, without her husband and friend… and it kills me inside to think of it.
And as I sat down in the oncology ward to receive my 30th infusion yesterday, I again sat down with one purpose:
Fighting for my life. Fighting for my wife and sons.
As I unbuttoned my shirt, as the 3/4 inch needle went into my port, as the saline went in and the blood came out, as the Erbitux made it’s way into my body where it was to do battle with my cancer, as the clock on the wall reminded me how long it all takes… every week… the fight.
Every second of burning, itching, and mutated skin…. the fight. Every damaged nerve ending… the fight. Every hour hunched over the toilet bowl, puking my guts out… the fight. Every scar, every incision… the fight. Every time I see Death standing in my bedroom doorway at night…. the fight.
John Mayer sings:
“Come out angels, come out ghosts
Come out darkness, bring everyone you know.
I’m not running and I’m not scared,
I am waiting and well prepared.
… I’m in the war of my life, at the core of my life
Got no choice but to fight ’til its done…. so fight on.”
And so I do… until the cancer is dead… or I am.
And there will be casualties along the way.
Because that’s how it is in a war.