I’ve written this a million times in my head, but the time has come for me to put it on paper. It’s been something I’ve been putting off for months and finally just had to do it – and do it alone. You don’t know where I am tonight – I just told you that I had to work on a project and wouldn’t be home. Truth is, the project is this letter and I’m in a hotel room just a few miles away.
Honestly, I’ve been so scared to start typing because I knew I’d be an absolute mess – and I am, just a few sentences in and a box of tissues deep.
You’re about to graduate from High School, and although most moms out there will be hot messes come that day, I am genuinely, really worried about how I am going be. You know me, I’m not the overly-emotional mom. I’m the mom who pretends to cry on your birthday each year, the super-sarcastic, “I brought you in, I’ll take you out” kind of mom. The one who looks so tough on the outside, she must not have a heart on the inside, kind of mom. I’ve spent over half my life building walls to protect my heart, but this major milestone in your life will crash through like a massive boulder. I’ve only had this feeling once before and I’ll tell you about that in a little bit. But knowing how I reacted that first time makes me extremely nervous and, I think in my own crazy way, if I write it down and you read it, you will at least know why.
Kyle, what you have been through in your life, and how you have grown into such an amazing young man, is nothing short of inspiring. Things could have turned out so much differently and I am incredibly proud of you and thankful that, despite losing your dad at such a pivotal time in your childhood, you chose to continue to live your life fully with deep gratitude and appreciation for the cards you were dealt. I remember taking a trip to the Harley Davidson store the year after your dad died, in honor of his birthday. The plan was to check out the bikes and pick up some cool gear for you and your sister to wear around town. We stopped at the cemetery on the way so you and your sister could place a card for him. As we made our way out, you said to me, “Mommy, I miss daddy a lot but I am really happy that he is with his parents in heaven because I know he missed them so much.” Yeah, cue the waterworks, the sunglasses, and more tissues…
That’s the kind of guy you are, Kyle. From a very early age you have been able to see and appreciate the good that can come from the bad. You know and understand that we tried to make the best out of a very unpredictable family life and you trusted me when things took that turn. Honestly, I had no idea what I was doing and how I was going to get you and your sister through this, but your trust never wavered. You saw me at my weakest moments, but never once did you act out or push back. You had to listen to people say that you now had to take care of me and your sister which made my blood boil. I never wanted you to feel that way and I did all I could to be sure that didn’t happen. You never judged me or made me feel inadequate as a parent. You kept working hard at school and stayed involved in sports and other activities. And when it came time for me to tell you about a great guy I met, you trusted me and welcomed him into your life. You kept loving and appreciating life and I am forever grateful.
But those walls I built over the years were not only there to protect my heart, they were there to stop me from looking too far into the future. Knowing ultimately what would happen, I had to learn to live life one day at a time, and from time to time, I’d let down my guard and live life from one scan to the next. The future didn’t hold much meaning for me. I figured when it got here, it got here.
And now we’re here.
My tears have now turned to a downright monsoon and we may just be in for a rain delay if I can’t pull myself together. Yeah, I knew I couldn’t write this within eyesight and earshot of anyone.
As I said earlier, there has been just one other time when I have felt the magnitude of emotions that I am feeling right now, and that is when your dad’s doctor and nurse, who had treated him since day 1, walked into the funeral home to pay their respects. I know you may have been thinking it was the moment when he actually died. Don’t get me wrong, I lost it then, but within those tears was also an incredible sense of peace knowing he wasn’t suffering anymore. There was comfort in that knowledge and I know that you understand that.
The moment happened at the end of the night as the viewing was wrapping up. We had hundreds of visitors come through the line and I had managed to greet and thank them all without any major episodes. That is, until I saw Dr. Miyamoto and Nurse Kathy Hackney out of the corner of my eye. In that very moment, my walls came crashing down. The future that I had tried to hide from was now reality. These two amazing people were the only two who truly knew the journey inside and out from the very beginning. Seeing them walk through the door literally brought me to my knees. Their presence that night signaled the end of one chapter, and the start of unchartered territory. I realized at that moment, that the life I had known of scans, surgeries, medications, seizures, radiation and chemotherapy was over. I never looked far enough ahead to envision getting to that place, but here we were and I was simply overwhelmed with emotion that I could not control.
Kyle, you too, have been a constant, strong, steady source of strength through this journey with me and I cannot help but feel completely overwhelmed with emotion at the thought of you graduating from High School. How did we get here? How in the world did we survive and manage to thrive through all of this? I know you will embrace all that college and beyond offers you because of the lessons you’ve learned from loss. For me, this ceremony is similar to seeing dad’s doctors. It marks the end of a chapter and the beginning of a whole new journey for you. You make me so incredibly proud and I know that you have learned so much from life’s circumstances. I will try my best to hold it together, but in the event I become “that mom”, just know that I love you and am so incredibly proud!