I haven’t posted in a while, but events of the past few days have motivated me.
This is an emotional time of year for our family, as we prepare to experience our second Christmas without Jen. It is especially difficult to go through the ornaments, with her as a baby or young child, or some of the things she made for us in school. But, she would not want us to go through the season being miserable, so we push through as best we can.
As a diversion, I decided to set up my father’s Lionel trains, which he received as a young boy over 75 years ago. I don’t think these trains have been out in almost 20 years, having last been set up while we still lived in Philadelphia. I unboxed the trains and accessories, some old houses and cars for the platform, laid them out, and took a few pictures to post on Facebook. Now, I haven’t been on Facebook much recently and was not really up-to-date on the latest events moving social media. While I was out there, I found a post someone shared about a little boy named Dominic Liples, from Doylestown, PA.
Dominic was 7 years old when he was diagnosed with brain cancer in March of this year. I looked up some posts from Dominic’s mother, describing their struggle, and everything came flooding back – the worry, the anxiety, daily interactions with nurses, doctors, residents, interns, the poring over medical reports and films, desperately looking for any bit of hopeful news, the up days and down days – all of it. Dominic was being treated in Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, but it may as well have been Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital in Westchester, NY, or anywhere else where young children are forced to battle this insidious disease.
A few days after this, I saw that little Dominic had passed away – and I cried. I cried for this little boy and his family that I did not know, in a town over 150 miles away from where we lived. It broke my heart that this little boy, just like every other little boy until March, was gone. It broke my heart that his family was suffering his loss, so close to the holidays, or that any child, any family, has to endure such pain and hardship.
I went outside to clear my head. The breeze was strong that day and I heard beautiful wind chimes from our back porch – the personalized chimes given to us by the Greater Hudson Valley Ronald McDonald House in memory of Jen. I looked across the yard to one of our dormant lilac bushes, and saw a small flock of brown birds sitting on its branches – along with one stunningly bright red cardinal. I immediately thought “Jennie”, that she was comforting me somehow.
Now, I usually don’t go in for all that “she’s in the trees, the breeze, the flowers” stuff, but even I have to admit this one time, that cardinal’s appearance was more than a coincidence. My wife is a firm believer. Jen’s hospital massage therapist, Meg, is also. Meg is one of the most relentlessly up-beat, positive-energy people I have ever met. We would discuss things like this from time to time, and I would always say “ah Meg, I don’t believe in all that new-age stuff”. And Meg, the textbook definition of a new-ager, would always laugh. I guess she thought I would figure it out eventually. And who’s to say that she, and Joy, and others like them aren’t right? If someone in pain can get some comfort from some “new-age” thinking, then “new-age” is OK with me.
Please keep Dominic and his family in your thoughts.