Monday, February 23, 2015

Dearly Departed Drawings ~ {day 400} ~ Trees and Tents with Kole

This boy.

I was sitting in my office at work in June 2008 doing paperwork and chatting with a coworker.  I don't remember how the subject got brought up,  but it did.  My coworker (also a friend) started telling me about her friend, Renee.  How she has this darling son.  The cutest, sweetest little boy.  I remember her telling me they found a tumor in his chest.  I remember her asking me to send positive vibes, prayers, good thoughts to this family.  My coworker would give me the updates weekly or even sometimes daily on Koles progress.  I knew all about this boy and his family.  Then the day came when this darling boy left our earth in January 2009.  My friend and coworker, coincidentally resigned from her position at my workplace just months later.  We haven't really spoken much since then.  

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed in September 2014 and a picture of a little boy showed up.  I dismissed it and kept scrolling.  This photo just kept popping up in my feed - for days.  I did not recognize the little boy, but I happened to see Renees name and memories started flooding back.  I DO know this little boy.  This is the little boy I heard so much about so long ago.  It was believable he is the little boy I had prayed for all those days.  Renee and I have some mutual friends and acquaintances, although we had not crossed paths prior.  I knew Kole was to be the last in my Dearly Departed Drawings.  I set about contacting his mother about drawing him.  Renee connected with me over Kole and since then I have read all about Koles journey, Renees journey.  Renee has shared some of her most private moments with me.  As I poured through photos of Kole, this one just sang out to me.  Loud and profound, full of emotion.  This is the photo I had hoped to draw.  It was not to be.  This photo was taken in June 2008, just a day before the tumor was found.  The memories are not of a happy time, but rather - regret.  "His eyes had huge bags and he had a grapefruit sized tumor in his chest and I couldn't figure it out. He was dying and I didn't know it because he was smiling. By the next day he couldn't breathe... "   

This portrait is my grand finale of my 365 days of drawing turned into Dear Departed Drawings. So far it is also the most detailed drawing of all five.  I also felt the most doubt, not just in my abilities but just the act of sharing Koles story.  I questioned the emotions I would trigger for Renee and many other people by reliving the days of Koles medical journey.  I received enough confirmation to know this drawing and Koles story was to be shared.

The photo Renee chose for me to draw was of Easter morning March 2008. Kole is 16 months old.

 "It was taken not long before we knew he was sick. he was always a joy in the mornings. he often woke up on his own and just played in his bed. he had done that on this morning, I awoke and could hear him in there talking to himself. so I got up and went to the fridge and got the eggs and started hiding them. I was eager to watch him search. I grabbed my camera and walked into his room with his basket to get him. It was cold outside so I hid the eggs inside. I just loved his face in the mornings."  

I asked Renee if she wanted to share on reveal day.  This is what she wrote for us.
Renee gets the last word:

"It has been a difficult season. Fall settles into a cold winter freeze that doesn't seem to leave my heart until spring. Every year passes and I go through my grief cycle. June- Koles diagnosis. July August September and October are like months of hope for me. Kole thrived. He surpassed the odds of continuing to grow and develop an astounding vocabulary and intelligence beyond his years while being inundated with the most toxic chemicals we as humans put in our bodies (willingly?). I love summer and fall for this very reason. I feel connected to my son and to hope itself. November- his birth. A season of sadness as Thanksgiving approaches (Kole deteriorated) and then Christmas (we weren't sure he would make it through the holiday). I kept praying he would stay. He would be with me and hold me into the New Year. He did. I prayed he'd be there to see my 29th birthday in February. He didn't. 

On Saturday January 10th, 2009, I got down on my knees, alone, beside Kole's bed, listening to him barely breathing and seeing what looked like a science project monster of what my child used to be. Kole hadn't eaten or drank in days and his kidneys and liver were shutting down. I screamed. On my knees. I'm certain the whole Hem-Onc unit heard my pleas. I couldn't take it one moment longer. Kole SHOULDNT have to take this one moment longer. He was tired. I was tired. I asked a God PLEEEEEASE!!!!! Please if you're planning on taking my only sweet child, please take him now. Soon. I broke. I gave in. I gave up. I didn't want to see Kole suffering any longer. I remember not being able to fall asleep after my breakdown in the hospital room. Light broke into the window of his room on the morning of Sunday January 11th, 2009, and I saw snow falling peacefully outside. I knew it was soon. I called everyone I could and told them if they wanted to see Kole one last time they needed to come. Come NOW. They did. Everyone who was an important part of Kole's life was there in the room with us. I decided I had had ENOUGH of not being able to hold my son, and I asked for help. Everyone pitched in and helped push and pull tubes out of the way and adjusted monitors so I could scootch-in under my son's limp, heavy body and embrace him like he deserved to be embraced. I remember placing his head under my chin, wrapping my arms around his chest, and feeling his small cold legs between mine. I clenched his body and felt his barely-there breaths. I wept. I prayed. I talked to him. I whispered softly, "Oh my sweet sweet boy. It's okay. It's okay. It's going to be okay. Mommy and daddy love you so very much. And it's okay. If there's someone here to take you away somewhere (my dad, his pappy had just passed away 10 months prior), (Jesus), (some other spirit guide/greeters), then go with them. It will be okay. We will see you again Kole. I love you Kole. You're a good boy Kole. It's okay. It's okay. It's okay." I stroked him and tried to take in the smell of him. Rubbed my face in what was left of his hair. Smooched my face into his cheeks. Kissed his fuzzy ears. Held his cold hands. Felt his chest go up and down one more time above me. Then it stopped. Everyone in he room gasped and sucked the air out of the room. His eyes opened. "His eyes are open!" Everyone exclaimed. He was gone. 

I completely lost my composure and we got everyone to leave the room. This was how I lost my son. This is why the calendar year is so very hard for me. I hate January and I hate the winter months in general. I hate cancer. I blogged the whole way through our journey and it touched many lives. Kole touched many in his short 26 months here on earth. After the "dust settled" my husband became addicted to pain medication and lost his mental stability. I tried to move on with my life as best I could. I dove into my career, moved to Philadelphia and found out in 2011 that my ex husband had unsuccessfully hung himself. I got brought back into trauma. I distanced myself from his situation to save myself. It took three years and over $7000 but I got the divorce finalized and was able to feel a freedom I hadn't felt in years. I'm in a wonderful relationship now, almost 5 years, to the man I plan on spending the rest of my life with. And not sure if any more children are in my future. This has been a tough pill to swallow. This life. I contemplate having more children. I have to examine the opposite possibility as well, that I may not. I've had to reflect deeply on what this means for me. My mothering instinct is so hearty, would I be satisfied with this life if Kole was the only child I was meant to have? I weighed it out. Pregnancy was amazing. I actually loved being pregnant. I felt so connected to the universe. As if fulfilling a duty. Kole was something special. I enjoyed every day with him. I lived for him. He taught me more in his 26 months here than any other experience I've had in my life. He made me happier than I've ever been in my life. If he were to be my only, would he be enough? I decided he would be. He was. If he is the only child I'll get to experience while on this Earth I will feel forever grateful. Would I enjoy having another child? Sure. You bet. Although it would be a mix of absolute elation and absolute terror. I will embrace it if it happens. I will not lay on my death bed with regret if it doesn't. My heart tells me adoption may be up my alley for the future..... 

This season is a difficult one. Amanda Johnson made it more bearable for me this year. I was contacted about a portrait and was hesitant. I had buried this for years. I don't look at videos and pictures much because it hurts. It was a real task for me when I was asked to pick a picture of Kole to be drawn. That meant unearthing the last 5 years. I realized it was time. I faced the pictures and videos with more grace than I expected. I even smiled. I SMILED. I especially smiled when I saw the picture of Kole on Easter morning that would be the replication. I knew this one was it. I could see it in his eyes. Amanda brought Kole to life before my eyes. Every day I actually looked FORWARD to seeing the progress. I was looking forward to seeing my son. I wasn't trying to avoid it. I made a lot of progress as she made progress on the drawing. It was very healing for me. I appreciate it from the bottom of my heart. I am happy to share my story here and hope that anyone reading who has a similar situation in life or is struggling with pain and grief, cancer, or the loss of child, please get in touch with me. It feels so good to be able to talk and share and work through it. That is, when you're ready. I avoided writing this final farewell because it was almost like the end of a healing process for me. But all good things must come to an end. Kole came to me veerrryyyyy strongly in my dreams last night. I felt like I spent the whole night with him when I woke up this morning. Too bad the whole dream was in the hospital, but I'll take it. I think he's telling me I can do this. He kept saying "Mommy!" "Mommy!" I think he was telling me something. So there you go sweet boy. Mommy loves you and always will. I can't wait to see you."

The first day of Koles drawing and the start of his journey.....Day 324.


Listen for it..... 
"Momma!!??!??!" Jane - "she's coming!" "What is my momma doing today?!?!"

Time Lapse

Remembering Kole

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