Drew's Story - under construction

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Drew's Birthday

 

Tomorrow, my Drew would have been eight years old. 

He would have been, if he hadn't died before he even had the chance to turn three. We've marked Drew's birthday five times now without him. Each time, it has been hard. 

His birthday is harder for me than his Glory day. I think it's because on his birthday, it highlights what could have been. It points out not just his life that was lost, but the life that was lost. Years, decades, an entire lifetime of milestones that will never be achieved. Events that will never take place. Moments that have been put on hold until the next time we are all on this Earth together.

Birthdays take a parent, and a mother especially, back to that first day with the newborn baby.  It reminds you of the journey that was taken together, you and your child, bringing them into the world.


Your heart remembers the wonder and joy of that new life that was just beginning. The hopes and dreams you had for your precious baby, as you thought about the whole lifetime they had ahead of them.


For those of us who have lost a child, birthdays are like salt in a forever-open wound. The twisting of the knife that will only be removed after we're reunited with our baby. 


It's so hard to picture my sweet two-year-old Drew as an eight-year-old boy. Would he be as tall as his sister? How many teeth would he have lost by now? What would be his favorite dinner, what he'd request for his birthday? What would be his favorite subject in school, what sport would he be playing? Would his blonde hair have darkened up like Molly's has, or have stayed light? 

Would he and Josh have a great father-son thing going, or would he be close to his Mama like many sons are? I already saw how much of a tease he was to Molly in his first two years, would he still be trying to drive her crazy every chance he got? Or maybe be a protective, caring little brother?


I can only think about what Molly was like at 8 to remember what that age was like. 

It's amazing that we were already living in Illinois, soon to be moving to Colorado, when Molly turned eight. It was the birthday we took her to the American Girl doll store in Downtown Chicago, where she had earned half the cost and we covered the rest of her very own *real* American Girl doll.

What would Drew have wanted for his birthday? Probably not an American Girl doll. Would he still be into John Deere? 

Maybe he'd have moved on by now and be an expert at Fortnight or Minecraft like many other boys at age 8. 


I hate that I'll never know. I sit here crying because I can only guess at the answers to all of these questions... 


I continue to spend time each week writing, working through 2016. As I go along, I am reminded just how much I enjoyed being Drew's mom. How much joy he brought to me nearly every day. Watching him endure so much, yet maintaining such a positive, warm attitude will always leave me in awe and full of pride.


 

Reading through stories in my journal, looking through photos, I remember what it was like to be Drew's mom. How it felt to have a boy who liked to make noise and messes. Who was always on the go and full of energy, but also the only one of my kids to enjoy and seek out a good snuggle. 


On his birthday this year I'm grieving him to be sure, and what could have been. But I'm also grieving my identity as Drew's Mom. People don't know me as that anymore, and they used to. 

I miss that.

 


We are freshly home from a big Spring Break trip. I shared photos this week, and it was every bit as wonderful as the images appear. We had the best time together, really enjoyed each other. Our family of three was in our groove together and had genuine joy experiencing new things. 

 

But as I've wrote before, joy and sadness go hand in hand. Both are present, and both are very real. It took me a while to recognize, to believe that. I can be truly happy, and also sad at the same time. 

Our trip was like that.

While our family of three had a wonderful time, my heart never forgets that we would have been a family of four. And there were glaring reminders of that all around. 

The smiling family photos that Drew's face is not in. 

The empty seat at the dinner table always makes me wince. 

At the water works area, when I watched Molly stand behind the brother and sister gearing up to race down the side-by-side slides. And then she stepped up to take her turn, and went down alone.

The light small talk with strangers in the elevator, or in line for pizza, that seems to always include the inevitable question "Is she your only one?" 

It's hard. It's a challenge to handle all these reminders of who's not there with us. Yet, we are getting better and better at dealing with it. At expecting and accepting those little blows around every corner, and still having a great time. It takes practice and intentionality to focus on the present, on the good, in those moments--to choose joy. But it's possible. God helps us through.

And so does Drew. He did a great job of letting us know he wasn't so far away after all as we made our way through the weeklong cruise. Together and separately, there were little coincidences, subtle and not-so-subtle nudges, that the brother and son we all wished was with us, actually was. Like a rainbow that appeared over the ocean, as we sat on our balcony talking about how Drew would have faired snorkeling that day.



I know the right answers here. I've already come the correct conclusions about Drew's birthday. He really wasn't ever going to live to be eight years old, or any other years older than two. God's plan for Drew's life played out exactly like it was supposed to. He wasn't, and neither were we, "robbed" of those milestones, the life moments. They never were ours to begin with, we just thought they would be.

We are thankful for the time God did give us as a family of four, as parents of a daughter and a son. I'm grateful for all the moments we did share together, the milestones Drew did reach in his short life.

I am still Drew's mom, and always will be. He is a part of me forever, and I bring him with me wherever I go. Nothing can change that. 

Molly will become the person she is destined to be. Not in spite of the loss of her sibling, her brother, but because of it.

Drew is with us on every vacation, every new adventure. I just know it!

God will restore all that was taken from us, the life that was lost. Someday, somehow, we will be made whole again. What that looks like and how it will feel we actually could spend time contemplating, because it really will happen! 

Lord, bring on the day.


But before that glorious day, and especially on my Drew's birthday, I can be sad too. Miss not just him, but his place in our family. I can miss who I was when he was here, and the son that I don't get to watch grow up.


April 1st, 2014, will always be a special day--the day we were given the gift of Drew James Becker. We couldn't have known we'd only get to keep him for less than three years. And I guess I'm glad we didn't know. I'm grateful we did have those special moments of hope and joy as we looked upon his face eight years ago. 




Happy Birthday my sweet baby boy. I wish with all my heart you were still here with us and blowing out eight candles tomorrow night. Not a day goes by that you aren't thought about or talked about, and I hope that's always true. We love you and miss you so much 💕

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Five Years Out.

 


Five years. What can I say five years out that hasn't already been said? Maybe nothing, I know I've already said a lot. 

There may be nothing new, but maybe that's the story. Nothing is new, but all the same things are still true. 


Since August I've been returning to 2016 and our journey with Drew through his cancer treatments as I work on the book. I've been putting the pieces of the story together from my personal journal, CaringBridge posts, and photo timelines. I've reached out to people who were a part of our story, when their part came up, to try and gather more details. 

And as I go along, and read the all the emotion in the entries, posts, feedback, and in the faces in photos from that time--the same things are still true. 

This was so incredibly sad. It was difficult to watch, to look at, to be a part of. 

Drew suffered so much for anyone, let alone a two-year-old little boy. The bowel obstruction, the infections, the blown IVs filling his arm full of fluid, the mouth and bum sores, the hair and finger/toenail losses, the baths every 4 hours for 4 days--not to mention the constant companion of nausea and vomiting throughout his journey. 







As I'm writing in detail about his physical treatment, I'm so broken for how much he endured. I hurt thinking about how often he hurt. 

And in those moments, as I pause my writing to cry, I remind myself that he's done with all this. Even though I hurt for him now, he doesn't hurt anymore. 

In fact, for a while I have felt in my heart that from his perspective now--he's okay with all he had to endure. Unlike me, who is tempted to think those long days and weeks were all for nothing since the treatments didn't work to cure his body--Drew knows that wasn't the point. 

He would do each of those difficult days again for the good that came from them. In our lives, and in other's lives. I just know that in my heart.

But from my perspective as his mother, five years later, I'm thankful he's done. That January 19, 2017 was his last hard day. The last day he had to wake up with the suffocating weight of cancer on his chest. I'm relieved that there was an end to the treatment and complications. That for the last five years, my boy has been free. 

 


I am thankful for my afternoons I spend with my Drew while I write. Sometimes opening myself up is hard because at some point I have to close the door again. Return to the real world. It's so hard to go back to a life without him. But I'm far enough away--five years--that I'd rather have the time with him, even if it's hard to put him away again, than not have the time at all.

As one of the grief books I have read says, when your loved one dies, your relationship with them does not end. The physical relationship, yes, but if you are open to it, if you are intentional about keeping them in your life just in new ways, your relationship with them will never end. 

That's how I feel about Drew now. Our physical relationship has ended, but every day he is a part of my life. Whether it's actually talking about him in our house, working on Warrior Wagons work which we do in his memory, or when I'm writing his story. Even on days we don't do any of those things, he's a part of who we are today--in our attitude and character.

Even still, I look forward to the day with all my heart that I get to have that direct relationship with him again. When I can pick him up and hold him in my arms. Hear his voice and feel his touch. We are five years closer to that day.


It's not just Drew I've been spending time with while I write this year, but myself of five years ago. The me that tried so hard to keep it together. To care for Drew, be there for Molly, support Josh, and keep the faith and trust in God no matter what.

The tear-stained journal pages and heartfelt prayers reveal how deep and all-encompassing the daily struggle was. I am reliving days and weeks at a time, picking up the story where I left off the last time, and it's almost unbelievable what we went through. I must have been numb to it at the time. In some sort of state of denial so we could still function. 

But looking back, five years later, I can see how all of it led to so much growth and maturity in my faith. How each difficult week that Drew went through, and subsequently I did too, taught me what it really means to be a believer. Not just when times are good, not just when we get the answer to our prayer we were hoping for. But believing anyway. Trusting that even though we don't understand, and it doesn't seem fair, that it will makes sense someday. 

There are so many fears, hopes, and prayers that I recorded. Knowing how the story ends, it's easy to think that all was lost. But actually, I'm seeing almost every time I write how perfectly each prayer was answered. So many of the fears never actually materialized. God was with us, as he promised, every single day. In the good days and the awful ones. 

It is clear that me, all by myself, was in way over my head. That there's no way a person could handle all that we did alone. God's power and strength is obvious, shining through the earthen jars that we are. And I'm convinced that's the point. The story I'm really telling through Drew's journey.

Today on Drew's Glory Day, I have a feeling that the me of five years ago would be satisfied. Satisfied that her struggles, the suffering of her son, all of it--wasn't in vain, ironically, since the treatments I'm writing about seemed to be. 

A friend once told me that God doesn't waste hurt. He uses each one. As I sift through my hurts of 2016 and see the comforting, bright light of Jesus amongst it, I am even more convinced of the truth in that thought. 


On that last day we had with Drew, not many words were said. He had stopped talking the night before, and there just weren't a lot of words to speak while Josh and I watched our son's life come to an end.

 But the promises we made to him, have been kept. Cancer did not win five years ago, and we haven't spent a single day acting like it did. We haven't let this take Molly's childhood from us too. We have done our best to do what Drew taught us and live each day to the fullest, not taking any for granted. 

And we remember our Drew, bring him with us, everywhere we go. 


The me of today is satisfied with that, too. I know we still have a lifetime to go, but if the first five years is any indication, we are on the right track. We have set the tone, we've adopted the perspective, and we plan to keep it up as we keep moving forward.


We miss you, Drewy. We are so proud of your life. We are so thankful we had you, even if it was for such a short time. You'll always be my little boy, and I cannot wait until I get to see you again. 

Happy Glory Day my sweet baby 💗



Wednesday, October 27, 2021

A Gust of Wind

Fall in Colorado has been absolutely breathtaking. Most days the weather has been the perfect balance: cool mornings in 40s, sunshine and 70s by the afternoon.

As typical, it's been very dry too--I can't remember the last time we've had a good rain. But snow has fallen in the mountains, however, and the white peaks shine brightly along the front range.
 

And the trees. Man, I have never seen such vibrant colors. I just can't get over how bold the reds are, how bright the yellows, and how deep the purples have been.



Molly and I collected a rainbow one morning before school on our walk. 


We've been living it up in this beautiful season. We visited a pumpkin patch, one of my favorite things to do! The field of orange pumpkins, the snowy mountains behind them--it was the most picturesque pumpkin patch I've ever been in.




We went up into the mountains last weekend and took a ride on the Georgetown Train Loop near Idaho Springs. What a treat that was! We couldn't have asked for a nicer day.




And in between, we've been ooohhh-ing and awwww-ing over the trees. Pulling over to take photos, stopping on our walks to admire the splendor of God's creativity in color.




But this week, it is apparent this season is coming to an end. After another 75 degrees and sunny day on Monday, yesterday the wind changed directions. The sky was dark and cloudy. I watched the tree branches sway and bend in the strong wind, and heard the crackling of leaves blowing down the road on my walk. Blankets of leaves lay in people's yards today. Piles, beautiful piles!, but piles nonetheless of leaves are in the street gutters.



This unbelievably amazing season is ending. And it's more than a little sad.

Soon, the darker, colder months of winter will set in. There seems to be an urgency to enjoy and make the most of each nice day while they last.



Fall is a hard season for me. One of my favorite seasons, but a hard one. As many of you may remember, it was this week we learned Drew's cancer was back. The day after Halloween, we had a meeting with the oncology doctor to discuss the fateful scan which had showed 3 new spots of cancer. We were told that in light of this new information, and despite all he had endured since January in treatment, Drew would probably die. And possibly, soon.

I'll never forget that meeting. The silence in between statements. The awful churning of my gut. The single tears falling down my hot cheeks as I asked more questions. The shattering of our hearts.

The room was quiet. It felt dark, the air heavy. Time seemed to stand still as Josh and I sat with the doctor in shock and horror.


But then the door burst open, and Drew rushed in full of noise and energy. He had been hanging out with the receptionist (one of his many friends at Mayo) while we had our meeting. But she had to get back to work, and so she was returning her sidekick to us. He ran right over to me on his tippy toes, like his excitement was actually lifting him up.

He showed me the picture he'd drew, "Look mom, look!!". His bald head was covered in peach fuzz--baby hairs starting to fill back in. His little two-year-old fingers pointing to his picture, his eyes bright and flashing that sparkle that let you know he was feeling great.

How can this be?? I remember thinking as he was in my lap. This can't be true, it just can't. My sweet little boy, so full of life, was going to die...


That day five years ago was much like yesterday. Everything was going so well, and we were truly experiencing real joy on our journey through pediatric cancer. And then, on Oct 30th, the sunny sky filled in with dark clouds. The wind changed direction, and seemed to blow off all of the beauty we had been reveling in in one big gust.

It was certainly more than a little sad. There was definitely a new sense of urgency to enjoy each good day with our Drew.

We'd have just over 11 weeks with him after that day, before Jesus welcomed him into Heaven...



But there is good news. Yes, the wonderful fall we've had is coming to an end and winter will set in. Although we'll surely have hard days, if we are open to it, we'll have some good days too. And soon enough, it'll be spring again. The days will be longer, the sun will shine bright, and the trees will have new buds on their branches.

My Drew is gone for now, and that's hard. So hard. It's been almost 5 years since I've heard his voice, or seen his face. But if I'm open to it, I can still feel his sparkle, even if I can't see it in his bright blue eyes right now.

His warmth can still surround me, even if he's not sitting in my lap, showing me his pictures. And some day by the amazing grace of God, we'll be together again, my son and I. Never to part.







I've begun a big project this school year, something I've thought about doing but had yet to get started. I felt God pushing me this year though, saying it's time. So with Molly back IN school and Josh back at the office, I'm making time to bring our cancer journey with Drew, and the lessons we learned about joy along the way, into a book.

I don't know how it will turn out, or what will happen to it once it's finished. I only know through experience that when God leads you somewhere, you follow. That if He begins a work in us, He'll finish it. That His truth doesn't return to Heaven empty handed.

So while I haven't been writing on here much, I've been writing each week since August, making my way through my memories of 2016 with the help of journals, photos, and conversations with people who were a part of our story.

I'm trying to just make steady progress--add to the book each week. Some sections of the story have been hard to get through. Memories trigger emotions I haven't felt for a while as we've moved forward with our life. But I trust it's good. It will be good for me, and whoever may read it someday.

And in the process, even though it awakens my heart who cries out again for the little boy we have lost for a time, my writing afternoons have become a comfort, too. A weekly time where I get to go back, and hang out with my Drew again. He's back to life for a few hours.  


And even though it hurts, and I miss him so much again, I feel filled when I'm done. I smile even with a pile of used Kleenex on the floor beside me. Satisfied and comforted that I'm getting these details out before I forget. And thankful that through this work, others may get to know the most amazing little boy.

A little boy who was like a gust of wind himself--quick and brief, but oh, so powerful.  His joy, trust, and endurance we all could learn something from.