Friday, April 24, 2009


I dreamt about Henry last night.

The two-month anniversary of his death is tomorrow. Last night was the first I had dreamt about him. I've been wondering, waiting for it.

In residency we had some lectures on helping people through the loss of a loved one. We learned that many people hear, or see, their loved one after they are gone, and how important it is to normalize it, lest they think they are crazy.

I have so been hoping to see him, to hear him. After years of hearing him call "Mommy" from his room, I long for his voice, even if it were just a memory merged with a hallucination. Sometimes I'll see something out of the corner of my eye, but disppointment follows when it turns out to be an out-of-place chair.

Last night in my dream, he was how he had been the few months up to his death, happy, solid, warm. I drank in his face, his voice, and held him in my lap as I sat cross-legged on the floor. I knew in my dream that it was just a dream, that it was what I've been waiting for. He didn't, and played and talked to me.

It was wonderful. He was so healthy, so happy. I kept my hand on his wrist, to feel his strong and regular pulse.

It was wonderful. I hope he visits me again soon.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Spring has sprung, sort of...

Dear Patients,

It's nice to see you. I always enjoy our visits.

Let me know what ails you. Runny nose? Back hurt? Need refills?

But please don't tell me something is wrong with you, because you are cold all the time for several weeks now.

I know it's the second half of april. I know we all really, really want it to be warmer out than it is.

I'm just as tired of my sweaters and thick pants, browns and reds as you are. I can't even bring myself to wear them.

My light cotton short sleeved sweater has me pretty chilly. Because the temperatures (yesterday excluded) are pretty much a nice day in January. If I had been wearing two layers and my down jacket I would have been right toasty.

We all make our choices. But don't ask me to fix it for you. Put on a sweater.

And please schedule your September appointment for "I'm sweating all the time." I can't wait to see your new fall fashions.

Dr. Smak

Friday, April 17, 2009


Things I've learned (or relearned) in the last few weeks:

Sunlight helps.

As much as I would like to be an athlete, I'm not.

I get a small high if I take Excedrin and drink a cup of coffee before 7 am.

Crying about Henry, in small controlled bits and regularly, is good for me.

My girls are growing up, so fast.

My husband is fabulous.

Cute shoes help too, probably more than they should.

I'm doing much better this week. I'm not sure why, but this week I can remember him and cry happy tears, which has been really nice.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


It's getting bigger and bigger, stronger and stronger.

I fear I don't have a clue how big it will be. I'm not afraid of it, but not really excited about embracing it either.

I thought that I had already done some, in anticipation. I thought that 18 months of pain, fear, dread of the inevitable would have given me some progress, but I think I was wrong.

When he was first diagnosed, and in treatment, and then after relapse, there was so much to do. Some of the time we were in shock, but most of the time we were busy. He needed tending and energy, money had to be earned, appointments kept, the girls cared for. Carpe Diem. You only have so much time with him, don't waste it grieving, there will be plenty of time for that.

I haven't gotten through any of it yet. I'm back in October 2007, shocked that my healthy, smart, beautiful son is sick. Has a Hickman. Has lost his hair. Is in the hospital. Is losing weight. Is throwing up. Keeps falling down. Is scared.

I haven't done any of this yet. There is so much to do, to get through. I forced it all down, away, so that we could live while he was here. I guess it was the right thing to do. It was the only thing to do.

I can feel my brain grappling with the acceptance of it. He has cancer. He's going to die. He died, right here, where you are sitting and watching TV, he died. He was so so sick, for so so long, and he was only four, and he died.

I have so much to do.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The First Cut is the Deepest

Everyone tells me that the first time we hit events without him will be hard. I say it to my own patients, when they have suffered losses. It's true. Mother's day this year will suck. His birthday is in July, not so much looking forward to that either. Those I anticipate, though, I ready myself for.

The tough ones are the unexpected ones. The first trip to the grocery store after he passed was almost physically painful. God, we went through so many foods in the last 18 months. Ones he liked, ones he hated...the remains of all the things that he thought sounded good that turned out not to after we bought a case linger in the pantry.

Today was my first kids' first soccer game of the season. Henry practically grew up on the soccer field sidelines. I nursed him there when he was an infant. He all but learned to walk by putting balls in the goal while the kids were practicing on the other side. He was always on me, playing, asking for food, running on to the field.

But today he wasn't.

Last fall he joined the U-6 soccer team, wearing the number "3" proudly on his jersey. He was bald as a cueball. He was thin and frail, his balance poor enough that running on a choppy field with a bunch of 5 year olds was treacherous. He even still had his Hickman in. His first touch on the ball, first game of the season was an "assist": he kicked off, the next kid booted it into the goal. I wouldn't say that he enjoyed soccer (indeed, his relapse overtook him as the season progessed and he was unable to finish) but he clearly understood that soccer was what kids in our house did when they got big enough, and he was excited to have arrived.

He used to give the girls advice. "See, if you just run around behind the rest of the other kids you won't get pushed over." He said this in all seriousness.

Today, there was a sea of blue, red, green, white tshirts of all of the current U-6 teams, each and every one of them wearing the number "3". Our local YMCA did it to honor Henry, and they plan to retire the number officially after this season for the U-6 league. To say that we are touched is a bit of an understatement.

I don't know why I didn't expect today to be hard. An empty lap at soccer, dozens of kids his age, all wearing something to honor's not rocket science that my emotions would be high. By the end of the game I was feeling somewhat settled, less raw. Hopefully next week will be easier, but my empty lap will still be empty.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Have you ever seen a cow, after the farmer takes her calf away?

She wanders around, mooing, lowing, crying in her own cow way. It's a horrible sound to hear.

Somewhere in my brain, I'm a mama cow. My higher brain is functioning. But somewhere deeper, millions of years of evolution ago, there's this constant unrest, searching pastures, looking for him. Trying to find him.

Some days I can't look at his picture. Today I took him off of my computer monitor at work. It was too distracting, too painful. It woke the mama cow every time I looked up.

I'm pretty sad this week.