Little Lambs

When I was a kid, I loved visiting old cemeteries and making grave marker rubbings using a brown piece of craft paper and an old crayon. I’m not sure why I’ve always been intrigued by visiting people who’ve passed from this realm, but I simply love the peaceful feel of an old cemetery. The headstones were so creative and ornate. And I especially loved that they marked the exact amount of time spent on this earth. If I were to die today, my stone would state:  Sarah H. Washburn, Aged 46 y, 10 m, 6 d.

Sometimes it would even specify how you died. Mine might state: Killed while interfering with a piece of scum berating her child during therapy (No kidding, this actually happened. Not the death part, but the scum/berating part. Gross.)

Regardless, I adore the fact that those old stones let people know exactly how long people existed in their earthly form. Nowadays, most stones make you do the math for yourself. Of that, I am not a fan. Math has never been my thing.

Anyway, the recent weird weather in Colorado thwarted our planned monthly adventure, so May’s trip was a repeat to Idaho Springs for a soak in the Indian Hot Springs. It was rainy, which is why our original plan was scrapped. Personally, I love a car trip in the rain as long as it’s not a torrential downpour, and with the kids distracted in the backseat with their electronic devices, they didn’t mind.

After our soak at the springs, we drove up near the entrance of Mt. Evans. It’s a lonely stretch of road – and absolutely gorgeous in the fall with all the golden aspens – but on this rainy day there wasn’t much to see. We pulled over at an old cemetery on the side of the road, intrigued as usual. The grounds were unkempt and the drive around the loop was nearly impassable as thoughts of bottoming out my car became a concern, but some of the markers were phenomenal. One was shaped like a log cabin. Another was still immaculately cared for despite their beloved being gone for well over 100 years. But as I looked around there were a tremendous amount of markers with little lambs on top: the traditional marker for a child.

As I stated earlier, the cause of death was sometimes mentioned: Typhoid fever. Diptheria. Cholera Infantum. Tuberculosis. A variety of Pox. Many of these tiny markers listed horrific diseases, many of which are now nearly extinct. Well, except the anti-vaxx community, who may be bringing them all back. Sorry. I think not vaccinating is a poor choice. Why on earth invite that sort of illness back into our world when it’s so preventable? If there was a surefire way to beat cancer, I’d be all over that in a heartbeat.

Don’t get me wrong, I can fully understand people wanting to stop giving their child something that might cause another challenging affliction – like autism – but is the risk of having your child die better? I mean, Ben goes through a tremendous amount of therapy that very well may end up killing him. It’s no secret that this very thing has happened to many other children we’ve known, dying from complications of therapy, and that totally sucks. But I know we’re helping to pave the way to a FUTURE for other children like him. I hate that he’s been a guinea pig of sorts, but what are our options? Plus, he’s still here. Despite his hearing loss. Despite his severely curved spine. Despite his “chemo brain” or lack of focus. Despite missing adult teeth and a shriveled kidney and short stature and a multitude of scars and all the pain he’s endured and the gazillions of treatments he’s had over the years. But if we found a cure for this, and people chose to turn their back on it because their child might have some developmental disabilities because of it? Well, that makes no sense to me. Honestly, I would be offended. My son’s life matters. He goes through what he does in hopes of not only saving his life, but to make others like him not have to fight so hard. He’s a true soldier in this fight against cancer.

I’m committed to his life. I want his years, months and days to amount to something. And it is. It has been. When we think his quality of years, months and days are wavering, then we might think otherwise. But I feel that’s a long time away. I know it is.

Children dying is nothing new. In fact, it was common to lose a child back before all the medical advances became readily available. And I know that if Ben were to have been afflicted with what he has today back at the turn of the century, he wouldn’t have lived for very long. Then again, I probably wouldn’t be here myself because of my own health ailments.

I didn’t mean for this to be an attack on anti-vaxxers, it just got me thinking about how fragile life is and how we should applaud what’s available to us, even when it’s not perfect. Every day of our lives matter.

Every single day.

Love Notes

I hate going to the mailbox because there’s a lot of icky things waiting for me in there… overdue bills, endless yellow papers from Medicaid regarding Ben’s therapy, an occasional rattlesnake…. Just kidding on that one. I have led myself to believe that there is one living in there, though, and opening the box will only encourage him to strike. It’s just safer to not go. That’s what I tell the bill collectors, anyway.

But there’s the occasional card or note from a friend offering encouragement. I treasure these. I have a box where I keep these lovely things, and when I’m down I’ll retreat to the box to get a little love. I also have a few miniature Almond Joy’s in there to cheer me up, too. The very bottom of the box holds love notes from former suitors. I haven’t added any to my collection recently, but the ones I have were totally worth saving. The best are from a secret admirer I had when I lived in Summit County. I never found out who it was, but I secretly loved walking out to my car after work to find one tucked under my windshield wiper. This was during a kinder time, when stalking really wasn’t “a thing” and glorified on shows like “Snapped.”

Anyway, I was talking to a dear friend recently, telling her that I was headed to my “box” to dig up a love note. After explaining the concept of my special box to her, she confided that she had never received a love note. Never. EVER!

I was aghast and completely pissed off! She is one of the loveliest people I’ve ever known. Luckily for me, I’ve known her since I was six years old. And while this note isn’t of the romantic nature, I want her to know PUBLICLY that she is loved dearly by yours truly, and I can’t imagine my life without her.

Her name is Ree. I met her while I was in the first grade. I was new to the school but we became fast friends during the monthly meetings of Girl Scout Troop #315. Her mom, Jane, was one of our leaders. Talk about a riot! My mother, who wasn’t really into group activities, volunteered to drive on many of our outings. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t to spend time with a bunch of obnoxious pre-pubescent girls, but the camaraderie she found with Jane and a couple of the other moms. And, apparently, there was a lot of sneaky cigarette smoking going on after the campfire died down and we were safely tucked in our tents. It was the 70’s, so this smoking stuff was an acceptable pastime for this particular decade.

Anyway, Ree was one of my core peeps. Slumber parties, school activities, we even went to the same university. We fell out of touch for a while over the years, but fortunately, Facebook saved the day. Ever since our FB reunion, she has been a steadfast supporter during Benjamin’s therapy and often contacts me just to check in. She loves me.

And I love her. Her heart is so pure. She’s extremely trusting so we’ve both lamented on our poor choices when it comes to boys. But to know that she’s never received a love letter, well it just makes me wonder what the young men are about these days? Do they not realize when they hold a blossom in their hand? Do they not see the untainted love that could be unconditionally theirs? Or are they just too caught up to see the treasure before them? Dumb asses. There’s no other descriptor for it. The fact that she hasn’t received one isn’t from her lack of beauty or sincerity or any matter of loveliness – she abundantly embodies all of these traits. She just hasn’t met any good writers.

So, since I do okay with writing from time to time, I wanted to take this moment to let her know that I love her with my entire heart. You have the adoration of my children. In fact, Ben just asked me what I was writing about and I said “my dear friend, Ree.” He said, “I love her.”

He loves you. Maddy loves you. I love you. And I know so many who love you, too. You’re a lovely woman, beautiful mother, and caring friend. Thank you for that.

You deserve all the love in the world.