The truth about our childhood is stored up in our body, and although we can repress it, we can never alter it. Our intellect can be deceived, our feelings manipulated, our perceptions confused and our body tricked with medication. But someday, the body will present its bill, for it is as incorruptible as a child who, still whole in spirit, will accept no compromises or excuses, and it will not stop tormenting us until we stop evading the truth. Alice Miller
Christmas is coming. I can feel it deep in my bones. The holiday Jimmy looked forward to every year. The one he loved the most. He would spend hours figuring out the perfect gift for each member of the family. He inherited his father’s eye and discernment which allowed him to pick out clothing that flattered and jewelry that pleased.
We learned the hard way that being home at Christmas is undoable without Jimmy. We soldiered through the first one with my mom and our best friend Howard here to love and support us. But with mom dying the year after Jimmy did and Howard home with his family in New Zealand, we only made it to December 23rd of the second Christmas before making a hotel reservation in San Francisco and fleeing to the beach. Since then, Pismo Beach, the Galapagos, Monterey, Diagonal Mar in Barcelona .. with Buster or without him. Anywhere but home. Dog preferred. Salt water mandatory.
We could pretend but there was no avoiding the truth. Without Jimmy’s sweet spirit and love of twinkling lights, Christmas decorations, A Christmas Story and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, giving gifts and making Christmas cookies for Santa, we couldn’t force our bodies to stay in the house without him.
One September, four and a half years after Jimmy died, I started feeling like I was coming down with something. Sluggish, daily headaches that wouldn’t go away, cravings for unhealthy food, a complete lack of energy. It took more than a week to realize that my body was acknowledging what my brain refused to face .. that Jimmy’s 26th birthday was coming. I had spent several months convincing myself intellectually that I was learning to live without Jimmy here, coming to terms with his death, moving toward a Zen-like acceptance of what had happened. But I couldn’t fool my body whose response became a full blown “the hell you are ..”
So I faced reality, and the truths I could no longer evade ..
I will grieve the death of my son and oldest child until the day I draw my last breath.
It will never be okay that he died at the age of 21 after having to spend eight years being battered by brain surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy.
It will never be okay that Molly had to become an only child and face life without her best friend and older brother.
If the universe had offered me the terms upfront — the chance to parent and love my amazing boy but only for 21 years, I would take that deal every … fucking … time.
I am a kinder, more compassionate person than I ever would have been without having been Jimmy’s mom, without his brain cancer journey and without his death. And I would trade the last two in a heartbeat to have him back.
Every time I curb my tongue, help another grieving soul or say ‘no’ to a unfair request or the bad behavior of a family member, friend or colleague, I am reminded of how much Jimmy taught me about what it means to take care of others and the importance of taking a stand for myself.
For those of us who were lucky enough to know and love Jimmy, we will carry him with us forever. And that is the true gift.