I did head out briefly, as in one stop, 2 items, done, on Black Friday. Picked up Elf on the Shelf for Charlotte. Never heard of Elf on the Shelf? Go here and check it out. Could be a cute tradition to start in your house and if nothing else, a new twist on the old " You better watch out,Santa is watching you", that many of us grew up with. Nothing like instilling fear, in a new fangled way, with another generation of wee one's, this holiday season. I spent the remainder of Friday decorating and finishing up addressing Christmas cards and had the rest of the weekend planned out and then, just like that, in an instant, everything changed.
Saturday morning I received a call from my good friend Rowena. Rowena and I met, outside the bathrooms on 4E one March morning of 2009. We had each ducked out briefly from our respective childrens hospital rooms.I looked at her face and in an instant I knew her journey with pediatric cancer had just begun. It was the new diagnosis haze I saw in her eyes that gave it away. I recognized it readily, for it was that same reflection I saw in myself, not 5 months back. I hugged her and told her, as I had been told almost from the time of Zoey's birth: Hold tight to hope. Keep your faith close and let your child be your guide. In her case, a son, a few months past his 10th birthday. His name, Klein.
Klein has spent nearly 3 years leading the way. Unfavorable prognosis from the get go. A valiant fight in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit. Brief respite from leukemia and then, relapse, after relapse, after relapse. All the while, defying odds and charting his own course. And his parents, have unselfishly allowed him to do things his way, in a quest to be a "normal" kid. That is all he has ever wanted. On the floor I would talk to him and he would speak of the things he missed the most: pizza, playing soccer and basketball and hanging out with his friends. My heart ached, each time he spoke of the life he yearned for outside those sterile walls. So his parents have allowed him to return to school, fraught with germs galore. They have allowed him to stay up late into the night playing his beloved video games with friends. They have fought the over powering desire to hole him up in the house and encircle him with their private protection. They have allowed him to be a normal preteen boy, under the most abnormal circumstances.
And on Friday, they headed to Magic Mountain, a roller coaster theme park, here in California. A pre-celebration for his upcoming 13th birthday on Tuesday. He and 16 friends, doing what teens do. Hanging out, eating junk and riding wild rides. It was on one of those rides, that the unthinkable happened. For reasons unknown to any of us, even the doctors, on one of the rides, Klein suffered two major brain bleeds. He underwent a 4 hour brain procedure at a hospital nearby the theme park. He was stabilized and then airlifted to CHLA. A place that has become his home away from home. A place where he is surrounded by a staff that has come to love him and a community that has enveloped he and his family, as their own.
He is on a ventilator. He is fighting. He continues to show us the way. As I sat by his bedside twice, over the last few days, I was reminded of the cruelty of this life. I was reminded of how fragile and uncertain all of our lives are. I was reminded, unfortunately, that I actually have not made much of gain when it comes to being tolerant of others and what they deem difficult and hard. I really thought I had adopted that " everyone has a cross to bear and a story and none is more difficult than another." mentality, but it isn't true, you know? I find that I am often resisting the urge to shout, suck it up and move on, would you? I hate that that has happened. I hate that I have lost a bit of my empathy chip. What kind of a person have I become when I do weights and measures on others troubles? I once thought I could recapture a part of it as time has passed, but I have instead decided that perhaps that the lose of it, just may be yet another unfortunate casualty of this life I have lead over the last 5 years.
Today I circle back to what has seen me through most all the difficult moments of my life in recent years. Hope and Faith. As well as the way lite by perspective given by one far younger than myself. Unfair and beyond logic. Fight on sweet Klein. You lead. We will follow and all the while, we will wish it were not so.