Saturday, August 24, 2013
He was just a little boy . . .
It's that time of year again. That time when the yellow raincoat hanging in my closet feels as heavy as my heart. Everyone else is older now and with each passing year, this raincoat looks smaller than it did when he wore it. How could he have once been so small?
I look into the face of my son, that cute photo I took when I was just taking another picture of a child. Back before I realized that it would one day help to heal my heart.
There is so much I don't know. I don't know why Daniel spoke of Heaven so fondly. We never told him that he was going to die. I suppose it was because I never believed he would. Not until the very end after the staph infection shut his body down and the EEG confirmed what I did not want to hear. My son was brain dead.
Prior to that he looked into the sky one day and shouted, "I wanna go to Heaven!" His father and I looked at each other, speechless. No, no, our expressions conveyed. Not yet. Get well first and live and then die an old man.
I don't know why he wasn't able to die an old man. I don't know why he didn't even get to learn how to read.
He memorized. He memorized a complete book of jokes. And Maurice Sendak's Nutshell Library collection. "I told you once, I told you twice, all seasons of the year are nice for eating chicken soup with rice." He laughed at Pierre who got eaten by the lion and said, "I don't care." He loved for people to read to him. Curious George Rides a Bike. Are You My Mother? Where the Wild Things Are.
He spat watermelon seeds, built towers with Legos, loved Cocoa Puffs, and gave stickers to the doctors and nurses. "Because," he said, "you give presents to your friends."
After the doctors said there was no more that they could do, I kissed his cheek and whispered to him that he could die. "People tell me to let you go. To let you go. To say good-bye. You can go." The words sounded too harsh; no mother should have to tell her child that he is allowed to die. Quickly, I added, "But not yet. Not yet."
A bald-headed boy in a comatose condition, bloating on a sterile bed was better than no boy.
Each morning when I woke from the bed by his, I was relieved that he was still with us. Today was not the day I would have to deal with death. Not today. Not yet. I talked to him, I told him that I loved him. I told him he could die and I told him not to.
My mother was reading to him from a children's book about a boy who took a star from the sky and tried to keep it in his bed. But the star didn't belong in his bed and began to lose its light. At last, realizing that the start needed to be in the sky once again, the boy let the star sail back up to the heavens. "You can go, too," my mother whispered to Daniel.
Minutes later, our Daniel star left us. After only four years, his body had served its purpose. It was no longer needed. His spirit freely flew, sailing up to Heaven.
No more cancer, no more tears! "There are no tears in Heaven," he'd told me one day. Then he turned and asked me why.
"Jesus is there and there is no sadness when you are face to face with Him," I said.
There are no tears in Heaven, but there are plenty on earth. Especially when I hear Elton John sing Daniel or when somebody mentions Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story. Or when it's just an ordinary Sunday and the choir sings Amazing Grace.
I never thought he'd die. I always clung to healing, to health, to growing up with him, not without him. To more walks in the rain with him in his raincoat. To more times of him running out to greet the ice cream truck with all the change he could gather from the kitchen drawer.
I expected more birthdays, more kisses, more laughter. I wanted to send him off to kindergarten; instead I send kisses to Heaven. I take pictures of sunsets and sunrises, oceans and flowers, plant memorial gardens, and search for butterflies and rainbows. And I see the gap he has left between his older sister Rachel and his younger brother Ben and his sister Liz----the one he never met.
But after Daniel died, I remembered that I'd had a dream about six months into his treatment. He was climbing a ladder and the top of it was shaded by clouds. He was smiling, happy, no tears, no pain. He waved at me and continued to eagerly climb with a surge of energy. The next morning I shared the dream with my mom and my friend; their faces were sullen. What was wrong with them? My dream was a clear indication that Daniel was going to go from being ill to being free. His smile was a sure sign that he was going to be healed from the disease. We would have more of life here together.
Now I know that the dream was showing me that Daniel was climbing up to those clouds and beyond---beyond what I have ever experienced----where those who aren't around us anymore to share jokes live. I had wanted to keep him, hold onto him, I wasn't ready to let my precious star go back to where he came from.
I still want him here. With us. But I imagine Heaven is too wonderful to leave and once you are there, you are the happiest----your most perfect and content self----the way you were meant to be.
I love you, Daniel. I miss your bright blue eyes.
But your star shines bright. Especially tonight on your 21st birthday.
In memory of Daniel Paul Wisler: August 25, 1992 ~ February 2, 1997