Thursday, April 30, 2009


According to many grief models, the first stage of grief is denial. It is also possible, as we've learned, to do 'anticipatory grieving' or grieving for the inevitable. We knew from the onset of Henry's disease that the chances for survival were slim. At least for me, once he began to have clean scans, then we bombarded his cancer with the strongest chemotherapy available topped off by radiotherapy, I became optimistic. He looked good, felt good - was good.

When he relapsed, we knew what that meant. I remember getting the call from our oncologist. "It's bad." I remember where I stood, where Tara was, my mood, everything. It was news that at some level, I think we eventually expected. We dreaded it, hoped it wouldn't arrive, but when it came, I didn't feel any shock. Just something I'd desperately hoped to avoid.

We had months to anticipate, to tell him we loved him, to see relatives, to enjoy the holidays - to hold him. We wanted to value every minute, each second with him. I feel very confident we did our absolute best.

When Henry died, I remember the awful stab of departure. It had been quick, but we'd seen it coming. It was painless for him, but difficult for us. We'd been as prepared as we could possibly be for the end and it had gone as well as we could have hoped for.

We knew full well what was going to happen. We'd told our families. Our girls knew what to expect. There was really no surprise about any of it. How could we possibly deny any of it?

The business of the memorial service and comfort of friends and family in droves, the purpose of readying for the service and of intensity of properly honoring his memory kept our minds occupied in a positive fashion and kept us going. We were sad. We recalled with tears our happy moments. We felt grateful for the love we shared with him and with those surrounding us.

Normalcy crept upon us but felt oddly hollow. We expected that too. How could we possibly feel normal as a family of four - without cancer in our lives - after living for so long with Henry and the cancer that was part of him? Yes, that too, we anticipated. It will take time.

The departure of cancer provided relief for us. Hordes of time opened in front of us; time to spent with our girls, to sleep, take long weekends, give back to our supportive communities, re-create ourselves with our new appreciation for life. Henry was gone, but he left behind a trove of lessons, gifts for us to learn from and incorporate into who we are to become. This is renewal. This is life. This is rebirth. This has become comforting to know he lives on so integral to the lives he's touched. A bounty of good, come from so horrible a thing.

So I dismissed denial. I understood what had happened. I knew my son had died of brain cancer. We had peace in that he didn't suffer. He didn't know he was ill and was happy until the day he died. Job well done. We managed through to the end with our marriage in tact, our family strong, our wits not too badly damaged and with a healthy appreciation of life.


Each moment in this future which I anticipated is so real and so empty of him. Anticipating missing him is nothing like actually missing him. So many moments without his quirky sayings, his laugh or his gravity. Yes, his gravity. It's like his pull on our family is gone. We don't have to adjust for him any longer and it's thrown our center of gravity off fiercely.

I'm beginning to understand that, for me anyway, denial is not really about mentally or analytically accepting what has happened. I don't think I've been able to bypass denial with any amount of thinking. Denial for me has been physical. Until I'm in an actual moment and have the experience of not having him in that moment, my physical body cannot acclimate to his being gone. I really don't think my body has allowed me to truly process what has happened. I've found my brain reminding myself that he's gone. Replaying his death, torturing myself over the details as if to make myself believe it more wholly. I don't know what the function is of this physical denial. I don't know why. But the longer I walk this road, the heavier my steps are becoming. The weight of what has happened is beginning to settle on me. It's gradual, but it's heavy.

"Henry will not get another birthday" "There will be no masculine bonding" "You will not see him at 10 or 15 or 50" "You will not see him be a dad" "You will not see him play with his cousins" "You will not teach him to drive" "You will not see him graduate" ... "You will no longer have a son."

These things I must live with.



And there's nothing to be done about it.

Perhaps denial is nature's way of letting the dust settle instead of overwhelming us with it at once. It's painful enough this way. I suppose it would be incapacitating otherwise.

So I've invited denial into my house for a time. I don't know how long it will stay and I don't know how or when to expect what's next. If there's one special thing I learned from my time with Henry, it's to accept what we're given.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


As spring finally arrives, we are surrounded by the signs of new life. Warmer weather, buds on the trees and green grass growing fast.

On the day Henry died, my niece was born. My brother's 4th child, Eliza. A gift to let us know that life goes on, that in the midst of great pain there can be great joy. A happy commemoration to be recalled annually that will forever help to salve the sorrow of that day.

Today is Tara's birthday. We anticipate another life entering the world this day. Her sister's new baby boy is to be coaxed out today, a dozen days overdue, and while Molly may have really appreciated an earlier arrival, we couldn't be happier with the coincidence. A perfect gift from one sister to another in the wake of our tragedy. To make it even more perfect, they will name their child Keating, a tribute to Henry and a great and humbling honor for us.

Best wishes and all our love to Molly, Josh, Charley and baby Keating.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Henry's Dad

Last week I dropped by Henry's daycare to say hello and to give them a 'Henry's Hustle' poster among other things. The children were all out playing in the play yard and I went in to speak with Henry's former teacher.

I anticipated this, but relished it just the same. Henry's classmates come over to me and say, "Hi, Henry's Dad!"

They ask about him too. "Where's Henry?" Some of them know, and some of them don't. Like us, none of them understand - really. One of his friends said, "I miss playing with Henry." Me too.

They're all so innocent and sweet and loving. In the end, I received about half a dozen hugs from little arms around my neck as I bent down to say goodbye. I can't explain it, but it was like he was there. They loved him so....and still do. I just love the fact they still ask about him so much.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Go Team!

From 20090426_PortToFort

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Believe in Tomorrow Children's Foundation Port to Fort Walk for team, "Life is Fragile, Love is Not". We had an outstanding turn out on a fine day and it made a wonderful tribute to our hero Henry.

Aside from being a terrific memorial and community event, our team had the largest turnout - 54 people! We were awarded a plaque and a permanent place on their annual trophy which displays the awards year over year. Next year our team will be remembered for your participation in 2009.

As for the Scheck family, we had a terrific time seeing you all and walking and running together for such a wonderful organization. Thank you again for your fund raising efforts and for your unending support of Henry and our family.

We're already looking forward to doing it again next year!

Here are the photos I took at the race! Click on the album below and enjoy!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Port to Fort

This weekend is the Port to Fort race in Baltimore to raise awareness of childhood cancers. I want to thank the multitude of anticipated attendees for your commitment to this cause and support in memory of Henry.

We can't wait to see everyone. There is a crane in front of the Museum of Industry (see photo). That's where we will plan to be if the crowd and specifics allow. Otherwise, just look for the 'Life Is Fragile' shirts!

From the website:

Packet Pick-Up:

Saturday, April 25, 2009
12 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Falls Road Running Store
6247 Falls Road, Baltimore, MD 21209
Call (410) 296-5050 for directions.

*In response to numerous questions, one person may pick up the packets for their family members, friends, or team. (In cases of team packet pick-up, please have a complete list of names with you).

Last Minute Packet Pick-up begins at 7:30 a.m. day of race at the BMI.

More Information:

Race Route:

Monday, April 20, 2009


The morning after Henry died I woke up early with a headache. I came downstairs because I couldn't sleep and reached into the medicine cabinet for some Excedrin. We buy the generic and I turned the bottle to read the label to make sure I was grabbing the right bottle. "Pain Reliever" it said. I crumbled to the floor and cried.

Most of the time now the pain is much less acute. This weekend, I was able to think of him. I saw all the little 3's running around the soccer field, talked to his former coach and was able to laugh and smile thinking of him out there with everyone last fall, enjoying his shin guards and his cue ball head and red #3 shirt running around on a beautiful day. Coincidentally this season, Sophie's team is red and - coincidentally - has #3 (her age group has the full range of numbers). We had pictures this weekend and as I knelt next to the team I remembered doing the same with Henry last fall. It was a good memory.

I got up early again this morning and spent the wee hours thinking and waking up. The weekend sun had given way to clouds and rain. As I returned upstairs to dress and saw the picture of him I keep near my shelves, I had one of the most vivid memories of him I've had since he's been gone.

I could feel the sweater he was wearing, feel his hair in my fingers, his arms around my neck, his weight in my arms and his little cheek against mine. I remember the day at The Little Gym when we saw the fire engine parked out front. We walked down and he was excited to have his picture taken with #4. "Because I'm 4!"

God I miss him.

It took me some time to collect myself. It's so difficult to hold those memories. I want them. I treasure them and need them to keep him close. But it's painful and there's no pill to relieve it.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Henry's Hustle

The local Elementary School, Maugansville ES, where Anna and Sophie attend, have announced that they are planning a fundraiser in memory of Henry to benefit the charity of our choice. We've elected to have the funds donated to Alex's Lemonade Stand.

They've set up an online donation center at ALSF and have a website for the event as well. There will be a carnival, a race and a blood drive all to be held at the school on Saturday, May 16th.

We're grateful and exceedingly honored to be supported by the school and community in this way and are excited to enjoy the day with family and friends if you're able to attend.

Henry's Hustle Website:
ALSF Donation Site:

Friday, April 10, 2009

Sometimes There Aren't Words

I feel different after Henry died. Sometimes I can't put thoughts together. I feel like doing something and before I can get myself up to do it I've lost the motivation. Not always, but sometimes. I've tried to be very accepting of these moods, I see them come and go like the weather. It helps when I can explain them, but sometimes there are just no words.

Sometimes I just feel like there's nothing left emotionally. I'm all cashed in, spent it all and starting over from scratch - emotionally poor. Sometimes the weight of things, the finality isn't really apparent. Like maybe we can find a satisfactory explanation of things, a revelation, and then things will make sense or be better. After six weeks of missing Henry, it's becoming more and more apparent that there are just no explanations, no resolutions, and trying to grasp at them is futile. Then there's just sadness and tears with no purpose but release.

It builds up sometimes and other times it is sudden. Sometimes it creeps upon me slowly and imperceptibly. I can feel it coming and there's no immediate reason for it. It's very physical the way it builds up, like a need - and then the crying, the release. It's become one of the only things left that can relieve the pressure for a time.

Sometimes it surprises me and is sudden. Being in a place where a forgotten memory surfaces and is pushed into my face. I'm reminded of a tender moment of being with him and it is painful. I'm troubled by the association of pain with his memory. I do wish it wasn't that way. I want to look at pictures of him and recollect how we were with fondness, not in such a longing way. Perhaps its too early. Yes, I think I just need to wait it out. Like a storm. This too will pass. But I miss my boy.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Three is a Magic Number

You don't have to guess.
When it's three you can see
It's a magic number.
- Schoolhouse Rock

This weekend was the opening weekend of YMCA soccer here in Hagerstown. Our girls have played for years. Henry played his very first soccer game there last season. His very first touch on the ball (perhaps his only touch) was a kickoff that went to the team's 'ringer'. She scored. His first touch led to an assist. I was standing there with my buddies watching and it made me proud to watch him out there playing the game I've always loved. He wore the number 3.

Henry was slight at the time, he'd just finished his chemotherapy, still had his 'tubies' in his chest and had no hair. He loved his shin guards, they were just so cool. "Hit them daddy." I'd hit them. He'd shrug his shoulders, "It didn't hurt at all," he'd say. He wore his shin guards, his soccer socks and shoes and his jersey - with number 3.

This season every child in the U6 group all wear number 3. There are no other numbers. Every field, every jersey, every color in that age group are all running around with the number 3. His number. Everywhere.

And after this season it will be no more. The number 3 is being retired for use in U6. Our friends and community have done this for us. It's just too much and we're so appreciative because, while we don't have our Henry this year at the soccer field with us, his presence is felt so very strongly.

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