Tuesday, May 26, 2009


We had a lovely evening with the girls last night. We returned home after a long weekend of travel, an afternoon visiting with family and then relaxed by enjoying some card games with them before bed.

They'd attended a weekend camp put on by the American Cancer Society for siblings of those with cancer called SunSibs. The counselors are former attendees in many cases and the staff are social workers and hospital child-life staff. Last year was their first time going, right near the beginning of Henry's radiation treatments. They both anticipated this year for the last month by recalling fond memories of swimming, pranks, songs and activities.

Dropping the girls off on Saturday morning was a oddly disconcerting experience. We recalled what was happening last year - just starting Henry's radiation treatments, preparing for more separation, more hospital time, the unknown. When I recall past times during Henry's treatment I have enormous empathy for our past selves, wanting to comfort them, tell them we're doing OK now, encourage them. Then I realized that the parents still standing there were quite possibly in that very place, right in front of me. Other parents were there with their surviving children as we were, many years out, making me wonder what that's like. I heard cell phone conversations about one parent swapping hospital duties with the other. This story continues to happen over and over again all the time - all over the world.

We picked Anna and Sophie up on Monday and, although visibly tired, they were happy and had spent a busy weekend enjoying their old and new friends and the love and companionship of those who cared for them by offering them a fun and carefree time. It made Tara and I very happy to see them confidently marching off to camp and returning with memories that we hope will continue to buoy them and give them another facet of identity within the cancer community.

Grief for me is changing again. I haven't cried as much recently. I can more often stand at the door of his room and imagine him, remember him and smile. I think of him and feel the clenching in my chest, but it has become more familiar to me now, that manifestation of grief. And most of the time, that grief has enough form that I can hold it without it spilling all over the place uncontrollably. It has begun to congeal into something that is still difficult to hold, but it's possible. Sometimes it is still collapses into pieces but I'm getting more accustomed to picking them up and understanding how they fit together.


Granya said...

It is such a positive example for Sophie and Anna to see these people volunteer year after year, for a holiday weekend - dedicated to making sibs feel special and carefree and helping them forget at some level.

And as they grow into young adults, this will be a "way of life" for them - how wonderful is that?

Anonymous said...

Isn't it cool to look far into your future, and being a little older, and perhaps a little grayer and watching your girls (then young women)greet children just like them with open arms welcoming them to camp?

It sounds like it was a good weekend, and so today the prayer is that of thanks!

Anonymous said...

I am so happy to hear the girls had a great weekend..but also happy to hear that you are becoming more able to handle thoughts of feelings of your precious Henry. As always, my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

shannon and Brady said...

Hey Brian and Tara, it is Shannon and brady from the bus stop, I wanted to tell you that as I put brady to bed tonight, we said our prayers and he said he wanted Henry to be with God and not be sick anymore. I told him that henry is in Heaven and he is not sick anymore. I teared up when he said that. he never forgets anything and never ceases to amaze me! It was good to see you! Take care and we hope the girls have a wonderful summer vacation! Please kepp in touch, we think of you often!

LK said...

I just found your blog and I want you to know it is some comfort to me to know that life can go on after losing a child to cancer. We are in the midst of an aggressive relapse with my 7 yo daughter. Thank you for voicing your thoughts here.

Bryan said...

LK - I'm deeply sorry to hear about your daughter's relapse. My eyes welled up at the reminder of another family and special child having to deal with this. Our thoughts will remain with you and yours.

Bryan & Tara