August.. the smell of relapse

With Sophia heading off to the first day of preschool I find myself feeling so anxious these days.  Of course the race is 30 days away and it’s on my mind but there seems to be a familiar pit in my stomach that I can’t shake.  This past week or two I have had ups and downs of sickness, extreme fatigue, loss of energy and overall a horrible cloud of moodiness that has parked over the top of me.  Why is my body breaking down so much?  Then today it hit me as Grant and I were walking Sophia into school.  While everyone else is feeling the rush or back to school and the smell of freshly sharpened pencils, all I know is the smell of relapse.

It seemed like clockwork for us that every August we would be due for scans.  We would swear to ourselves (aka lie) that this year was going to be different.  She wouldn’t miss school, we would be on top of things in her classroom, we would be a normal family.

Another first day, another relapse.  (Neck)



And then a call would come that would tell us that her tests came back positive or the lump on the side of her neck was not in fact a swollen lymph node but in fact a tumor.

First days of schools were missed, supplies not purchased, teachers not met.. instead we would be having sit down conversations about our next fork in the road.  How do we keep her alive?  We would spend the next month traveling about and spending nights in the hospital while everyone else got to know the school routine and meet new friends.

So now here I am.. it’s August and there is no relapsing.  School supplies?  Check.  First day of school?  Check.  Meeting teachers?  Check.  Then why can’t I shake that relapse pit in my stomach?

I decide in honor of the first day of school, Grant and I will head over to visit Isabella.  I have gotten away from my weekly visits over the summer due to crazy schedules and the kids.  I was ready to come back to her because she always grounded me.  Maybe a visit with her with cure the pit.

I assumed Grant would stay in the car and watch Kung Fu Panda 2 so that I could have a minute to catch up with her.  The predictable kid I thought he was jumps right out of the car and grabs my hand to visit.  We sit down together on the bench as I inventory the gifts laid before her.  I can always tell Miss Chrissy’s gifts and a new pin wheel from her BFF Soleil.  Soleil was her best friend that she met on her first day of preschool at Calvary.  She is no doubt getting ready for 3rd grade this year which seems crazy to me.    My eyes fill with tears as I try to just look straight ahead.  I then of course feel Grant’s hand on my back like a shock through my body.  Sometimes in life things happen and I feel like it is Isabella.  This was one of those times.  A tiny hand on my back telling me that everything was okay.  I turn to smile at him and see his eyes are filled with tears too.

“Feels just like she was here yesterday doesn’t it buddy?”


I know he has been thinking of her lately because he has started to play his little recording he has of her wishing him good night.  Twice this week he called Sophia, Isabella too which means she is on his brain.

Then comes all the questions.

“How do they put on these bodies in here?”
“How did they put her in there?”
“Who put her in there?”
“I think I can see here in there”, as he looks through the holes.

At what point to you share with a 6-year-old the process of cremation?  I decide to tread lightly here and tell him that Daddy and I decided to make her body into ashes through magic and put in a pretty box instead of putting her into a casket in the ground.  We did this so that she could be above ground and listen to the birds easier and hear Sophia play on the playground behind us.

The only thing he heard was ashes.  Which I then had to describe further as something that looks like dust.  Which made it seem worse.

“So can we open the box and look at her?”
“No buddy.  It would just be ashes.  You wouldn’t be able to see her.”
“How do they make her ashes?” – MY DREADED QUESTION
“Well, they do something special to your body that turns it into ashes.  But her body was not really her anymore honey.  She already went up to heaven.”
“So she really doesn’t know that you did that to her.”
“Right.”  (ugh…)
“Well don’t do that to me.  I want to be in the ground.”
“Ok.  You can go in the ground.  I just thought she would like to be up here so she can hear her wind chime and feel the breeze.  And one day when I die, I can go next to her box so we can be together down here and together in heaven.”

At this point tears are falling from his eyes and I can’t figure out if I should have locked him in the car or if this is just how people talk to their kids about this stuff.

Long pause.

“Well, maybe put me in a box too so I can be next to you.”
“Sounds good to me.  Who wants to be in the ground with bugs anyway?”
“Mom.  That things is shut so no bugs can get in.”
“How do you know?”
“How do YOU know?”, he tell me.
“Fair enough.  None of this really matters to Isabella anyway because she is happy up in heaven.”
“She is always happy?”
“Yep.  And she can be anything she wants to be.  She can have long red hair, or be a Mommy or play with kittens all day.  Just happy all the time.”
“When I go to heaven I want to have green hair and drive a car.”
“Sounds good to me.  I just want to be with you guys all the time when I’m there.”

We sit there in silence for a bit and he tells me that he wants to bring something out for Isabella.  Something that she can hear because she is above ground.  He tells me that she always liked the jewelry box next to her bed that when it opened had a dancing ballerina in it.  He wants to bring that our for her.

“And a picture of her and I together.”  He tells me with tears.  “I think I will come out here as I get older too, Mommy”.
“I think she would like that.” I tell him.

I wish I could say that the visit eased the pit in my stomach.  Or unfortunately maybe now it has given Grant a pit in his.  I think that sometimes these visits to her solve problems or maybe they just answer questions.  Maybe it was just something Grant needed to reconnect with her.  I just like feeling her hand on my back every once in a while.  Telling me that it’s okay.. there is no longer the smell of relapse in the air.

Ib and Grant
Ib and Grant