While this whole first year without Sophie has been an endless emptiness and heartache, we’ve been working hard to overlay more enjoyable feelings and experiences on top of that baseline sadness (which I imagine will always be there). We’ve filled our weekends with outings and visits, staying busy and distracted from the pain. I think I might still be in denial though… I just can’t believe that this happened. Sometimes it feels like “did Sophie ever really exist?” And sometimes it feels like I’m looking for her and have no idea where she is and just want someone to give her back to me. How could brain cancer happen to her? There’s no history of cancer in our family, we are conscientious of healthy eating and living, and I thought we had gotten a hang of improving her below-average immune system she was born with. And how could she be gone? Some kids survive brain cancer. Why not OUR baby? Anyway, we wouldn’t be able to get through this sadness without support from our families and friends. Sometimes that support means giving us space to grieve as a tiny family of 3 and sometimes that support means financing her memorial service and remembrance tree (planted in our backyard and about to turn a beautiful autumnal red), or helping us celebrate Sophie’s spunky cuteness by enjoying a “cupbake” for her on her birthday. Focusing on endearing things about her without thinking about those things being gone now was really helpful. I loved seeing the photos pour in and knowing that you all took the time to remember and appreciate her. And if you’d like to participate and have a cupbake *after* her birthday we would REALLY enjoy adding more people to our photo collage- we have pictures of babies holding plush cupcakes, kids with wooden/plastic cupcakes, drawings of cupcakes, anything! You’ve all shown us love and thoughtfulness in so many ways during Sophie’s illness and again after we lost her. I hope you know how important that was (and is) to us and how grateful we are that you care so much about us, and I hope you also know that after December 29th, it became impossible to thank you all for your kindnesses because writing a ‘thank you’ somehow made us re-live the trauma of her death- the reason why we were writing to you.
Sophie’s birthday started the season of big deal ‘firsts’ for us. Laith’s first birthday without her, Lucas’ first birthday without her, the first Halloween since 2007 that I didn’t have a baby on my hip, and soon to come: first Thanksgiving and Christmas without her. Though it might just be another distraction-from-the-pain technique, I’ve decided to focus on small (and big) things that I am thankful for each day through this season. It’s quite hard to feel unadulterated thankfulness when there is such an undercurrent of defeat and loss and brokenness in my heart. But in my mind, I know there are so many other non-child-loss ways that we are actually quite lucky and blessed. So my first item of thankfulness is the biggest: I’m grateful for all of you. I know of many families through our pediatric cancer groups who suffered similarly to us but without a team of wonderful people holding them up like you have for us. Thank you. Thank you.