3 months since Aiden’s passing, I feel the clock tick but the speed is unknown to me. I realize time is an illusion of our minds. Am I going too fast? Am I not going fast enough? Where is the rule book on losing a child and healing? The last 2 weeks I feel like I am entering into a new stage of grief and healing. I have finally been able to look at photos of Aiden and although I tear up, I am able to allow myself to accept these feelings. I am able to talk more freely about him and accept when others share their memories as well. This may seem like a small feat but the alternative was running from them or denying them or doing a shot of vodka to get through them.I feel like a door has been opened and when I close my eyes I can see through this open door way and there is something beautiful, shining, on the other side. An open space with possibilities and roads to different futures.
I have also started to be able to leave “Aiden” (well his urn) in one spot. Up until now I have carried Aiden back and forth with me to our trailer in Delta and our home in Almonte, but as I lay in bed in Almonte typing this I know Aiden is safe and at peace in heaven even with his urn sitting on my nightstand in Delta.
Last month our family set out on many adventures. We spent so much time outside, hiking to beautiful peaks and jumping off cliffs into deep cool waters. Chasing fireflies, telling stories around campfires, paddle board adventures, dancing in the rain and so much more. I have been able to share with my kids, my childhood adventures. There is such amazing beauty and freedom that comes from growing up as a country kid. I always tell the kids to “Be Wild & Free” and that is exactly what we have been doing! I think another part of the healing has come from appreciating this and being able to give this to my children now.
Having a child with Cancer or a complex care child takes a lot of freedoms we take for granted away. I feel no hardship or bitterness towards my life as a complex care mom, it taught me so much. Aiden was truly a warrior who fought harder then any for so long but I am not going to sugar coat it and say it was not difficult and stopped us from doing many things, especially outdoor play. I remember before Aiden got sick he would spend hours on the beach making sand castles and swimming and catching frogs – he loved to swim underwater. Once he got sick it was too hot for him to stay outside long. The posteria fossa he developed from his first surgery to try and remove the cancer took his balance away making walking, especially on uneven ground, very difficult or needing a wheelchair for long distances. Cancer took so many of these little joys away from him but that is not to say we did not make up for it in other ways. We spent more time doing quiet activities, chatting or snuggling watching movies. We still went on adventures to museums or Aiden’s favourite activity of science experiments and making YouTube videos. We adapted, and I would not change it because it also showed me that life goes on even through hardship. It showed me that it is human nature to learn to adapt and survive.
I look back over the last 4 years and see we just transitioned into a new normal. The routine of Aiden waking and puking in the sink every morning or night routine of organizing 10 different medications and hooking up feeding pump was our normal. Yes, there was many of times Aiden cried out in frustrations and sadness for the freedoms he remembered feeling pre-cancer but overall we were not unhappy. Aiden was a very happy kid and if I compare his outburst to those of our 5 children now they are all quite consistent in frequency of frustrations. Everyone breaks downs at times. Everyone gets angry, sad, frustrated and as I see now I really don’t feel Aiden did more so then any other kids at his age. This realization has also given me a huge sense of peace! It is funny when you are stuck in a moment nothing else seems to compare but when you take a step back you can see a larger picture and realize it may not have been as you perceive in that moment and a clarity can come from that.
I think one of the biggest things that I have felt over the last three months is this new relationship develop with the other kids, but specifically Lynkon. I feel like I am just learning who he is and getting to really experience his personality. I was still breast feeding Lynkon when Aiden got sick. I missed out on a lot of time in his development. Lynkon and Declan stayed with Family for the first couple months when Aiden was in hospital and then Aiden and I left for essential a year to Boston and Toronto for treatment. Children develop so fast, learning to walk and talk and just really experience the world for the first time. I remember the first time Aiden realized he had ears! The smile on his face as he rubbed his cubby baby hands on the sides of his face will be forever engraved in my mind. Declan was only 4 when Aiden got sick. the same age Lynkon is now! Declan remembers the Aiden that would chase him around and share a bunk bed and play cars with him till the wee hours in bed, but he also remembers losing this brother and having to learn at such a young age how to adapt and accept a new normal. He also learned how to have patience and compassion and empathy at the same time. Over the last couple months I have seen a huge change is Declan as well. I have seen a confidence grow in him. I have seen security grow in him as we settle into this new normal. A normal with more consistency and security of future and this is something I am so grateful for. Would we have lived the unstable life of childhood cancer for another 20 + years and survived without bitterness or regrets and still full of love, YES! but is this new normal of consistency and security nice? YES! I know we still have along road in healing, for all of us, but I know there is a bright road ahead and I know that is what Aiden would want and wants for us as we watches over us. Aiden being sick has brought me to this stage in my life where I am truly happy with who I am as a person. He has given me a love for myself that I never really knew or accepted.
So as I try and figure out this next leg in our voyage I contemplate many possibilities. I have begun to ask many questions on my future. I try to figure out situation with work, I had just been promoted to General Manager of Agricultural Society, my future career I though for the next 26 years but Aiden got sick and then had to take a leave putting this dream on hold. What does that career path look like now? I have been contemplating going back to school to be a registered therapist, to give back and help others going through similar situations although gaining a masters at 36 (2.5 years of school) seems like a huge feat with crippling anxiety at times. I have started to think more about writing professionally, with a book of 56,000 words already written I feel like this is a calling that I need to complete but not mentally ready yet. It would mean reliving all the experiences of the last 4 years where I just became able to look at photos. I have most recently signed up to be an artist with Maskcara Beauty, a business I can do from home yet still get to be creative with social media and online technologies and makeup all of which I find joy and love in. One of the most present thoughts over the last couple weeks have been on what I want my blog “MamaOutpost: Aiden’s Voyage” to be. Has it become just “MamaOutpost” at this point? Can it? Am I dishonouring Aiden by changing the name and what will my message be? or am I more dishonouring him by abandoning it? How else can I honour my amazing boy? A million questions race through my mind with no answers, but I know that is ok. I feel like putting them out there is the first step in change and growth. Like jumping off a cliff into beautiful water, it can be REALLY scary but all it takes is that one step and you are flying.
I think most importantly at this stage I am able to focus on my kids and be something I truly love and that is a mother. I think if Aiden has taught me anything is that life is always challenging you and changing but most importantly the ability to grow from these challenges and accept and embrace these changes is something that can lead you to a life that is truly beautiful.
What is normal anyways as long as there are smiles?
Thank you everyone for all your support and love on this voyage and wherever it may take me.
Aidens passing has been incredibly difficult but a lot less difficult because of the love and support we have receive from family, friend and community. Thank you to everyone who has sent meals, condolences, and donations so I can take this time I need now to grieve and take care of myself and beautiful blended family. I am so incredible grateful for the support we have received.
Stephanie (aka MamaOutpost)