“Oh my God, he’s gone! He died. He actually died!”
These are the thoughts that arrest me, out of the blue regularly.
I might be driving, or out buying groceries, perhaps out having fun with friends, or teaching at the pool, when without any warning I remember. Dan died.
When this moment hits it quite literally stops me in my tracks. A year of Dan’s diagnosis, treatment and final days play at top speed in my head, and I am left breathless. It happens in a moment, and in that moment I must quickly decide what to do. Allow myself think about it, or not.
Because of the random nature of reality biting, a lot of the time, because of where I am, it is inappropriate to deal with it. I must very quickly try to close the door, in order to ensure no tears fall. However if you were with me, some of you may notice, just for a moment, a hesitation in me or I may seem distracted. In that time I am saying a very quick goodbye to young Dan, and moving on.
However there are other times, when uninvited the reality of what happened last November suddenly comes to mind.
On those occasions, when I am alone, I hear myself say in amazement, “Dan got leukemia”. As I say it, I shake my head. It is still as hard to comprehend now as it was the very first day I heard, or suspected the diagnosis. I recall the treatment, the many difficult days, and the slow drip of realisation, that perhaps he and his family would not have a happy ever after.
If I am alone, I may decide to allow this reality seep into my consciousness. I will look at the beautiful face on the photos in my kitchen and once again shake my head. How can someone so handsome, so young, so wild and full of life, be here no more. I try to reconcile the memories I hold, and all I have heard since Dan died, of the carefree, sports mad, young boy, to the reality of his name on the cross on his grave.
Gone. Gone forever. Robbed of life at thirteen.
I begin to wonder what might have been, and that always makes me smile. I imagine he would have driven his mother mad, with his not having a care in the world for school, homework, or rules. His father would have been so proud going from match to match with the boy of every fathers dreams. His sisters and brother would have fought with, and loved him in equal measure. His relatives would have enjoyed his zest for life, knowing that was Dan. And somewhere in the future, after breaking a fortune of hearts, someone, somewhere would make him spin, and we would have seen a whole new side to Dan.
It is heartbreaking to think this way, and tears fall freely,but taking the time like this to really remember both the old Dan, who could have taught us all about life, and the Dan who is now missing, allows me to spend a bit of time with him in any day. Even if it is just a quick chat, or a wondering how he is, or in fact where he is?.
As time goes by I can begin to comprehend that Dan is gone. I say “begin”, because as I write the word “gone”, I am once again hit by a train.
“Oh my God, he’s gone”.
I am not his mother, father, relation or godparent. I cannot imagine grief such as theirs. I can only just be there to walk this long road beside them, and to let them know that even though he is gone, a special, much loved young boy such as he, will never be forgotten by so many of us. In that way he lives on.
*****Dan had leukemia, but managed to get a bone marrow donor. Sadly an infection got the better of him after a very successful transplant. Please consider going on the bone marrow register. Someday you could save a life.