Thursday, March 20, 2014

Julian's Sunset

Okay, so I know it's been a hot minute or two since I posted last, and I may have to do several posts at once because there have been so many things happening, but I had such a blessed week that I have to share it with all four of you who read this! :)

March 18, 2014 was Julian's last official day of chemo. His mom posted it on Facebook, and I knew that some celebration was in order. They celebrate at the hospital, of course. The child life department is amazing at CHOC, he got a hand made sign and a trophy and a large prize, which made him very excited! But Julian meant so much to my Sarah, I knew she wouldn't want me to let this momentous occasion pass without a celebration. After four long years of chemo and radiation, Julian is done with treatment. He's still here. He's alive. He's in school, and he's doing well. He can play soccer and live his life like a "normal" little boy now, as much as he can. He and his mother stared the Cancer Monster in the face and made it through to the other side, on their own. That is an accomplishment.

So I drove to the hospital with cupcakes, and promised Julian that I would take him and his mommy to Ferrell's for ice cream after his last chemo and eight hour hydration. He was so excited. I chatted with the nurses for awhile, Julian finished his chemo, and we went to Ferrell's for dinner, accompanied by Julian's uncle and some family friends. We, of course, advertised greatly what we were there to celebrate, and the waitress went out of her way to make the day special for Julian. He got to bang the drum. We discovered that the child has rhythm, and mom balked when it was suggested that we may need to get him a drum set. The waitress have Julian her hat, and just about bowled over when I overtipped her, and Smiley (the family friend) handed her $40 cash. I could feel Sarah's presence, and my heart was only tinged with sadness at the thought that Sarah would have loved to be there to celebrate her "boyfriend's" last chemo. She never got to celebrate hers.

As blessed as the day was, the next is what I'm actually trying to write about. Amanda, Julian's mom, suggested the day before that we go to Disneyland to continue the celebration. She's newly pregnant, and can't get on Julian's favorites, and we all have passes, so that was the plan. We texted the next morning, and that was still the plan. Then a few hours later, Amanda calls me and asks if I want to go to the beach instead.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I am always up for a trip to the beach. I can scarcely manage one of two trips a year, but I love it there. There is something about the ocean that restores my soul and makes me whole again, or as close as I can get. So after two seconds' worth of deliberation, we settled on the beach. Julian hadn't been to the beach in 3 years (since before his relapse) and wanted to watch the sunset. Done deal. I dug my bathing suit out of the closet, where I had buried it in anticipation of the winter we never got this year, packed my beach bag, which was surprisingly more accessible than my bathing suit, stopped at target for snacks, and headed out to pick up Julian and Amanda. We got to the beach at around 3:30. We walked across the sand, and stopped midway, but Amanda thought we should be closer to the water since Julian wanted to build a castle. I could feel a strange push to move myself, so we trekked closer to the water and began to set up. All of a sudden, Amanda looks up and says, "Is that Monica?"

Monica is one of the "favorites" on Sarah's list, and Monica it was. When I looked up, there were others with Monica, but at a distance, I naturally assumed that the other slim, dark-haired girl with Monica was Casey, another favorite nurse, and Monica's roommate. We regarded each other from a distance from behind our sunglasses for a moment, and then started towards each other in a hurry. As lovely as it would have been to see Casey yesterday, it was not Casey. It was Kara. Kara had absolute top ranking in the favorites category. She was literally in the bed with my daughter as she lay dying. We hadn't seen each other in ages, nearly a year now, but I am thoroughly convinced that this little girl had everything to do with our change of plans that day. What are the chances that we would end up at the same beach, just arriving as they are leaving, when we weren't supposed to be there in the first place, but at Disneyland instead?

We played with Julian in the water, built his castle, wrote his name in the sand. I wrote Sarah's name in the sand and Julian came and asked what I was doing. When I told him, he said, "Okay, I'm going to write my name next to hers, then."

We flew his Minion kite, "high high high, so Sarah can see... Okay, that's enough... It's going to get lost..." and then I thought we should go up and have a snack. Julian didn't want to go back up, he was having a blast with the water. It was cool but not freezing and the day was just gorgeous. Not two minutes later, a flock of seagulls (or "eagles" as Julian calls them) had uncovered, opened and devoured a brand new bag of Cheetos that I had bought for Julian. There were 3 other bags of chips, but they ate his. I do not put it past my daughter to have sent that flock of "sea chickens" as she used to call them to eat his Cheetos just to get him out of the water, and to get him to eat the healthier snacks that we had brought all in the same measure!

Before long, the sun was setting, and we took lots of pictures. Julian was quiet, pensive, and I have no doubt that Sarah was on his mind, as she was on ours. The minute the sun sank below the water, Julian wanted to go. It was a beautiful day, blessed with beauty and peace and good friends. Amanda said it all felt like a dream, like this isn't really happening. Could her little boy really be here, at the beach, beautiful and healthy and strong and a survivor? Could this nightmare really be over, at least for now, for this one blissful moment in time? It does seem incredible. But as far as dreams go, this one was pretty amazing, and one I will cherish for years to come.