Grapes of Wrath

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Last Sunday, I stood before the congregation at my Church and I spoke about Stella.  I told a few stories about the kind of kid she was, then talked about how absolutely amazing our community was for coming together and giving her such an incredible life, and I finished by encouraging people to remember those who have died and to give thanks for them and all they brought into their lives.  Afterwards, the Church Choir sang “Thank You For Being a Friend” (theme song from Stella’s beloved Golden Girls TV show), and I sat in the pews surrounded by friends and family and cried a river of tears for Stella.

 

When Church was over, several people came up to me and shared their own stories of grief and loss.  One man said his brother had died of cancer ten years ago, in his mid-thirties.  Another woman told me she had lost a baby as well.  Several people came up and hugged me and thanked me for sharing our story.  Just as I was backing out the door with my coat on, an older lady beelined towards me, grasped my hand and looked right into my eyes.  Urgently she said to me, “You didn’t talk about how angry you must have been at God.  You didn’t tell us how you learned to forgive him”.  I was caught a bit off guard and just stuttered something about how everyone has to make peace in their own way, but as I walked home a little later the conversation stuck with me.  I tried to remember if I had ever been angry at something or someone specific.  I know I have been angry.  Blind, hot, red rage has coursed through my veins threatening to spill out of my pores in a fiery explosion of hurt and pain.  But I’ve never blamed it on anything specific, least of all God.

 

The thing is, peoples relationship with any type of God is complicated and individual.  I personally think of God as a manifestation of the energies of the world, a figure who is there to comfort and bring Peace but not some almighty Dictator.  I believe God lives in all of us somehow, and is revealed in the good things we do for each other and the way we live our lives.  It used to drive me absolutely crazy when well-meaning people would tell me or write to me, “I’m praying for a miracle” or, “Doctors aren’t in charge, God is in charge” or, “Don’t lose faith.  God can heal and save your daughter”.  Three times I had people grab Stella’s head and pray to God to heal the tumour within.  One person even released her head after a moment (she was wiggling and whining) and said to me, “There.  She’s healed”.  I just looked at them in disbelief.  I didn’t believe that God was going to swoop down and magically cure my daughter anymore than I believe he swooped down and put the tumor in her brainstem to begin with.  Cancer is a medical issue caused by the uncontrolled division of abnormal cells.  In the case of DIPG, it is random and unexplained.  How could I ever put my faith or love into a figure that I also believed would give my child such a horrific disease?  It makes no sense to me. The God that I believe in is not one that would randomly choose to “save” those who are faithful and punish those who are not.  The God I believe in does not practice favouritism.  My God would not purposely allow innocent children to be hurt and abused the way many are.  The God I believe doesn’t micromanage the world from some fluffy cloud in the sky.  My God is nurturing and defies definition or expectation.  In Church each Sunday, the congregation greets each other and sings:  “The Spirit in me greets the Spirit in you Hallelujah God’s in us and we’re in God, Hallelujah!”  That is how I see God— within each of us.

So while I have been angry, I have never been angry about God.  Instead, I’ve been grateful. Because the selfless generosity and abounding love we experienced during Stella’s illness is where I personally found God.  Peaking out between the layers of icing on homemade cupcakes.  Hiding in the well-used DVD player.  Looking over my shoulder as I read King Hugos Huge Ego for the 1000th time.  Singing the Golden Girls theme song loudly and off-key with our sisters Heather and Andge.  And through my own experiences, I know S/he is beautiful and nurturing and powerful.

 

There is a DIPG blog that I’m following right now which speaks constantly of God’s ability to heal the tumor.  The young person in question is sure that they will survive DIPG because of a strong faith. It makes me sad to read, because I know how this story will end.  I wonder if when the tumor does overcome this girl, if the family will feel betrayed by God, or if it’s them that will be left feeling angry.  I wonder if their denial and hope is a good thing as it is allowing them to live as though they have all the time in the world.  Hope for survival is a powerful opiate, and Aimee and I never had any.  With Stella we lived everyday as if it were here last, ice cream for breakfast and Dora The Explorer all day long.  It was fulfilling, but exhausting to try to enjoy every single second of the day, knowing each breath and giggle and sigh was precious.  This girl with DIPG is still going to school around Doctor’s appointments and eating her veggies.  Is one better than the other?  No, but I believe the experiences are very different.  I don’t believe Stella was “chosen” to die at 3 1/2, but I do believe that we had a choice in how to live out her last days and I’m glad we did it the way we did.

 

While I sat in the hard wooden pew on Sunday, I took a moment to look at some of our closest family members and friends who made the effort to be there to hear me speak about Stella.  I continue to marvel at how selfless they were to choose to spend time with us and allow themselves to love Stella, even knowing what the end result would be.  I have one friend— a best friend, the kind who you told everything to and had a decade of belly-laughing memories with— who disappeared when Stella got really sick.  It was too difficult for her. It hurt too much to watch me fall apart emotionally and bear witness to Stella falling about physically.  So she walked away.  She didn’t even know that Stella had died until two months after the fact because she buried her head so deep in the sand we ceased to be part of her daily thoughts. She didn’t ask about us, doesn’t read the blog.  In the last year, she has reached out to me a few times via email.  In her emails she says all the right things, and apologizes for her absence.  She says she wants to rebuild the friendship.

 

And I keep deleting the emails.

 

I thought I could forgive, I thought I had forgiven, but I can’t.  When I read her words, all I can think about is how she wasn’t there when I needed people around me the most.  I can’t help but compare to all the people who were here.  Whether we asked or not, they just showed up.  My gratitude and admiration is reserved for those who continued to care, who continued to come and visit, and allow their children to have a relationship with a little girl who they knew was going to die.  I am in awe of the people who agreed to have their hearts break with us, and who accepted the deep pain and sadness that came with being part of Stella’s journey. They laughed with us, they cried with us, they shared our intense pain and when we were too broken to function, they stepped in and held us up until we were ready to stand on our own two feet again. These are the people I want in my life.  This is the way in which I feel “God”— in the words and actions and love of those who walked with us, even when the road got hard.  I just can’t accept the people who took a shortcut, waited at the end and now are there, saying they’re ready to join us again.  It feels too much like cheating.

 

I believe that Stella’s life and death made me a better person.  She taught me how to prioritize, how to appreciate the small moments in life.  But I am still a human being, and I am far from perfect.  I still cannot forgive and forget everything.  I still cannot pretend to be someone I’m not.  I still cannot always say or do the right things.  A few months ago one of my friends lost her step-father.  I wanted to send a nice card, to bring her a meal, to be there for her the way she has been there for me.  Yet I did none of those things.  I barely acknowledged the loss.  I don’t know why, I just got busy with the kids and school and life and didn’t get around to it.  But I should have.  I should have made time.  I am still struggling to change.

 

A year after Stella’s death and over two years since her diagnosis, I am still learning.  Still hurting.  Still growing.  Still healing.

 

And yes, sometimes I am angry.  But that may not be a bad thing.  Malcolm X said, When people are sad, they dont do anything.  They just cry.  But when they get angry, they bring about action and change.

 

So I embrace the anger the same way as I embrace all the other emotions.  And I celebrate my God— the one who I can feel hugging me when the sun hits my shoulders.  And I hope and dream and laugh and cry.  In short, I do what Stella taught me to do most— simply live 100% each day.

 

Stella lit up the Church on Sunday (photo by John Reston):

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Sam and Xavier had a joint second birthday party! 

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Gracie and Hugo: 

IMG_5036Sam and Hugo, each dressed up in one of Stella’s Hallowe’en costumes:

IMG_5305Hugo at Stella’s beloved Kimbourne Drop In Centre:

IMG_5330Stella sitting happily at Kimbourne, January 2011.  She is actually having a timeout, but she looks pretty content!

Timeout

 

 

 

 

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Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving

You know, thanksgiving has always been one of my favourite holidays. Not only do you have the benefit of what most holidays consist of (family and good food), but there is no gift-giving or bizarre rituals you are expected to do in return. You just eat and visit.

This Thanksgiving, Aimee and I took the boys up to our beloved BlueBird Cottage. The weather up there was nothing short of phenomenal. Golden sunlight and warmth highlighted long days of play and visiting as we spent time with Poppa, neighbor Ken, Flora’s family, Tutu, Gracie, Auntie Angie and Juju, Aimee’s great Aunt Arlene and great Uncle Frank. All weekend people came and went, filling our days with conversation and friendship.

After a busy few days, on the holiday Monday at 9am, Auntie Juju and I took Hugo, Sam and Gracie for what should have been a 20 minute walk into the nearest town. We were gone for over two hours. As the kids began the walk, they were constantly being distracted by things in nature. Bullrushes that had exploded into big balls of cotton proved to be an endless source of entertainment as Sam and Gracie ran up the road shaking them and filling the air with cottony fluff that landed on our hair, clothes, stroller and faces. That game lasted quite awhile! Then they discovered a series of mud puddles that splashed big waves of greyish guck on their pants when they took a running jump at them. There was a dead snake that caught Gracie’s eye, and a dead frog Sam insisted was sleeping. We noted tree roots and looked at birds and flowers. Julia and I just strolled along, enjoying seeing life from our children’s eyes as each rock they picked up was declared more beautiful than the rest and each leaf more perfect. Eventually, we ended up at a local antique store that was closing down and Gracie and Sam each bought a wooden wagon for $5 that they then insisted on pulling all the way back home as Hugo toddled along behind them. They stopped continuously to make adjustments to their wagons, fill them with items, get them unstuck from rocks and roots. It was slow progress, but so refreshing to, for once, have nowhere to rush to and nothing particular to get done. It reminded Julia and I of the old days with Stella when the only goal was to fill her days with joy and wonderment. As much as we try, the demands of everyday life generally make it impossible to be leisurely anymore and so moments like this where dawdling and enjoying the small gifts of life are more precious then ever before.

Back at the cottage, Gracie jumped into a huge pile of raked leaves, followed closely by Sam and Hugo. As they frolicked on the grass, running and rolling in the bright colours, I thought about how this was a picture-perfect moment, right down to the sun glinting off the lakes and the echoes of unbridled laughter dancing across the crunching leaves. The moment I felt that sense of pure bliss, I also felt my heart constrict and my eyes begin to burn with unshed tears. Here, in a moment where I felt lightest and happiest, my heart broke yet again as I wished that Stella were there with us. I cleared my throat and tried to push the thoughts away. Not because I don’t want to give grief its space in my life, but because I knew that Stella would have encouraged me to focus on the present moment and the joy in front of me, not the sadness inside me. I reflected on the fact that already Sam and Hugo are growing up so fast. It won’t be long before neither one of them turns to me with their arms outstretched and a huge grin each time I walk into the room. It won’t be long before our cuddles and kisses get fewer and further in between. It won’t be long before they become their own people and start to move away physically, emotionally. I can hardly believe that Sam will be turning two this weekend, and shortly after that we will mark the one-year anniversary of Stella’s death.

Speaking of Stella, many people have been asking us what we have planned for that day— if there will be a public celebration or party of some sort. Aimee and I have talked a lot about it and decided that she and I are going to spend the morning together, just the two of us, the way it once was before kids, before DIPG, before all the lessons on life and loss. We will sit on Stella’s couch by ourselves with the door locked and eat Timbits and ice cream. We will light our special Stella candle and let the flame flicker for 24 hours straight. We will watch episodes of the Golden Girls and wait for the waves of sadness to splash against us as we huddle together against the storm of tears and rage that we feel will come. At some point in the day we will likely end up at Riverdale Farm and leave little trinkets by her tree, but we’re not really sure.

As for people who have been telling me they feel they want to mark the day, we were thinking that the best thing to do would be to create your own ritual or tradition. One of the things that I kept thinking as this day approached was that if we had a public memorial this year, would we have another one next year? What about the year after? And as so many people who have walked this journey before have told us, as the years go by and changes occur, less and less people tend to come to these public memorials and/or events. Things change. People move and grow and fade away. There’s a saying in the world of bereaved parents, “where did all the people go?”. I just can’t stand the thought of seeing 100 people come out to honour Stella one year and only 7 people five years later. Even though it’s not what it means, it would feel like people had forgotten or didn’t care anymore and I’m afraid that would hurt more than I’m prepared to deal with right now.

So, instead of anything formalized or public, we are telling people that if they feel it’s important to mark the day Stella died, they should start their own tradition. For example, our friends Caitlin and Natalie have told us that they will be having ice cream for breakfast on Tuesday morning, and plan to do this every October 22nd no matter where in the world they are. Another friend told me they will surprise their kids by picking them up early from school and heading to Chuck-E-Cheese for a “fun night” that they hope will become an annual tradition. Others may choose to light a candle, eat ice cream for breakfast, visit Riverdale Farm, pick up chocolate timbits after work, eat copious amounts of avocados, hit a friend for no reason, watch Golden Girls or throw a birthday party for someone when it isn’t their real birthday. The idea would be for other people to create meaning in their own lives in honour of Stella. Something that becomes meaningful and special for you personally, that 12 years from now you can say to someone, “Oh, we always have Dairy Queen on October 22nd, it’s tradition”. And when you’re asked why, you can tell them about Stella. And if you or your family does end up doing something on October 22nd for Stella, please feel free to snap a picture and send it to us. I’d love to post a bunch of photos on the blog of people honouring Stella in their own way (you can email to stella@stellabrunermethven.com).

Life moves so quickly. It feels like we’re always waiting. Waiting to get a job, find a partner, get a house. Waiting for the pregnancy to be over, then the teething, sleeping through the night. Waiting for everyone to grow up and move forward. With Stella we were constantly waiting for the next phase. For her next progression, for the day of her death. Waiting for the funeral we had planned, the cremation garden plaque we ordered. Waiting for the fear and pain to subside. But this thanksgiving, I was grateful for the opportunity to realize that I wasn’t waiting for anything in particular. I was just spending time outside with my friends and family, honouring my daughter by finding the Joy, living in the now and appreciating the thousands of things I had to be thankful for. The first on my list, of course, was the chance to be- forever- Stella’s Mama.

Things to be thankful for…

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Hugo is Here

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Hugo is Here

 

On August 2, 2012 our third child burst into the world.  The delivery was different from Stella or Sam.  Stella’s delivery was stressful, long, traumatic and left me with a severe case of baby blues that still gives me chills.  Sam’s birth was at a time when emotions were at an all time high and there was tension, expectation and fear you could cut through despite the ultimate joy at his safe delivery.  I cried for days after he was born, Aimee was injured during his birth and we each remember his early days as a haze of help, pain and happiness as we confronted for the first time the realities of living with one child dying and one child thriving.  We were only three and a half months into Stella’s cancer and waking up in the morning to the reality was still enormously difficult.

 

Compared to Stella and Sam, Hugo…well…he just sort of came.  It wasn’t as emotional as we thought it might be, it wasn’t terrible or difficult.  It felt fairly normal.  There was nothing dramatic about his birth, he was just born and the people in the room smiled and he was perfect and healthy and all if a sudden, there was a new baby there.  Hugo was born just before 10pm and we were all snug in our beds at home by 4am.

 

Hugo looks like an almost exact replica of Stella when she was a newborn, except she had spiky red hair and Hugo’s is brown.  Maybe I shouldn’t be as surprised by how much they look alike, since they are full siblings, but…it’s still a bit shocking at times.  Hugo is too young to have developed his own personality yet, so when we look at him we just see Stella as a newborn and it’s both comforting and crushing at the same time.

 

Sitting in a dark room feeling tired and overwhelmed it takes you right back to those first few weeks of parenthood with Stella.  Looking down at this baby it’s impossible not to remember looking down at Stella and marveling over her perfection as a newborn while she lay in our arms, so full of promise, with our imaginations in overdrive as we planned her entire life.    With Stella, I spent copious amounts of time researching overnight camps (she probably would have gone to Tapawingo or Kawabi), lessons (soccer would have started for her this past Spring), even private school (we couldn’t afford it, but I was really liking Giles and Greenwood).  She was going to go to Paris with Tutu when she was 16 years old and Disneyland at age 6 with Gracie.  When she was 13, Aimee and I planned to take her to Africa to volunteer so she had a bit of perspective before the teenage years hit with a vengeance.  I filled out Stella’s baby book faithfully, kept daily logs of her naps and visitors for three months, wrote her journal entries to read her someday as an adult and set aside my favourite outfits of hers so I could someday pass them down to her kids.

 

With Sam and Hugo I try to stop myself from thinking too much about the future.  Partially to protect myself and partially because I feel like I can enjoy them more if I focus on the here and now instead of on the someday.  And because planning too far in the future necessitates thinking of a world without Stella and my heart can’t handle thinking about that right now.  So it’s not about “someday” right now, it’s only about today.

 

Today the house is chaotic.  It’s messy with toys strewn everywhere and dishes piled in the sink.

 

Today Sam is crawling everywhere, so one person is designated to chase him around the house and move hazards like Tim Horton’s coffee cups out of the way as he explores.

 

Today we are still trying to figure out how to give each of our kids the undivided attention they need.  So far we’ve only managed it due to the sheer volume of help we’ve gotten from our families who have been showing up everyday to hold a kid for hours at a time.

 

Today I am still working on physically healing from the labour (I ended up with a dural puncture which has resulted in migraine headaches when I am upright for longer than an hour at a time—it should pass in a week or so).

 

Today we are once again awed by the strength of our support system and feeling incredibly lucky.

 

Today Stella is still with us.

 

Today Stella is adjusting fine to her new brother.  She finds Hugo delightful.  When we put him in her lap or ask her to help feed him, she smiles and is as proud a big sister as possible.  I remember when Sam first came home from the hospital, she could still talk and would whisper to him and could still sit up and would help feed and burp him.  She can’t do those things anymore, but she is still aware of Hugo and the fact that she has gotten to meet him is a miracle in itself.

 

Today we are managing to stay above water and to leave room in our hearts for all the emotions that are crowding for attention.

 

Tomorrow? I don’t know.  Stella is fairly stable again.  She is back to confounding the Doctors who have told us they will no longer guess how much longer she will be with us.  The Toronto Exhibition starts next weekend—the official “end of summer” festival for all Torontonians. Sam is starting daycare in September.  My sister is going back to work in a few weeks as she is a teacher and her maternity leave is over.  Aimee is supposed to go back to work in October when her maternity leave ends too.  I remember clearly last Fall.  Stella was supposed to die last fall.  As this Fall creeps steadily closer we are again in a situation where we can’t fathom what the future might bring.  So, for now, I am refusing to think too much about it.  It makes no difference what I think or plan anyway.

 

The one thing I have realized this last week with Hugo is that there is no such thing as a “pure” emotion anymore.  Happiness has a hint of sadness, sadness is sprinkled with joy, joyfulness has a bitter aftertaste, bitterness comes with hope, hopefulness  is littered with pain and pain brings with it immense love.    All the feelings and emotions swirl around us constantly, and we have no choice but to wake up each morning and do the best we can.

 

Today we feel grateful for all three of our children.  Today we are blessed.

 

Today, we have more than enough to make us happy.

 

Stella shares her beanbag chair with Hugo:

Stella introduces Gracie to Hugo:

Stella and Hugo:

The Kids…Hugo, Stella and Sam:

“I like to imagine that the world is one big machine. You know, machines never have any extra parts. They have the exact number and type of parts they need. So I figure if the entire world is a big machine, I have to be here for some reason. And that means you have to be here for some reason, too.”

Brian Selznik, The Invention of Hugo Cabret

 

 

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Aimee, Mishi, Stella, Sam AND…

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Aimee, Mishi, Stella and Sam are proud to announce the birth of…
Hugo Charles Bruner-Methven
 

Hugo was born at Toronto East General Hospital on August 2, 2012 at 9:45pm.  He weighed 8lbs 4oz, 21.5 inches long.
The birth was amazing and meaningful and quiet (ok…well, except a little screaming on my part :o)    ), and expertly handled with beauty and dignity by our incredible midwife Christie K. who has been superb all throughout this jouney and her fantastoc backup, Sarilyn Z.
We got home in the wee hours of August 3rd and Stella and Sam were introduced to their new brother this morning.  Sam was frankly very uninterested, and Stella looked a bit horrified when we first brought him to her, but she warmed up later in the day after some good one on one attention from Juju and Auntie Heather and now smiles and laughs whenever he comes close.
Everyone is recovering well from the excitement.  We have had lots of help from our families and we are all doing great!
About the name:  In brief, “Hugo” was the name Aimee and I had selected for Sam before Stella decided to change it in Aimee’s seventh month of pregnancy.  Up until then, Stella had called the baby “Hugo”, so she was familiar with the name.  When we found out we were having another boy, Aimee and I (with the help of some forum readers) put together a list of potential names and asked Stella to help us out by sticking her tongue out when we got to a name she liked.  Well…she wasn’t being very cooperative with our requests, and finally one day a couple of months ago as we were going through names, we saw her trying to mouth something to us.  After a long and frustrating guessing game, we realized she was saying “Hugo”.  She had remembered the name and then…it was a done deal!
The name means “mind, body, spirit” which we think is lovely and one baby name book even had the meaning listed as “spirited”, which is the word we have always used to describe Stella.
The middle name “Charles” was selected by Mishi’s brother Tristan (he is 16).  Tristan is an incredible young man, who at the age of 16 shows a love for Stella and his nephews that is way beyond his years.  Tristan has struggled with Stella’s diagnosis the same way we all have, but has found inner strength and the ability to find joy in our difficult circumstances and continue his strong bond with Stella, something we are endlessly proud of.  We asked him to select Hugo’s middle name as a testament to how important he is to us.  “Charles” was the middle name of his and Mishi and Auntie Heather’s maternal Grand-Father.
So, in the next little while we will try to find our footing with the addition of our newest family member and keep you updated on how everyone is doing when we can!
Much love from Stella and the newest Bruner-Methven!!!
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Butterfly

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Butterfly

 

First of all, Aimee and I would like to thank everyone for their heartfelt wishes and for sharing our excitement and joy about the upcoming birth of our third child in a few months.  There were, as expected, some people who posted negative and/or derogatory comments that were meant to be hurtful, but luckily we have the best web team in town (we heart Jeremy and Karen), who immediately removed any negative comments in order to preserve this website as a place of friendship and positivity.

 

One of the interesting things for me with this pregnancy has been to experience the miracle of a baby growing inside me— getting bigger, and kicking and rolling to let me know how alive he is inside—at the exact same time that I watch the other baby who grew in my tummy struggle to do even the most basic things.  We never dreamed when we inseminated in the fall that Stella would still be alive 6 months later, and never imagined trying to cope with the realities of life and death each and every day.  But here we are balancing Stella’s morphine, zofran, atropine and phenobarb, Sam’s foray into solid foods, Aimee’s breastfeeding tea, and my anti-depressant and prenatal pills.  A mixture of life and death all living together in harmony with no concept of where either of them are at any given time.

 

Funny thing about death— I never thought about it much before, but now I think it, feel it, talk about it every single day.  Before this horrible cancer hit my family, death was something that happened to old and sick people.  My grand-parents have all died in the last 16 years of my life, but they ranged in ages 74-94 so…well, I always felt like they were supposed to die because they were old.  And I would read about other peoples children dying and I would feel sad for a minute or two but, you know how it is, you turn the page of the newspaper and get caught up in the newest Brangelina news, and it goes right out of your head.  How I long for those days of ignorant distractions.

 

But now death is on my radar permanently.  It’s in my head and my heart and my line of vision.

 

I still sometimes look at my beautiful daughter, he lips perfect and pink, her hair flowing around her head, her porcelain skin almost luminescent, her smile as bright as the noon sun… and I shake my head that she is dying.  How can I possibly prepare to say goodbye forever to this girl who owns a huge piece of my heart?  And I often wonder when people come to visit us, when they see her sitting on my lap and she’s all warm and so very ALIVE…I wonder if they leave and think about how one day soon she will be gone from us forever.  Gone from our lives, never to be seen, heard, touched ever again.  Ever.  These thoughts haunt my nights.

 

In 20 days it will be 11 months since Stella was diagnosed with a DIPG tumour.  In so many ways, we can’t believe it’s been that long, but in many ways it also feels like we’ve lived 25 lifetimes since then.

 

Aimee and I have spent the last several weeks trying to organize all the videos we have of Stella.  It’s completely bizarre to literally watch with your very own eyes the disintegration of your child from active, talkative, bright-eyed toddler to someone who sits on the couch for hours at a time, eyes unseeing, head unable to look up, voice silenced by cancer.  On the good days we can watch the videos and laugh at our daughter’s antics.  On the bad days we sit and cry, stunned into silence by how much Stella has endured these last months and how much our friends and family have suffered as we all try to continue smiling, even though we are all witness to something horrible happening to our beloved Stella.  She may not be suffering, which is our only hope, but those of us who love her sure are.

 

All these jumbled thoughts came to a head a few days ago when Aimee, Sam, Stella, Auntie Angie, Auntie Juju, Gracie and I went to the butterfly conservatory in Niagara Falls.  It was a great trip, and despite Stella being exhausted for much of it, she smiled lots and we know she had a great time.

 

At the butterfly conservatory, I thought about the well-known cultural myths associated with butterflies as a symbol of transformation.  The metamorphosis of a butterfly really is miraculous when you fully comprehend the massive amount of transition that it undergoes from egg to caterpillar to cocoon until it finally unfurls into a fluttering, glorious flash of colour and energy.  It made me think about how our lives—all of us— have changed in much the same way.  Life has changed to such an extreme that Stella, Aimee and I are completely unrecognizable.  The life of a caterpillar wrapped in its cocoon versus a butterfly.

 

In Niagara Falls, one special butterfly came to Stella and seemed to want to stay with her forever.  It occurred to me that this insect nuzzling Stella’s cheek illustrated perfectly the deepest symbolic lesson of the butterfly.  A butterfly has to learn to recognize the changes in its life and body casually and unquestioningly, just as Stella has done.  A butterfly must have an unwavering acceptance of its journey, although it may at times be scary and dip into the great realm of the unknown.  The butterfly surrenders itself to metamorphosis, it believes wholeheartedly that the transitions and changes in its life will all lead to the right place, and fighting against changes is useless.  The butterfly reminds us that we ALL need to have faith in the journey, just as Stella seems to.

 

Since being at the Butterfly Conservatory, I’ve started to see butterflies everywhere we go.  They seem to come out of nowhere and flit around our heads, then disappear into the sky or the bushes nearby.    Each time I see one, I remind myself that we are all in the middle of a great metamorphosis, and our greatest responsibility is to accept the changes that come our way and have faith that, in the end, we will emerge into the people we have the potential to be.  But until then, the journey is our only guarantee.

A special butterfly for a special girl:


Stella delighted at the butterfly that landed on her stroller (left side):


Gracie and Stella, cousins and besties!


Great Wolf Lodge!


Great Wolf Lodge Waterpark:


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