Today marks one more first since Keith's death in July. Kacie turned 10 today. It is so difficult to comprehend that 10 years have gone by since she was born. My thoughts turn to what our family has been through during this 10 years.
We began this decade as a new millennium, worried about Y2K, I was very pregnant, Nick was almost 3 1/2 years post transplant and cancer free. We were so excited to be expecting this baby. Keith and I didn't think we would have more children after the terrible health crises Nick had and seemed to keep having. Then God blessed us with this sweet little girl.
God's timing in Kacie's birth still amazes me to this day. The days between Thanksgiving and New Year's have been very difficult for me since Nick's cancer was found the Monday after Thanksgiving 1995. That Christmas, Keith and I were so afraid it would be our last one with our sweet little boy. We began to spend lots of time on 4 Tower (the chemo floor) at Children's Hospital that winter. Cancer doesn't stop for holidays.
God answered our prayers and we got one more Christmas with our son the following year. I struggled with the knowledge that there was a mom out there who was having to face her first Christmas without her son. See, her son died and she made the unselfish decision to donate his organs. Nick received that son's liver and gave me one more Christmas with my son. It was difficult for me to accept that for a long time.
December 1997 was another very difficult Christmas. We were only 2 years post diagnosis from the cancer. Nick was not totally out of the woods with the transplant. My dad had passed away suddenly in March of that year. It was our first Christmas without him. Nick developed a sudden infection in his central IV line and needed surgery to take the line out. There were major complications from this minor surgery and Nick nearly died. The very same day that happened, my grandfather lost his fight with colon cancer.
In two short years, I began to dread the most joy filled holiday of the year. I struggled each and ever year, until we were blessed with the birth of a healthy baby girl just at the end of a season that contained so much heart ache for me. God's timing is amazing. He gave me something to look forward to. He gave me something joyful to focus on instead of the pain.
I had begun to heal and had found the joy that had been lost. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's, while still painful at times, became easier to celebrate. Then December 21, 2003 happened. Keith was diagnosed with colon cancer caused by an unknown genetic condition. It was also anticipated that Nick had the same condition. We spent Christmas in the hospital that year. I hauled 9 year old Nick, 3 year old Kacie, and all the presents I could carry to the hospital on Christmas morning so that we could open presents as a family.
Quite frankly...the holidays began to really suck for me then. Keith came home from the hospital the day before Kacie's 4th birthday. My wonderful friends put together a birthday party for her on her birthday. Keith sat in the recliner or on the couch watching his baby girl celebrate her 4th birthday. Just days before, Keith and I weren't entirely sure that he would live to see that day. God's timing once again was amazing. We had that sweet girl's birthday to focus on instead of everything else bad that was happening around us.
Each and every holiday season since has been spent with the shadow of death hanging over my head and heart. I would wonder, as I took out the decorations, baked treats, or cooked special meals, if this would be our last with Keith. He continued to fight the cancer with everything he had. Then January 3rd would happen. The bright spot in the darkness. Kacie's birthday. Celebrating her special day not only marked the end of a difficult season, but the beginning of a new and exciting year for her.
This year even her birthday has been tough. I've had to try harder than I think I ever had to make this day special for her. Celebrating your children's birthdays when their father has recently died is very hard. For Keith and I, there has always been that special moment when our eyes would meet and we would be remembering the very moment that our baby took his or her first breath. We would be remembering so many of those magical moments that only parents can share on their child's birthday.
I didn't have that today. I didn't have it in August when it was Nick's birthday. I didn't fully comprehend this loss on Nick's birthday. It was still too soon after Keith's death. The fog had not lifted yet.
I didn't have that moment when our eyes met and we were both remembering those first moments of our sweet baby's life. I didn't have his hand to squeeze when I get weepy, because my baby is growing up.
I am sad today that Keith is not here to share in Kacie turning "double digits". I'm sad that I don't have those special moments with him. I'm sad for so many things today that come as a result of Keith's death.
But...God's timing is still amazing. Only He knows how Kacie's next ten years will be spent. I still have this wonderful day to celebrate at the end of a season filled with difficult and painful memories.
Today, I can say I made it. I made it through the first birthdays of both kids and Keith, the first Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's since Keith died. I made it by the grace of God. He has carried me and He will continue to carry me through the next firsts that are sure to come.