They do things differently.
The little ones, the babies don't really understand. They sometimes talk about heaven and are just not aware as much about what is happening. They know but in a very different way. I am certain they absorb all the love and caring that surrounds them as they return to heaven.
Old people die in a very distinct way. They slowly withdraw from the world and get to a point they don't want to be touched. They know what is going on but they are trying to disconnect from this live so they can be fully present in the next.
Teenagers, those self absorbed, narcissistic, things we try and keep in the house are different. They focus on living. Focus on doing all the things they know they are going to miss this time around. Sky diving, feeding tigers, running marathons, making memories. Driving fast cars, they are trying so hard to pack it all in. I am watching such a child right now. She is trying to do it all. She has a little time, but not a great amount. She is moving full steam ahead and pulling her family behind her.
Her family is mourning the loss of her future. Her loss of all the things we plan for our children. College and love and children. Cancer kids loose bits of that not matter how good the outcome. There is loss in so many new and amazing places. It is what it is. It is hard and heart breaking and real. They are also by her side.
I see endless pictures of Katie on her adventures. Photos and videos, memories being made and lists being filled and things being accomplished. She is done doing heroic medical things. There will be no cure. There will be only the small actions to keep the status quo for as long as possible. Nothing more, nothing less.
One thing I know is that the teens are painfully aware of how their departure will create a Winslow Size Crater in the lives of their families. They understand the pain of loss will never be healed. They don't want to leave but know they don't have a choice. They have to go and they know it. They are deeply worried about their Mom and Dad. In some way this worry bothers them the most. I think it is the reason for lots of the bravery. The frenetic activity to create endless good memories. It isn't for them. It is a gift they can give their family. "Remember when we got to see Pink?"
Katie and Darlis on the last big adventures. My heart is breaking for all of them. Cancer World simply sucks. There is no other way to say it. Sometimes we get together and just cry and swear and curse and then we cry some more.
We talk about how brave our children are and how great they do. I realized several years ago that the bravery comes from everyone. They mirror back to us the strength we have given them. Yes I am patting Cancer Moms on the back and we deserve the pats. We need all the strength we have and can muster in dark times to pass it on when it is needed to hold up the next person, the last person, the again person entering Cancer World.
Lets also be clear, I don't pretend to really understand what those I have loved and lost are going through. My comments are from a place of observation. We are all in the big soup pot of pain and worry and loss. It is different for everyone. Because as a Cancer parent I have to be ready to face the worst, I have asked, watched, listened and cried with the rest of them. Not an expert, not from personal experience. I just needed to say a few things.
We all learn and teach each other. I have watched Mom's grasping to each positive change like it is a sign from God. I have watched the long group of people come and go from the room with the single nurse and the announcement asking we all stay in our rooms. I have watched the person's name be moved from the regular room to ICU and then disappear. I have held the hand of the mom that doesn't know what option to choose, another round, a study, an iffy transplant.
We all need to pay more attention to the teenagers. They are out there making the most of it, at least on the outside. They are running as fast as they can for as long as they can. Making each day a day of creation. Its not fear or trepidation, it is living.