September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month. At PCFLV, we are committed to spreading the GOLD all year long. However, in September, we truly make it our mission. 30 Days, 30 Stories celebrates the children we know and love and the brave battles they fight and have fought, with their families by their sides. In celebrating these beautiful children and their stories, we hope to inspire you to join us in our mission to SPREAD THE GOLD in September and all year long!
Joshua is 9 years old. His older brother, Jake, died at the age of 8, a couple of months after Joshua turned 5. When Josh was asked if he wanted to do a story for this series he agreed but was hesitant. Joshua's least favorite things to do are read and write (he must have gotten that from Jake). But he did agree to do it and we began the quest to put his thoughts and feelings about Jake on "paper". I started by telling him to just talk about Jake and I would write it down for him. That was hard; he didn't know what to say except, "I miss Jake. I wish he was still here because if he was, me, Alex and my stepbrothers would all get along better because he was the middle sibling."
So I changed my approach and started asking him questions about Jake. This is what came from that:
What is the first thing you think about when you think about Jake?
Him being a monkey.
What was your favorite thing to do with Jake?
Well, I didn't get to do much with him because when he got sick I was so young. But I did like building Bionicles with him at the Ronald McDonald House.
What is your favorite memory of Jake?
He used to make me laugh when he used to hang off the molding around doors.
What do you remember most about Jake?
He was active and fun. He had brain cancer for a long time and I didn't have much time to play with him.
I stopped pushing him. I came to the realization that most of the memories Josh has of Jake are ones we have given him and the things he does remember are from when Jake was sick. That's all Josh knows of his older brother. Joshua will never truly remember what is was like to know Jake and that is a damn shame. For Josh, Jake "had brain cancer for a long time", when in reality it was one very brief year before he was taken from us.
The day after I decided to stop probing Joshua for more thoughts and feelings on Jake, he asked if we could get a movie from Redbox (which we rarely do any more) and he picked Miracles from Heaven, fully knowing what it was about except that he thought the little girl had cancer. We watched this heart wrenching movie about sickness, hospitals, hope, faith, loss of faith, return of faith, miraclesâ€¦ and as the tears ran down my face Josh snuggled closer to me. What he does know is loss and being displaced from our home and from his parents while Jake was sick and often at the hospital for treatments, he also knows how to be helpful and caring and compassionate because that is what he grew up seeing from so many friends and family members over the years. As we went up to bed that night he said, "It takes a lot for me to cry from a movie but I almost did, I had that lump in my throat". I think watching that movie was a way for him to feel closer to Jake, to understand better, to learn about what it was like for him, to understand his own feelings better.
Joshua's other brothers have memories of Jake but he will never know his brother. That makes my heart hurt and it just shouldn't be. As if it weren't enough that cancer took Jacob from our arms, it has reduced his 100 months of brilliant life, in Josh's mind, to one sick year when he wasn't around very much. Too young at five to grasp the significance of every last moment with him, he simply adapted to the situation around him as best he could with such a limited understanding of it.
Joshua will never know the protectiveness of his older brother, never root him on at a football game or join him at a wrestling match. He'll never suit up for his wedding and toast a dozen funny and embarrassing stories from their childhood. So he has not only lost most of his past with Jake, but the present and all of the future moments it would have led to. All of these things are simply lost to Joshua, washed away in oblivion, like tears in the rain.
-written by Stacey and Gary