I don’t know that I’ve ever had a panic attack before. But I think I came pretty close tonight.
It’s been an emotional week. For everyone in Western New York. News of a six-year-old little boy with Down Syndrome dying just days after his mom unexpectedly passed away, my friend’s baby girl having a cerebral hemorrhage and the worry that it was something more, car accidents, my friends’ loved ones getting diagnosed with cancer, and the staunch reminder that we are completely out of control. It’s scary. Really scary. The thought of Mary Sugorovskiy, the local mom burying her three-year-old son Maksym because a car swerved off the expressway and into Delaware Park… while caring for her own injuries as well as that of her five-year-old daughter, Stephanie, in critical condition… I just don’t know. So so tragic. So horrible. I have no words. How in the world are you supposed to deal with that kind of loss? So sudden? And right before your eyes? I’ve just been sick. I know a little of that pain. But not like that.
My heart’s been hurting all week.
Tonight’s catalyst, though, was a letter from school, inviting me to write a letter for Jack’s time capsule. A treasure he will open as a graduating senior. Other moms can identify with the myriad of emotions going through my mind. My firstborn. In twelve years. Knowing how much he’s already gone through, and anxiousness over not knowing what will happen in the years to come. Knowing his twin won’t be reading a letter at his graduation. Knowing Mary won’t be writing a letter to her son Maksym. And wondering what her letter to her future graduating senior daughter will sound like.
My heart just aches.
The letter is due on Thursday. I’ve been putting it off for a week but I decided that I just needed to finish it tonight. To get it out of the way. But before I could tackle that, I needed to do another project for an end-of-the-year gift. I went to the basement in order to try and uncover my pastel chalks. Perhaps this creative outlet would help give me clarity as to what I would include in Jack’s time capsule.
I had been thinking that my chalks were in a blue box with a bunch of stationery. An old Anne Geddes box I had had since college. After a bit of digging, I found the box… but no pastels. Next to it, though, was a Ziploc bag with some instruction manuals. I know, I’m the nerd who has a hard time throwing away the instruction manuals for every.single.piece.of.technology in my home. But amongst the camera booklets was a small camera. My old camera. My old Sony point-and-shoot camera.
My heart sank. My chest tightened. I couldn’t breathe. I just stared at it in my hands, shaking.
I haven’t been able to find this camera for almost two years.
I used this camera when the boys were babies. Mostly for trips to the zoo or videos around the house. Ben especially was a magnet to technology and I could barely take it out without him insisting on using it himself. This camera was the “bait” I used to entice them to crawl and then take their first steps across the room.
I just stood there. Staring at it.
And then I stopped breathing completely. What was on it? I started crying. What was on it?
Thankfully, the battery charger was placed inside the bag as well so I went upstairs to plug it in. Meanwhile, I told Andy what I had found. I didn’t have to say much. He remembered.
How in the world am I going to be able to write this letter now?
After a few minutes of charging, I was able to turn it on. It had about 50 pictures, taken mostly by Ben, of our world as seen through his eyes. Andy and I cried as we scrolled through each photo of our house, Megan, their toys, the walls, the backyard, and Jack… all in motion and blurry or with a bright flash. But the last memory was a video I had taken on August 5, 2013. When both boys were healthy. They were sitting at the kitchen table. Working. Coloring. And talking.
As soon as I saw it, I remembered what it was from. I have pictures of that evening on my computer.
We were planning a We Love Daddy Day. A surprise dinner to celebrate our daddy and how hard he works for our family. A day (inspired by another mom friend) where we would make his favorite meal and post pictures all over the kitchen with words of gratitude, balloons, streamers, and more family portraits than you could imagine.
Tears. And more tears.
I take a lot of pictures, but I honestly don’t take enough videos. This one was of both boys working on decorations for our dinner, and me interviewing them as to why we were celebrating.
Both boys. Our boys. Each of them explaining – finishing each other’s sentences, adding to what their brother was saying, giggling – about how much we love our daddy.
I could feel Andy’s tears quietly falling onto my shoulders. Although I could hear him, too.
And my stomach pulled tighter in knots.
I can’t even tell you how much I wish we could go back to that Age of Innocence. The time in our lives that we didn’t worry about cancer, about our kids growing up without their brother, when we didn’t worry about… well, when we didn’t worry about very much at all. Ignorance really is bliss. We miss the time we were ignorant. Carefree. And you don’t even know what we would give to have had all of this be a dream.
But this is our reality. Like it or not. And as much as I wish it could be different for the Sugorovskiy family, they have a new reality too. And it.just.sucks.
How am I supposed to write this letter? What am I going to say that might encourage or inspire Jack as an eighteen-year-old? I have no idea whether I will be there to see him open it. I have absolutely no idea how life will unfold in the next twelve years.
What do I say?
I want him to know that life is hard. But God is good.
That no one has been guaranteed good things. Perfect things. No one can go through life without being touched. Or hurt. Or hurt deeply.
I want him to know that even with great pain, we have been so blessed.
That God has given us so much more than we deserve. And all he needs to do is cling to Him. And he will be taken care of.
I got it. I know what I want to do.
In addition to a letter and some pictures, I’m going to include that little 4GB memory card I found tonight in that tiny time capsule. Except I’m going to add more pictures and a new video: a video of me and Andy, talking to him as a graduating senior. Perhaps I’ll take some video of him and the girls, too, talking to Jack’s future self. Encouragement. Wisdom. And the assurance that we are so very grateful for his life and how he will continue to use it for God’s glory.
Life is hard, friends. And sometimes, it’s really really hard. But know that none of these bad things come from God. And people who follow Christ are not exempt from it either. We’ve only been guaranteed hardships. But be encouraged. I’ve read the end of The Book: WE WIN! Because we have Christ, we have hope.
Even in the midst of tears, we have hope. Undying, unwavering, unadulterated HOPE.
And even though today is hard, every day is just another day closer to heaven.