I Poisoned My Child

And I haven’t been arrested yet.

A big brother with liver cancer gets a sweet hug from a little brother.

If you don’t live in North Carolina, you may not have heard about our Cape Fear River water supply crisis. Apparently, the chemical that replaced C8 (used for Teflon) was replaced by a chemical called Genx. This chemical has been pouring into our drinking supply for years. DHHS says rates of liver cancer were up in our area during the time that our 11 year old son, Zack, was diagnosed.

And sure – lawsuits will be filed and there will be years of litigation and money will eventually be trickled out to people impacted but really? Money? Blah blah blah!
Criminal charges should be brought against anyone who knew this and didn’t make the public aware. Dumping it in the Cape Fear River for years – knowing it is the water supply for towns downstream…..I cannot begin to wrap my head around it! If I fed my kids poison, I would be arrested. But it’s ok for for a company with a permit to release unregulated chemicals ( chemical that they know cause a variety of health issues and death) into water supplies so I can unknowingly feed that poison to my kids? 
The thought of me giving my children poisoned water makes me sick. I remember insisting he drink water instead of soda because it was better for him. I remember encouraging him to swim in our city water supplied in ground pool because exercise was good for him. I remember making him bathe daily because he was dirty from doing little boy things.  I remember watching him die. He was only 12. He died from liver cancer….liver cancer likely caused from this?

What
??

His life mattered

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How can this continue to happen all over this great nation? Water supplies contaminated and poisoned (knowingly) by US companies! When I google it – I am dumbfounded that it is happening again and again. Our water is being poisoned by US companies – not by hate filled terrorists – these are US companies! How is it that we are not more outraged? Our communities, our children, our pregnant mommas and future generations are counting on us to stand up for them. 

If we don’t insist on better, it will never get better.

It’s time to fight!

Zack smiled as I fed him poisoned water.

Don’t Feel Sorry for Me

I don't need your pity - I need your love.

DSC_5504My heart quickens when I meet a new person because I know the inevitable question is coming. These days I am usually holding or holding onto our littlest who is now approaching 2 years old when I meet someone new. His presence spurs on the question “Is he your only one” or “how many kids do you have?”

Samuel

Samuel

My answer is always proud and straightforward. ” I have 2 boys here and a 12-year-old son in heaven. ” I don’t add unnecessary details unless they ask. Some do. Some don’t.  But, I have come to dread the looks of pity and awkward discomfort that follow my response.  Watching them avoid eye-contact and squirm and fidget….I almost feel sorry for them.

Almost.

I don’t want them to feel sorry for me.

When we feel sorry for someone, it doesn’t help them.  We have to push past our own feelings of fear uncomfortableness in order to connect with someone… this is almost always easier said than done.

Because everyone is going through something and we can be a blessing when we exchange that “feeling sorry for” energy to “doing something for energy.”

If you meet someone who tells you about a child who died (and yes it is ok to say they died – they are not going to fall crumbling to the ground) , please at least take a minute to acknowledge their loss.

  1. Exchange your awkward smile for truth.  For those who are speechless, I have some suggestions… “I have no idea how to respond but what you are going through/have been through is horrible.” “I can’t even begin to imagine how you must feel.”  Let the person know you acknowledge their pain and aren’t just showing them “pity.” I despise the looks of pity.

 

  1. Ask a question. “What do you miss most about your son?”  “What was your daughter like?” “What makes you smile the most when you think of him?” When you allow a grieving parent to share even a tiny bit about their child, you are giving them an unbelievable gift.

 

  1. Whatever you do – RESIST your urge to runaway. Don’t cut the conversation short or switch it immediately to a different subject or runaway in fear that you might “catch something”.  If you are feeling awkward and uncomfortable, suck it up!  When you ask someone a personal question, be prepared to follow through – otherwise keep quiet or stick to “safe” topics. Safe topics are things like “it sure is hot outside” or “these apples are too ripe.”

 

 

  1. God calls us to love each other. People are going through all kinds of stuff – divorce, sickness, financial difficulties, loss of a loved one, (insert whatever you’re going through right now because we’re all going through something however big or small if may seem).  When we put ourselves out there and ask a question – we had better be prepared to respond with love when we get a “real life” answer.

  1. Pray for God to use you to see beyond ourselves and lift someone up today.

“We rise by lifting others.”  – Robert Ingersoll

It doesn’t take very much effort to lift someone up and don’t worry – it won’t cost you much…just a piece of your heart if you do it right.

Words.  Simple, heartfelt words. The right ones can make a difference.

Can we all strive to be difference-makers?

“I don’t want to end up having simply visited this world.” – Mary Oliver

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Be a difference for a family who is facing this journey.  It can be a lonely journey. Let them know they are not alone.

Be blessed and be a blessing as we live and love a day and a moment at a time without our son, Zack.

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Let God Fill the Empty

gravesite at christmas

The soft ground presses down under my feet. Perfectly placed poinsettias dance in the wind. Nearly every grave site shows signs of Christmas. Someone still remembers. Someone still misses.

We stop in front of Zack’s headstone and Mayo squeezes my hand. That squeeze shouts to my aching heart but quiet fills the air around me.

I wrap the tiny strings of light around the green wreath. The emptiness of the battery compartment is obvious and I wonder if emptiness is always obvious.

A tear slips out as I push in the batteries to fill what is empty.

Empty.

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. Psalm 63:1

And the lights on the tiny wreath twinkle full of life.

Full.

Mayo lovingly attaches the Christmas wreath to a plaque stand next to Zack’s headstone then he grabs my hand and squeezes. Again.

And I feel love. I see love. And there, in that moment of love, I spot God, enthroned in the emptiness.

When we let God fill our empty with His presence, He equips us to face the physical and emotional emptiness of loss.

You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In your right hand there are pleasures forever. Psalm 16:17

How can you let God fill your emptiness?

The Empty Chair

Holiday Grief

Grief is so unpredictable.

Emptying a dishwasher, it crashes over me like an ocean wave.

Friends celebrate kids home from college, school being out and loved ones being together and all I can think about is the empty chair that will be at our table.

I have so much to be thankful for but I am deeply sad for what is missing. I miss our son. I miss his smile. I miss his voice and his silly jokes. I miss him picking at the turkey before it was time to eat. (Sigh)…

The empty chair waits for all of us who grieve. Thinking about sitting at the table of thankfulness without them is almost unbearable.

Please remember those who grieve as you celebrate with your healthy and living children.

And don’t forget to say Zack’s name to me. Please. Don’t be afraid to say it. I need to hear it. Because he is not forgotten.

And be gentle with all who are grieving this holiday season because the missing doesn’t go away.

The empty chair is there.

Be blessed.

dr nickboys pumpkin

Don’t Waste Your Pain

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If you wait until you can do everything for everybody, instead of something for somebody, you’ll end up not doing nothing for nobody.” ~ Malcom Bane

My chair had to be leaned all the way back with my feet in the air.

Nausea hit me. Hard.

“You are a fast bleeder”, she reminded me. “Breathe deep”.

And I breathed deeply and smiled thinking of Zack laughing at me saying “Mommy I can’t believe you feel sick from giving a little blood.”
And I thought of the color returning to his face after a blood transfusion and kept squeezing the thingie in my hand.

My friend in the chair next to me was having her own issues with the needle going in. And I laughed at her. And she laughed at me. And Mayo kept taking my picture.

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We were the last of the blood donors at a drive that honored the memory of our 12 year old son, Zack. I spent the day humbled by the overflow of love from friends, family and strangers who came and waited and gave so that another might live.

A precious technician named Cynthia came over to check on me and shared her story with me. Her teenage son was murdered. His name was Rodney. It was in her darkest days, she explained, that she grew close to God. My heart hurt and rejoiced as she shared her precious story with me.

Because don’t we all have a story to tell?

Tragedies. Disease. Financial troubles. Prodigal children. Job loss. Relationships.

Some stories we share with the world.

Some stories we keep secret.

And if you have not been broken by someone or something – just wait – because eventually, you will have a story.

You can’t really plan for them.
They sneak up in the middle of our nights, or they steal our happiest moments, or they destroy our happy ending.

But if we seek comfort from the world rather than from God, our trials will surely be wasted.

And our hurt is healed best when we reach out to others who are hurting.

The apostle Paul wrote that God who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:4-5
Don’t waste your pain.

God can use me.

God can use YOU.

To help someone else.

He can open up our heart and give us opportunities to minister to people in ways we never have before.

Giving blood – giving life – in the very room where our sweet Zack graduated fifth grade fills my heart with joy. It was the last day we would share as a family before our journey with liver cancer began.

Watching others give their own blood, in honor of his memory, assures me he has not been forgotten. And his memory will flow through the veins of others.

Thank you all for remembering with us.

Be blessed.

~~~ Thank you to Parsley Elementary School and Principal Robin Hamilton for allowing us to hold the blood drive there. Thank you to WECT and TV14 for promoting the drive. Thank you to all the family, friends and strangers who donated here. We collected 118 units of blood!!

Zackery Ernest Mayo 9-17-1998 ~5-28-2011

Zackery Ernest Mayo 9-17-1998 ~5-28-2011

 

carolyn cline

carolyn cline donated near her home in Charlotte. I have never met her but she is very precious to our family!

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a little brothers delivers fliers promoting a blood drive in memory of a big brother

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blood on the way to save lives…

I Chose Daffodils

A friend posted recently that she would have to stock her liquor cabinet because school is ending for the summer and her kids will be home all the time.

And this week, while she was out shopping for liquor, I was shopping for flowers for my twelve year old son’s grave and desperately wishing for one more summer…

I chose daffodils.

Not because they are my favorite. Or his.

I chose daffodils because they make me feel hopeful is a world filled with hopelessness.

They are messengers delivering the news of winter’s end.

Renewed life. Renewed hope.

Their delicate blooms do not linger long.

But they give us hope for the coming spring and summer.

And when winter lingers, we all need reminders that spring is coming.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
that floats on high o’er vales and hills
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils’
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
-William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

I am incredibly grateful for our littlest one and I am looking forward to all of the moments of summer with him.

Cherish every moment…

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Slapping Her Did Make me feel Better…

“They say time heals all wounds, but that presumes the source of the grief is finite” ― Cassandra Clare

Someone said to me recently – “Time heals all wounds and it is coming up on two years so I’m sure you are feeling like your old self again. You know,”  she continued, “feeling better.”

And I did feel better.

Right after I slapped her.

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Okay.

I didn’t really slap her.

But the vision did flash through my mind as I wondered if people really think you can feel better – ever – after burying a child?

And I wondered if there would  ever come a day in this life when I wouldnt shed a tear?

My days are not spent sitting in a corner crying for hours on end  – although there are times when I have to admit that does still feel like a good option.

But smells, sounds, thoughts or even ordinary things like unloading the dishwasher or folding clothes can bring tears out of nowhere.

Sometimes one or two. Sometimes a bucket full.

Because the missing isn’t erased by the space of time and grief cannot be put away on a shelf.  Grief is ugly. Grief is beautiful. Grief is confusing.

Grief is at best, managed.

Sometimes graciously. Sometimes poorly.

Grief is not an outfit. Grief is a permanent accessory.

Grief is lived…

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And I am convinced that grief does not change you.

Grief reveals you.

And grief reveals others to you.

And time cannot possibly make me “feel better.”

Only God can.

“His is a joy which consequences cannot quench. His is a peace which circumstances cannot steal.” – Max Lucado

May you seek HIS joy in the moment – no matter what today brings.

And remember today is only temporary…

“There is a spot, mid barren hills,
Where winter howls, and driving rain;
But if the dreary tempest chills,
There is a light that warms again.”
– Emily Jane Brontë

(And if you run into someone who has lost a loved one, please do them and yourself a favor and think carefully before you speak. Open mouths are dangerous and grief is very unpredictable. You never know when a slap just might slip out.)

be blessed…

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Gun Control, Childhood Cancer and Voices

Zack Mayo September 17, 1998 - May 28, 2011Cause of death - liver cancer

Zack Mayo September 17, 1998 – May 28, 2011
Cause of death – liver cancer

How many children have to die?

I listened to a clip that featured Gabby Gilfords testimony in hearings on Capitol Hill last week.
“Too many children are dying. Too many children,”she said.

YES!! Too many children are dying!!nick stand

“We must do something,” she said, “It will be hard but the time it now. You must act. Be bold. Be courageous. Americans are counting on you.”

And my stomach ached.

Because the passion she and others are displaying for children is only for children who die from a killer with a gun.
There is a heated debate among our politicians for and against gun control. All of our media outlets are covering these highly charged debates.

And I love living in a country where we can express our passions and get things done using that passion as fuel.

But I can’t help but ask “Where is the passion for the 7 children who die every single day from childhood cancer?” Those numbers don’t seem to matter – we rarely – if ever – hear about it on the national news.

But these numbers matter to me and the other parents who lose their children to cancer.

Where is the passion for stopping the killer who murdered our 12 year old son and 6 other children on May 28, 2011? Where is the passion for stopping the killer who is still on the loose taking 7 children and rolling the dice on 46 more every single day?

These numbers are shocking to me.

In 3 days, more children die from cancer than were killed in the recent horrific school shooting.

“Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future” – JFK

Kayne Warters  dob July 6 2008.  Currently fighting Metastatic Angiosarcoma.  If you research this cancer, you will see that the prognosis is poor. His twin brother, Ashton, is being monitored for lesions present in his liver.

Kayne Warters dob July 6 2008. Currently fighting Metastatic Angiosarcoma. If you research this cancer, you will see that the prognosis is poor and options for treatment are very limited. His twin brother, Ashton, is being monitored for lesions present in his liver.

And people, rightfully so, are outraged at the killer at the school – the gunman – and want to do something – anything – to prevent it happening again.

But are we numb to childhood cancer?
Have we just become accepting of it?
Are these children any less important than children who are gunned down?
Don’t they deserve a voice?
Why are we not demanding more for them?

Why?

Are we all willing to continue to gamble that it won’t happen to our children?

Don’t all of our children count?

Our sweet friend Kyle Williams left this world shortly before our own Zack. He died of neuroblastoma

Our sweet friend Kyle Williams left this world shortly before our own Zack. He died of neuroblastoma

Don’t children with cancer deserve a full fledge commitment to a “War on Childhood Cancer”?

Fact: The incidence of invasive pediatric cancers is up 29% in the past 20 years.
Fact: In 20 years the FDA has initially approved only two drugs for any childhood cancer – 1/2 of all chemotherapies used for children’s cancers are over 25 years old
Fact: On the average, one in every four elementary schools has a child with cancer. The average high school has two students who are current or former cancer patients.
Fact: Despite these facts, childhood cancer research is vastly and consistently underfunded.
Fact: Research and development for new drugs from pharmaceutical companies comprises 60% of funding for adult cancer drugs and close to zero for childhood cancers.
Fact: NCI (our tax dollars) spends 96% of its budget on adult cancers and only 4% of its budget on children’s cancers.

Fact: Childhood cancer is ugly.
Fact: There is no known cause for childhood cancer. This means EVERY child is at risk!! Even yours.

And if we believe the evening news, then we know that children being killed by guns can be prevented if we ban this or that. And people are willing to spend money – whatever it takes – to prevent such killings.

Meanwhile, the lack of available successful treatments for children with cancer is beyond outrageous.

Our son Zack, at age 11, was given smaller doses of adult treatment because not enough children get liver cancer to deserve treatment specifically designed for a child’s growing body.

Side effects of the available treatment are horrible. Children get to spend their days and nights attached to an IV pole and suffer nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, headaches, muscle and stomach pains. Children with cancer suffer from swelling, peeling blisters on their skin and sores in their mouth and throat. Children with cancer eat through a feeding tube. Older children with cancer are reduced to wearing diapers again as they lose control of their bodily functions. Children with cancer watch as their families struggle to balance jobs, finances and the daily demands of caring for a child with cancer.
They become sterile from their treatment, they go deaf, they go blind, they have brain damage, they have heart damage, they have speech problems – the list goes on and on…

Fact: Children with cancer want to live.
Fact: Children with cancer deserve a chance.

How many children have to die from cancer before we consider it too many?
And does it only become too many when it is your child?
And you may ignore this blog post and go on about your “normal” life with your healthy children and you may only stop and think you need to take some sort of action when it becomes your child.

Or you can help by contacting your political representatives and tell them that ALL children count and demand more funding for pediatric cancer research. You can contact your representatives with the following links: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/
http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact
You can also help by making a donation to organizations that support research for childhood cancer. Organizations like St Baldwicks, http://www.stbaldricks.org/filling-the-funding-gap
Alex’s Lemonade Stand http://www.alexslemonade.org/ both focus on childhood research.

I will be a voice.

I will be a voice for those who cannot speak.

I will be a voice for Zack.

I will be a voice for your child and mine.

Because one person can make a difference and every person should try….

And if it makes a difference for just one, then that will be all the difference in the world.

Because don’t all of our children matter?

I have never posted this picture before because it is so personal. This is the last picture taken of our precious Zack only hours before he would leave us.  But this picture matters so much. Our children should not have to suffer and die from cancer.

I have never posted this picture before because it is so personal. This is the last picture taken of our precious Zack only hours before he would leave us. You can see his jaundice was severe(as his liver quit functioning), he was weak and his belly was so swollen… But this picture represents so much…How many more have to die before you do something? None of our children should not have to suffer and die from cancer.

Sleeping in a Brother’s Room…

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Nick wanted to sleep in Zack’s room last night.

And as hard as that was for me – could the answer be anything but yes for him?

That’s the privilege of being a parent – we get to do what is best for our children but not necessarily what is “best” (convenient, easy, etc) for ourselves.

I’m pretty sure that’s called sacrifice.

Jesus sacrificed it ALL for me. Even though I didn’t deserve it.

Nick inspires me to push through the hard and do the things I must – not because I have to – because I want to. Because I love him.

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” ~ 1 Corinthians 13:7

 

And my heart hurts that he grieves for an older brother. An older brother who was a best friend for nearly 7 years. An older brother who taught him so well. An older brother who taught us all the ultimate lessons of living.

Seeing Nick hurt is worse than my own pain.

And that fuels my strength to do whatever I must.

And we lay and read together in a big brother’s bed where countless stories were read before.

And we talk about the glow in the dark solar system carefully hung by a big brother and we turn off the light just to see.

Because the stars shine brightest in the darkness.

And Mayo and I tuck a little brother in and I remember an older brother and kissing his warm, living skin and I am thankful he was never too old to tuck in.

As long as your children are in your care, tuck them in – kiss them, hug them – no matter their age. They need it as much as you.

And we all prayed together. And we all learn together.

And we leave a little brother and his dog to sleep in the living memories of a brother’s room.

And I stare at the empty page of my daily journal and see the lack of answers, the lack of my desires, the lack of control.

And I look all around and see people with normal lives, normal families and my heart longs for that normalcy.

But this is MY life. My new normal. The life HE has laid out for me. The beautiful gift HE has given me.

And I cannot see the bigger picture that HE has painted for my life. But I know it is there.

And so I write the joys moments of the day. And in focusing on being thankful, my trust is once again strengthened.

And I know HIS plan is perfect.

I just can’t see that far ahead…

(and as I get ready to post this entry this morning – Nick has just awakened after sleeping ALL night – the first in a long while…)

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Half-Empty Bottle of Scope

scope

Cleaning up Nick and Zack’s bathroom, I see the half-empty bottle of Scope tucked in the back of the cabinet.

And it tears open my still healing wound.

I pull it from the cabinet and stare.

But I cannot bring myself to throw it away.

And I wonder how strange that is.

I remember Zack asking me to buy it for him – Spring of 5th grade (2010). And I remember thinking he must be starting to get interested in girls.

That cherished memory makes me smile at first but then it makes me cry.

Because that bottle of scope is so much more than just blue/green breath-freshening liquid…

It is the young man our son was just starting to become and a future that would be robbed. A future of voice changes, shaving, wearing deodorant without being reminded, a first kiss, holding a girls hand, a first date, first dance, the prom, first love, marriage, family….

And so I sit on a bathroom floor and smile and cry.

In a bathroom where toothpaste still gets left in the sink, on the counter and sometimes even on the floor and repeat showers still take place after I discover a dry bar of soap. Where a toilet seat is still left up and clothes are still scattered across the floor instead of in the hamper. And while I still offer gentle reminders, I don’t complain about it.

Instead, I give thanks in a bathroom for the simple reminders of life.

May we all count it all JOY a Moment at a Time…

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