Today marks 11 months since I said goodbye to my daughter, Olivia. Today she would have been 2.5 years old and I can only imagine the fun she should be having with her twin brother. Instead, my little girl is an angel in Heaven and I am left behind just waiting for that day when I can be reunited with her in my eternal home.
In these last 11 months so much has changed in our family and there are times that I think I’m adjusting amazingly well to living with only a portion of my heart, but then something happens that reminds me that I am in fact, damaged goods. I am not the same person I was before brain cancer took ahold of my baby girl and especially not since it took her life.
We recently moved to a new town, about two hours away from Rawlins where we lived with Olivia. This move has shown me that I am not nearly as well adjusted to this loss as I thought.
In Rawlins, almost everyone knew about our family. It’s a small town, so most people had heard about us through the numerous stories in the local paper. Or someone they knew, knew us personally. Or they had seen us around town or attended a fundraiser for our foundation. But in our new town, most people have absolutely no idea. They see me with our handsome little boy and my big pregnant belly and think that life must be pretty great. Someone will approach me with a simple question of how many children I have, not ever imaging that for me this is a difficult question. I have three children – one in Heaven, one here on Earth in my arms, and the other in my belly. No one can see the evidence of Olivia without closer examination. I always include Olivia in the number of children I have, but inevitably people get somewhat uncomfortable. They don’t know what to say and usually find some way to end the conversation and walk away, or they try to say something sympathetic, which usually doesn’t make me feel any better at all. It’s so much harder than I expected!
When I explain the whole story…that I struggled with infertility, had a very difficult pregnancy with the twins, and then had my beautiful babies only to find out at just 4 months old that Olivia had cancer…then watched her battle for her life for 16 months and pass away in mine and her daddy’s arms at just 20 months of age…and then had her twin brother be diagnosed with diabetes literally the day after her memorial service…it all sounds like the makings of some kind of horror story for parenting. But it is the reality of my life. I don’t realize just how much my family has been through until I have to explain it repeatedly to people who have never heard any of it before.
I am so grateful for the 20 months I had with Olivia. And I fully believe that all of our struggles are a part of God’s plan. I think Olivia’s cancer battle, life and early death were a part of a perfectly designed plan that I don’t yet understand and probably never will. I believe that the foundation is a huge part of her legacy and I hope that we will be able to fund the research to find a cure for the children that will come after Olivia. And I’m grateful every day for Wyatt and for soon to be little brother. But it doesn’t mean that every day isn’t a struggle. We miss her every day. There’s nothing normal about the fact that we pass a cemetery and Wyatt starts to yell that he wants to visit his sissy because he knows she is buried in one that we visit frequently. It’s not normal that we have all of her things but she isn’t here to wear them, play with them, etc.
Losing a child leaves you damaged forever. You can move on to a certain degree and even find some joy again, but it’s never the same complete joy that you could experience before childhood cancer took a wrecking ball to your family. So I urge you. Take action before it is your child. Or your grandchild, niece, nephew, friend, etc. Support childhood cancer. Become aware. Tell your friends. And donate to childhood cancer research and other organizations that support the kids that are battling. Every little bit helps!
To learn more about Olivia Caldwell Foundation and to donate please visit our website.