Henry's Blog

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Day 2009

This is our second Valentine's Day without Henry.

Last year, in January of 2008, we found that Henry was eligible to go on a week-long trip to Orlando, sponsored by Camp Happy Days (a regional organization that provides activities for kids with cancer). The trip is held annually in the second week of February, and a big bus of kids, counselors and nurses makes the 8-hour trek. No parents allowed. Henry was just beginning a new regimen of radiation, and we were worried about his strength and stamina, so we signed him up without telling him. If he felt well enough he could go and enjoy it; if he didn't feel well, we would never mention it and he wouldn't feel disappointed that he had missed something.

About a week away from the excursion, Henry seemed to be dealing well with the treatments. He had occasional mild nausea and was easily tired, but, after getting clearance from the doctors, we were confident he could enjoy the trip. During the drive home we excitedly told him about the opportunity to go to Orlando and Disney, Universal, and Sea World.

He was quiet for a second, and then said: "Maybe we can go some other time. I don't want to be away from you on Valentine's Day."

Henry loved the holidays, each for their own special magic. His two favorite Holidays were Halloween (for the fantasy and the candy) and St. Patrick's Day (for the green eggs and ham and the leprechaun mischief). But he loved Valentine's Day for...well...the love. He loved his Mama and Dad, he loved his animals. He truly loved us: the us being his family, and he loved being a part of it.

Nevertheless, we convinced him of the unique opportunity of the trip, and, after assuring him that we would fully celebrate Valentine's Day upon his return, he boarded a bus full of total strangers for the long drive to Orlando. He had a terrific time, and upon his return was received by Mama and Dad with the "Welcome Home" heart cake shown above.

Henry was always a loving child. Once he began to talk, bedtime was a sometimes endless dialogue between us about who loved who more: "I love you more than the whole earth," Henry might say.

"I love you more than earth and the solar system," Mama would counter.

Said Henry: "I love you more than the earth, the solar system and the stars."

Said Mama: "I love you more than the earth, the solar system, and the Milky Way."

Said Henry: "I love you more than the earth, the solar system, the Milky Way and the whole universe."

"I love you to the back of your head," said Dad, attempting to evoke Einstein's comment that, if you could look through a telescope that saw to infinity, what you would see would be the back of your head.

That paled next to a declaration Henry made while waiting to go into the operating room for his first surgery. The attending anesthesiologist, nurses, and social worker all stared in astonishment as Henry (with the help of some medication) described his love as an astoundingly complex manipulation of the time-space continuum.

As Henry's disease progressed, he became more and more comfortable showing his love and affection. He easily held hands with Mama and Dad in public, and with some female friends he earnestly, albeit somewhat nervously, allowed his romantic side to show.

During the later days, Henry's loving declarations were ever more heartfelt. The nightly mentions of "Best Mom & Dad in the world" were supplemented by sincere announcements declaring Mama's beauty. Already noted in these pages was the spontaneous declaration "My love is real." On one occasion, Mama and Dad struggled though the nightly routine of cathing, the cleaning, dressing and bandaging of Henry's growing bed wounds, bathing and changing him for the night. This took from 30 to 45 minutes and was not very comfortable or pleasant for Henry. Just as we were worrying that this session was harder on Henry than usual, he suddenly remarked: "You two are amazing." In his last hours, when he was no longer able to speak, we could easily distinguish his random uncontrolled arm movements from those distinctly reaching for our hands to hold. In retrospect it's easy to see that as Mama and Dad strove to reassure and comfort Henry, the only reason we got through it is that he was reassuring and comforting us as well.

Victor Hugo wrote: "To love another person is to see the face of God." Henry looked into God's eyes every day of his life. And when Mama and Dad see the face of God, we see the sweet, sweet smile of Henry.