Henry's Blog

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Happy Birthday, Henry

Henry would have been thirteen years old today.

He so looked forward to being a teenager. But instead of celebrating another milestone towards his adulthood, Mama and Dad find themselves immersed in fundraising for cancer research and "awareness." Henry's birthday month coincides with the local "Relay for Life" annual fundraising event, and May is also Brain Tumor Awareness month.

It is bittersweet at best. Our tentative steps toward activism don't begin to salve the open wound that seems to grow more painful by the day.

Mama had volunteered to be in charge of decorating the Middle School's tent for "Relay for Life."

The relay occurs on a walking track defined by hundreds of luminaires - white paper bags honoring patients, survivors and victims of cancer. The bags are weighted down with sand and contain a lone votive candle. Beginning at 7pm, volunteers walk the track in shifts that go on all night - since "cancer never sleeps"- until 7am the following morning.

Organizations throughout the region support the event, which features live music, food and drink, tributes and testimonials.

Last year, the Middle School alone raised about $2000. This year, they raised over $10,000. Students decorated about 100 luminaires for Henry. Mama and Dad created two luminares for Henry, as well as one each for our mothers, and one to a friend who succumbed to cancer shortly after Henry.

One of the teachers sang a very heartfelt "Wind Beneath My Wings" which she dedicated to our precious Henry.

The event also featured a dinner for survivors and caregivers to which we were invited, but felt too uncomfortable to attend.

As encouraging as it was to see all of the positive energy pulling together at one time and in one place, as wonderful as it was to see so many cancer survivors walking the track with vigor and determination, we could not suppress the selfish feelings that cried out for our boy and internally demanded to know why he wasn't one of the lucky ones.

Over the last couple of months, St. Jude has sent us a couple of forms, asking us to update Henry's file since he was released. We haven't been able to complete the forms, as we cannot answer the questions about his current condition without weeping. Parents of children with cancer have developed some codes and shorthand when writing about their lost sons and daughters. We have adopted the term "forever twelve" as a gentle way of declaring what and when, but we cannot bring ourselves to say "earned his wings" or use the cute little carat symbols around the name (i.e., ^Henry^) suggesting angel wings. No parent should ever have to wrestle with such a dilemma.

Yesterday morning we got a call from Dr. Merchant, the head of radiation oncology at St. Jude, telling us that he and everyone in the office was thinking about us and Henry.

He must have heard our crying in the wind.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thinking of you especially today... Benjamin and I have been talking about Henry's birthday being today. He wore a Mario shirt today to school in honor of Henry's birthday...If there's anything we can do...
Fran Atkinson and Benjamin Sigmon

10:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Henry is on my mind today and every day. Forever.

I wish I could be there.

Aunt Scott

5:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Henry, we are thinking of of you and your Mom and Dad today!

You are always in our thoughts :)

Teresa, Big Steve and Nick

10:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Today is a special day because it is Henry's Day!! Thinking of you all!


11:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think of Henry often and I seemed to remember that his birthday is in May. He must have told me that one day at the arts center. I applaud your participation in the event, but I do understand that you found no joy in being a member of that club. There is just nothing to smile about when you think about a life so full of promise cut down by such a cruel illness. I wish that I knew something that would ease your pain but I don't. I do think of you often though and I hope it helps you to know that.

Caroline Jenkins

8:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know what pulled me to this blog but it did. I was so surprised to see that Henry and Mike have the same birthday! Although Mike was celebrating 50 years!
Mike has grown into a man that has an "all or none" attitude and that is how he approached the Relay for Life and their fund raising efforts at HHIMS. He has always jumped in with his whole heart. I remember he once said he wanted to do a walk for MS to honor his aunt who was suffering...not a 5K or something..he actually orchestrated a walk across the entire state of New Hampshire to raise money. Two years ago after becoming friends with Gregg Russell of Hilton Head Heroes, he raised over $20,000. He also has an empty spot in his heart due to cancer. It took his father away when he was only 5 years old and he has only memories of a very sick man. Growing up fatherless left him very sad and angry as well.

Mike has also spent his 20 year career trying to create leaders that are service oriented. Maybe someday one of those leaders will be the key curing this awful disease. It will only come if students are empowered to think they can make a difference. Thank you for being part of this event, as difficult as it was, and helping Mike pull off a dream and showing students that you CAN reach goals.
May God comfort you. kathleen sanz

10:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Henry, Mom and Dad...we love you and you are always in our thoughts and prayers. Henry, in your twelve and a half years here on this earth you touched more people than most can in 100 years and continue to do so as your spirit lives on. We miss you!
Love, Mark, Teresa, Courtney, Brett & Bryce

2:20 PM  

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