September 19-20, 2011
She asked me to bring her back up to Milwaukee that weekend. I knew her 1-year-old son, Micah, had relapsed. He had Acute Myeloid Leukemia, and they had tried everything.
We drove up on a Monday morning. I remember what I was wearing: my brown corduroy maternity pants that I had splurged on and that cute, brown short-sleeved shirt, along with my favorite Dr. Martens. I still have the shoes. The rest were destroyed.
We drove north, with my 6-month-old son in the back seat, somehow finding things to laugh about on the construction-burdened highway out of Illinois. My car was shuddering, and I kept taking a hand off the wheel to try to steady the center console.
We arrived at Children’s Hospital, and she opened the back door to get her bags out to stay with Micah. I watched her calmly collect her things and in my immaturity had nothing at all to say. What do you say to a mother who is going to visit her terminal baby? Good luck? Take care? The usual sentiments were useless.
She left, and I was in the car with my healthy son, just 10 months younger than her Micah. It was the most profoundly disturbing moment of my life.
A few days earlier, my husband had told me of a more scenic route home. Since the construction traffic was awful, I decided it was time to take that route.
I often wonder what would have happened if I had taken the road most traveled (cue Robert Frost).¹ What would have happened if I had been surrounded by giant trucks and speeding cars? As it happened, I was hit only by a single dump truck. The investigating officer concluded my tire must have blown out (hence the earlier shuddering), causing my car to swerve unexpectedly.
The front driver’s side of my car was smashed in, and all the glass gone. I was unconscious until the next day. I woke up, confused, to my husband’s voice saying “Micah died.”
He’s since told me that he had to relay that news numerous times since I kept losing consciousness. I was back where I dropped Micah’s mom off. I was back in Milwaukee, but across the hospital complex. I had a serious concussion, bleeding on my brain, vertigo that has never left me, a partially collapsed lung, and six broken ribs. Fortunately, I also had drugs.
I dropped her off, she spent the rest of the day with Micah, and then he died.
While I regained consciousness, my friends were saying goodbye to their 1-year-old son. I woke up when he went to sleep.
If the world was good and just, Micah would be here, and I’d be gone. Micah would be here, not much older than my own son. The world is NOT JUST. And because of that, my life, my perspective, my everything CHANGED. I finally saw the world without a filter. I saw what mattered.
September 19-20, 2017
That was six years ago, today. I’ve since moved to New Jersey, had another kid, and started drinking copious amounts of alcohol. It’s like the Bermuda Triangle of Life.
I’ve been struggling lately. I’ve been plagued with anxiety, stress, and a tire fire in place of pride. I thought the problem was my job, coupled with my ineptitude. Once again, I was wrong (shocking, I know). The problem was that I forgot what mattered.
So why tell this story? It needs to be said that no matter how unfortunate my accident was; no matter how unfortunate my job situation was, it was NOTHING compared to what was happening for my friends. NOTHING.
September 20th reminds me every year that September 19th was the luckiest day of my life. September 20th reminds me that my relatively small problems (September 19th, anxiety, teaching) pale in comparison to life and death.
This is what matters:
Micah died from Acute Myeloid Leukemia.
Since September is both Childhood Cancer Awareness Month AND Leukemia/Lymphoma Awareness Month, I’m starting my fundraising today for my October 21st walk in Morris Plains, New Jersey. I’ll be walking for Team Micah NJ for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night Walk. To honor this life cut too short, and the beautiful boy who should still be here, will you please consider donating?
Wait..don’t “consider.” Just do it. Donate. Like seriously, you can take out your wallet RIGHT NOW and donate (please?). Even better, I would LOVE to have people show up to the walk! http://www.lightthenight.org/events/morris-county
My goal (not counting my contribution) is $500. I think we can reach that.
WE NEED TO FIND A CURE, or at the very least, a safer treatment. You may avoid getting hit by a dump truck, but you WILL be affected by cancer in your lifetime.
PLEASE DONATE, and for those who do, a profound THANK YOU.