In 10 days our family is going to pack up and return to Orlando for the 2014 Children with Diabetes, Friends for Life Conference. Every year the conference switches between a Disney hotel, and another hotel off campus. This year we will be returning to the Marriot World Center, the location we attended the conference for the first time two years ago.
The same place we attended the Summer Ryan was diagnosed…in the throes of treatment. In the depths of uncertainty and fear, and unending hope.
The memories I’ve tried so hard to push down are forcing their way back up my reality. There is no mental dam strong enough to keep the flow away.
I remember Ryan, sick and swollen.
I remember the trip very nearly did not happen as we received the bad news tumors were growing just a week before.
I remember attending, knowing full well that this was a monumental sacrifice for my husband. He was in no condition to attend, but he wouldn’t take this away from his family come hell or high water.
I remember he was quietly going through new symptoms, many of which he kept hidden from me as long as he could.
I remember him taking a picture of my friends and me by the pool and then quickly excusing himself to our room. He smiled and told me to have fun, but what he didn’t tell me is he lost sight in one of his eyes.
I remember later that night he was writhing in pain. We almost called an ambulance, but took a car to the emergency room instead. Diagnosis: New tumors. The answer: Wicked strong pain meds.
I remember landing in Orlando and one of my boys had a high fever. Strep flew through each boy during the trip. None of the boys ate during the entire trip. Half the time they were in the room, asleep and miserable.
I remember sitting in the Emergency room with Ryan, canceling the Disney portion of the trip. He needed to be home.
I didn’t know then he would pass away less than two months later.
Thinking about it makes me nauseous. The trip seems so meaningless in the grand scheme of things. But in Ryan’s eyes…it was important.
We had always planned to take the boys to Disney World when they were at the right ages. And here was a trip thrown into our laps, as I won a writing contest sponsored by Lilly Diabetes and Disney. And our boys? At the exact ages we hoped to bring them. To Ryan, it was meant to be. It was the universe paying us back in spades.
There was a lot of good that came from that trip too. Mostly love.
Mostly good people, supporting us through prayer and service.
Who knew I would need to go to emergent care with my boys and my husband? Who knew I would need to make multiple trips to the pharmacy? Who knew everyone would be sick and miserable? Who knew online friends that I barely knew and complete strangers would be at the ready to help?
But between the lines there was something bigger at work. A last family trip together. And as Ryan would say, “No matter how bad things get…we’re making memories, and that’s what’s important.”
We made a lot of memories that trip.
Which brings me to today.
Today I took the boys a few miles down the road for a special dinner to Chick Fil A. As we were driving home, our bellies full, laughing because J’s big toe is just like mine…J stopped for a moment. His eyes brightened and he said, “Whenever we go to Chick Fil A it brings back good memories of Florida. The best day of our trip that first year was when we stayed in the room all day and played video games and your friends brought us Chick Fil A.”
That is what he remembers. Good people bringing us love in a bag with a side of Polynesian sauce.
As we embark on a new journey to that same hotel, I’ll continue to battle the demons and try like heck to keep my chin up.
Because I know Ryan wants us to make new memories. New blissful, amazing memories. And I know he’ll be there enjoying every smile…every laugh…
But this time instead, he’ll be whole. He won’t have pain, only peace.
I hope the boys’ smiles will bring a wide smile to his face, and brighten up his smiling eyes.
And I hope we’ll appreciate the small things…even if it is the sweet tang of Polynesian Sauce with friends.