From the very beginning of his life, Connor was one of those kids who just lit up a room. He was mischievous, yet with his curly blonde hair, chubby cheeks, and twinkling green eyes, he looked like a cherub on a Christmas card. He had the perfect timing of a natural comic, and apparently, it was his overarching life goal to make people laugh. He almost always achieved this goal.
Tom and I were so very blessed to be part of Connor’s short life.
Yet, for half his life, Tom and I felt a layer of deep heartache all day long, it hit within seconds of awakening in the morning and lasted all day, no matter what we were doing, because Connor was fighting a wicked monster. One that doesn’t play fair, one that did not care that he was cute and hilarious and funny, and oh so very vulnerable and loved. This heartache was a mix of anger, sadness, fear, dread, anguish and occasionally, a mustard seed size bit of hope. Half of it was for Connor and his suffering, for his bravery and resilience and good cheer in the face of that suffering. But the other half was for his family, especially his daddy and mommy, my little brother and his wife, Tait and Joy.
Suffering is hard, by its very definition. It may be a thousand times more wrenching to be unable to lessen the suffering of those you love. For close, extended family, like aunts and uncles, watching a niece or nephew battle cancer is especially compounded. Your heart is shattered for the child. Your heart is shattered for the siblings, whose daily life has turned chaotic and frightening. Your heart is shattered for the parents—your brother or sister, knowing they are deep into a nightmare of walking their child through a nightmare. You know they adore their child, but also, like all parents, were committed from his first breath to protect him. And they cannot. This is torture on multiple levels.
You think…if only I could take this completely off your shoulders and from your mind and heart, even for a day, and instead, to only be able to bring a meal, write a blog, or sit with Connor for an afternoon. It’s a double dose of suffering—someone you love is fighting for someone they love. You feel, as an aunt or uncle, twice as powerless as you want to be.
This is not to say an uncle or aunt has it harder. We certainly do not. We just have a different kind of hard. I wish we could’ve done more than just walk with you through that nightmare. As your big sister, I wanted so badly to fix it for you. And I could not.
Perhaps all we can do is ‘fix’ a nightmare coming for another child, his parents, his siblings, cousins, friends… and his aunts and uncles.
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