24: The best gift

(NOTE:  After you read this post, a comment would be the best gift –for a wonderful cause.  Please see below.)  

We’re standing in the parking lot where Daniel is about to board the bus that will take him to sleep-away camp for the first time,  for a month.  I had urged him to have this experience; but now that the moment is here, I’m struggling not to cry.  

 My 10-year old son pats me gently on the back as he hugs me goodbye.

Then he stands back to look in my eyes, and says seriously, “Don’t worry,  Mommy,  I’ll be fine.  I can take care of myself.”

 

By age 6 his life experience included  divorce, my remarriage, and a move 500 miles away from his dad and the home where he’d lived his whole life.  The day after his 7th birthday party, I found out I had cancer.

I never signed up for this….not for me, surely not for my two kids.

I wanted their lives to be perfection; and painless.  Before cancer, I already hovered close to helicopter parent status,  maybe to compensate for the loss  of my own mom to cancer at 41.  Now  I was certain my kids would grow up without me; not an unreasonable presumption with a stage III diagnosis and a poor prognosis.

So I was in agony; not from cancer but from an aching heart.  For a mom, no pain of your own hurts with the intensity of the pain (or even imagined pain) suffered by your children.

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Daniel,  the younger of my two kids, was my prince, my baby.   All I wanted was to give him safety and security and sweetness.    But I was helpless to protect him;  even worse, I had been the cause of his exposure to life’s cruelty and uncertainty —both inadvertently and intentionally.

He didn’t complain about all these challenges; but he noticed.

One night as I tucked him into bed, he ticked off his list.    “I’m the only kid whose mom has cancer and wears a wig.  No one else lives in a different city from their dad.   Why isn’t life fair?”

“First world problems,” you can’t say flippantly to an 8 year old.  Plus I wasn’t feeling flippant.  The truth was, I was asking those same questions myself.

Slowly and surely, life settled into a new normal.  Howard, my ex-husband, came to visit frequently and maintained  a close relationship with our kids and with me.  My hair grew back and Daniel grew up into a normal, happy, well-adjusted kid who loved normal things like football and fart jokes.

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Yet those early years left their mark.  Ironically, in a good way.

Daniel was the life of every party; but he was also mature,  caring, gentle, instinctively the peacemaker in every group.  He appreciated the simple precious gift of having parents; even one who lived far away.

No longer did he mention that life wasn’t  fair; he knew he was blessed, and very lucky.   And he had an extraordinary sense of perspective and compassion for those who weren’t.

I gained perspective, too.  I saw that living through challenges didn’t devastate him;  instead, it was the opposite.  It developed his adaptability and his character; deepening qualities that were already so much part of him —sensitivity , kindness,  thoughtfulness, generosity of spirit – all qualities he could and would call on when he had to face challenges in the future.

After college graduation, he planned to work while studying for the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test).  He relocated to Los Angeles to be near his dad, who had been diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS )which he developed, like Robin Roberts, from having chemo treatment for cancer.

Soon after Daniel arrived, Howard’s condition worsened.  Because their dad lived alone, and our daughter lived too far to help on a daily basis,  Daniel became his dad’s main caregiver.

He didn’t sign up for this; but he took it on.

Anyone who’s been a caregiver knows that this taxes the patience and emotions of people with far more life experience than a 23- year -old fresh out of college.  Instead of the carefree LA life Daniel imagined, his was consumed with long hours in doctors’ offices,  monitoring medications, hiring caregivers,  mediating between family and friends, being his dad’s emotional and physical support; even sleeping overnight in a chair by his dad’s hospital bed while studying for the LSAT exam.  Most difficult was witnessing the daily deterioration of the dynamic person he had depended on.

As I always do,  I ached for his pain.  But  I knew he would emerge even stronger than he was.

And he did.  Honestly I don’t know how Daniel managed; but he handled it all with wisdom, kindness and grace.

24 was the year Daniel embarked on his career path, and started law school.

24 was his first year of life without a father.

Though some define his age range as emerging adulthood,  24 was the year Daniel cemented his evolution from boy to man.

Being able to see that, simply to be here to see Daniel and his sister Alli grow up, is my life’s most profound and precious gift.  And they both have given me an equally precious gift, the truth that Daniel knew when he was just 10:  “Don’t worry,  Mommy, I’ll be fine.  I can take care of myself.”

Daniel and Alli with me last weekend

 In honor of all those children who aren’t as lucky as Daniel, this post is inspired by Shot@Life, an initiative of the United Nations Foundation which helps get vaccines to kids as a cost-effective way to save lives in the world’s hardest to reach places.  

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A child dies every 20 seconds from a vaccine-preventable disease. We can help change this reality.  During Shot@Life’s Blogust, 31 bloggers, one each day in August, are writing about moments that matter. For every comment on this post and the 30 other posts, Walgreens will donate a vaccine (up to 50,000 vaccines).  

And there’s also a wider initiative: the “Get a Shot. Give a Shot.” campaign. From September 3 through October 14, when you go to Walgreens to get your flu shot, Walgreens will donate a vaccine to the Shot@Life campaign!  (See pharmacy for details.)   Walgreens has committed $500,000 to donate up to 3 million vaccines for those kids who need them most.

Sign up here for a daily email to quickly and easily comment and share every day during Blogust! Stay connected with Shot@Life at www.shotatlife.org, join the campaign on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

So please Comment!!  It matters.  Whatever you write, however short, will save a life.

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Comments

  1. Mary Ann says

    Perfection and safety are will o’ the wisps. They aren’t real, and pursuing them leads you into a swamp. Making your children partners in life, to the extent of their ability, builds your relationship with them, and their skills and character– just as your story tells. And I applaud your children, and you. What a tough series of events.

  2. Delores Van Horn says

    Your story brought tears to my eyes. What an emotional roller coaster you and your children faced and yet you all came out at the finish line with a great outlook on life and what it holds. Great tribute to you and your family.

  3. says

    Such a touching story and wonderful young man! Thank you for sharing this and for working with Walgreens and Shot@Life to give all children the chance to be wonderful!

  4. Bridget says

    Heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. We love that our kids are resilient but hate the moments when that resiliency is revealed to us. Thanks for supporting Shot@Life!

  5. MC says

    Such a beautiful post on how life’s hardships can shape you into something great! Thank you for sharing!

  6. Karen says

    I can relate to Daniel I lost both my parents before I was 20. It did make me a strong person. All the best to Daniel.

  7. says

    Beautiful post… made me cry and smile. Your love of your son and the love he has in turn given to his family the universe is life’s true gift. Thank you for sharing Daniel with us and thank you for your great support of Shot@Life…

  8. C R says

    Thank you for participating in a Shot@Life and, through my commenting, allowing me to make small difference with you.

  9. Melissa says

    I found your blog through the shot@life website and am happy to help children get vaccines.

  10. Michele says

    So happy to hear you’ve survived to see your children grow into young adults. Your story about Daniel was written beautifully. I know he’ll treasure the wonderful times he spent with his father. Children are wiser than we give them credit for sometimes – “I can take care of myself” is that potent reminder that children do grow up. You’ve done a wonderful job! …and now think of all those who will be helped as 1 comment = 1 shot at life.

  11. Lynn J says

    What a touching, inspiring story about the power of love, courage and hope. Thank you for sharing your story and for helping kids. You have given so much to others sharing by your story. God bless you and your children <3

  12. says

    My husband’s cancer diagnosis and treatment last year devastated our family and especially our daughter. Now I see that it had made her stronger. Thanks for showing that this is something that might last.
    Maria

  13. says

    Wow! This is my first time here, and I must say that your son sounds like a terrific, well-adjusted, smart, caring man.

  14. says

    Heatwarming to see how our sons emerge no matter how heart wrenching their paths. Took my breath away Darrylee.

  15. Em says

    Thank you for sharing your inspiring and moving story with us! I am deeply moved by your son’s courage and will power. Good luck to him in law school! That is fantastic! Thanks also to Walgreens and shot@life for making this comment count! :)

  16. says

    I’m crying good tears at this post…I have 3 boys and my youngest, only 9, is now being treated for a rare form of pediatric cancer. He has always been the sweetest, most laid-back kid and I constantly worry about how this challenge will affect his personality moving forward…will he continue to be the easy-going guy, or will he become anxious and fearful and angry, because he’s had to deal with such an unfair and difficult circumstance so early in his life? Your post has given me reassurance that he will emerge from this challenge as a stronger person, as well as even more empathetic and sweet than before. Thank you!!

  17. Julie Simon says

    Your description of Daniel so reminds me of my Jillian.
    “Daniel was the life of every party; but he was also mature, caring, gentle, instinctively the peacemaker in every group. He appreciated the simple precious gift of having parents; even one who lived far away.

    No longer did he mention that life wasn’t fair; he knew he was blessed, and very lucky. And he had an extraordinary sense of perspective and compassion for those who weren’t.”

    Her life challenge has been her adoption, which she deals with with magnificent poetry and expression.

  18. says

    Beautiful post. I can only imagine how much his help meant to his dad, but I can certainly appreciate how proud you are of your son. :-)

  19. V says

    D/

    I have been witness to the depth of character within Daniel and Alli, and how circumstances have strengthened it, for over twenty years. Its been a privilege to see the centeredness that the bond you have forged with your children has given all three of you. It has helped me immensely in my own growth and evolution.

    Love always,
    V/

  20. says

    “No longer did he mention that life wasn’t fair; he knew he was blessed, and very lucky. And he had an extraordinary sense of perspective and compassion for those who weren’t.”

    This is all I could ever wish for our children, I just wish you & your Daniel didn’t have to go through so much. Thank you for sharing your story for this so-important cause.

  21. Marilyn says

    Thanks, Darryle – that was a wonderful story and Daniel truly sounds like a warm, caring human being.

  22. Hal Ballard says

    Thanks for sharing, Darryle. I have 2 sons who lost their mother to an aneurism. While her death was sudden and unexpected, the strength they derived to see them through this was developed by her. THey are fine young men with families of their own now and my grandchildren provide me with treasures to keep in my heart forever.

  23. Nili Majumder says

    Great inspiring blog of mother and her child. This blogust is great learning. Wishing Daniel’s bright & successful life ahead.

  24. says

    Daniel sounds like quite a remarkable young man. I wholeheartedly agree that it’s hard for parents to watch their children live through such challenges (and it sure seems like you and your family have had more than your fair share), but you are also wise in recognizing that these challenges are exactly what make them such kind, thoughtful and generous souls. Thank you for this beautiful reminder of the good fortunes we have and for your help in preventing dangerous and deadly diseases through your participation with the Shot@Life campaign.

  25. says

    Darryle, I’m not surprised you have such a wonderful son — he has an amazing mother to learn from. This was such a beautiful story and made me cry. What could be better than knowing your child truly has the resources to take care of himself? Thanks for sharing this and doubling the good by sharing it for Shot@Life. xoxo

  26. says

    Just beautiful, Darryle. I just added a few tears to my morning coffee. There is one big thing my kids are growing up without that plagues me thoughts each day. Although my children are blissfully unaware of what they are missing, I worry how this will play into their futures, but reading this cements what I already knew, that kids can get past what we perceive are hardships and still blossom into wonderful young adults.

  27. Nili Majumder says

    Thanks for sharing Great inspiring blog of mother and her child.
    This blogust is great learning.
    Wishing Daniel’s bright & successful life ahead.

  28. Linda K. says

    You are still the beautiful person I remember from many years ago with a beautiful family as well. I am inspired by your writings!

  29. Sherri says

    Oh, Darryl…what an amazing human being you have raised. It doesn’t surprise me one bit.

  30. Dorit Reiss says

    I can’t say how touched I am. What an amazing young man Daniel is. I hope he continues to do well and wish him success in law school.

  31. Kathryn Bourgeois says

    Really inspiring and a reminder how to both let go…and hold on to what’s important.
    Thanks for sharing your story and supporting Shot@Life!

  32. TJ says

    Thank you for your post, it puts life in perspective. You have a wonderful son and a wonderful family! All the best!

  33. Kaelyn says

    I am so touched by this initiative. I am so excited to be a part of something like this. Thank you for writing and sharing this opportunity.

  34. Sharon Greene says

    Thank you for sharing your story. Like you, I was divorced early in my kids’ life and had cancer when they were 10 and 11. I am glad your sons turned out so well. I still worry about how these experiences will ultimately affect my children who are now 12 and 13.

  35. epage1 says

    All of our children are lucky to have been born in a country that allows vaccines. Thank u for writing about this issue.

  36. Jean B. says

    Thanks for this beautiful post, Darryle. I’m happy to do my very small part to bring vaccines to kids by writing this comment.

  37. Scala says

    Thank you for sharing, your son has a unique perspective and those experiences have influenced his life and will continue to do so.

  38. Judy Brooks says

    I consider myself one of the lucky ones to have been able to know Daniel and his equally wonderful sister, Alli, since day one of their lives. They have emerged from all their challenges as kind, considerate, intelligent, accomplished adults. They are, in fact, the children we all fantasize about when we decide to become parents.
    Good work, Darryle, Howard and V.

  39. says

    So glad you are healthy and that your son and daughter knew they were loved by their dad and now can see through all the memories what their devotion meant to him.

  40. says

    Hardship and suffering does grow us, but nobody wants those things for their children. Despite knowing for myself that some of my most important gains as a human being came from strife, I sought with all of my strength to shield my children from it.

    Watching that evolution from child to grown-up is hard. I’d rather have the pain myself than watch my children have any. My children’s pain hurts doubly hard, and there isn’t a danged thing I can do about it.

    Beautiful post, Darryle.

    Thank you for your contribution to such a worthy campaign.

  41. says

    Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing your story, Darryle. I think I’m hearing Kelly Clarkson’s song, “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger” playing in the background.

  42. says

    Oh Darryle, what a beautiful post. Daniel is the good and strong human being you nourished, and how he lived through and handled the hardships are the result of your love.

  43. Wally Coe says

    He will be fine. I still remember my parents sending me off to camp for 10 days 60 yrs ago – age 7. They were scared. I was scared. It was one the best best things of my childhood.

  44. Josette says

    I loved reading this story about your son Daniel. It brought back memories of helping to care for my own father through his cancer when I was 13, and also illustrates the kind of man I hope my 2yo son grows to be. Thanks for sharing, and thanks for participating in Shot@Life!

  45. says

    Darryle,
    You have truly raised some remarkable children through your own challenges. Daniel obviously learned a lot from you, his caring for Howard and taking on the responsibility of being his caregiver.

    You should be so incredibly proud…..I am for you and your children.

    You are certainly blessed my friend.

    Congrats on participating in Shot@Life! YAY #Walgreens.

  46. Don Wilkerson says

    Moving story. Your family has not been spared from life’s problems. The way you all have coped with them is impressive. Good luck to Daniel in his law career and to all of you.

  47. Rick and family in California says

    Thank you for sharing these deeply moving feeling and events involving your son. We are so sorry about all of the loss and pain you and your son have experienced, even though it has helped to make you the beautiful people that you are. My wife and I are both attorneys and we would be glad to be a resource for Daniel if he has questions during law school. Hopefully you will be able to see our email and let us know if he is interested. Either way, we wish you, Daniel and the rest of your family all the best.

  48. Richard Citron says

    That Daniel and Alli were remarkable kids who have become remarkable young adults is no surprise to me … but you knew that would happen early on. Or at least you thought you did. Perhaps you worried that you might be wrong. … that maybe love could have clouded your judgment. That wasn’t only parental angst. You’ve seen it happen within other parents. But you weren’t wrong. You were right. You’re blessed with two extraordinary kids that continue to amaze, delight and warm your heart. What can be better than that? Now you can exhale … at least a little. I know the feeling.

  49. Ava says

    Darryle, what you describe is both a mothers nightmare and dream — the nightmare of exposing your young child to the pain of loss and helpless followed by the miracle of his recovery and growth into a young man stronger, competent and caring because of the harsh experiences. Pain is not the best path to goodness, but it is comforting at least that when it must happen it can bring on some good and give others the gift of learning from that pain. Which is what you have done in your blogs time and again. Stay healthy, happy and kind.

  50. stacey ashlund says

    Thank you for your bravery & honesty – you’ve passed it on to your incredible son! Hope for fun & smooth sailing for him for a change – he deserves it! You’re a great mom – so wonderful you beat the odds! Thanks for supporting Shot@Life!

  51. Bobbiejo says

    I am so glad that Daniel did not let the hardships make him bitter but has instead blossomed into such a dedicated and caring young man. Life has become more precious to me as well due to going through times when I thought I might lose my own life due to health problems. By some miracles, I am still alive (thanks in part to a six organ transplant), and I hope that I can have the same response as Daniel to my challenges. Thank you for sharing the encouraging past and present of your son.

  52. Carla says

    Wonderful post. Daniel was always a sweet and caring boy and he’s grown into a wonderful young man.

  53. marla says

    A truly lovely post, Darryle. You have a wonderful son who will guide his own life with great grace and wisdom, all shaped by the experiences he has had. Keep us all informed as to his progress.
    And good luck in Los Angeles and with your new business endeavor.

  54. Edith says

    Beautifully written. A compassionate young man and a strong mother who guided him through difficult
    times. I wish you all good things in the future.

  55. Gloria Vermie says

    Your son is a joy– here’s to all the mothers who loved, parented and raised strong, dynamic, loving sons. Thank you for sharing

  56. Rebecca says

    This is such a heartbreaking yet heartwarming story. Your son has grown to be such a strong, caring, and independent individual. You are truly blessed!

  57. Colleen says

    Your son has such an amazing character. I love that you notice and appreciate it. Thank you for the lovely story, and for taking part in Shot@Life!

  58. Deborah says

    As always beautifully told Darryle and it’s so important that Daniel’s story is doing something to help less fortunate children.

  59. Cheryl says

    Wonderful writing. Those that experience more when they r young seem better equipped to grab on and live life better than those safe cocooned children. But choice design devine intervention, both your children are survivors and caring adults. Kudoos to you all. Prayers & blessings will follow ball three of you & angels arewwatching.

  60. TRo says

    This post brought me to tears! Thank you for sharing something so personal and you have been blessed with an amazing son. You write so well! I could see your life through your words.

  61. Jay says

    A wonderful read. All the best to you, Daniel and the rest of your family. Reading this made me appreciate the love, courage and support of my parents, and can only hope I can do the same for my kids.

  62. says

    Beautifully written, brutally honest, and heart warming as always. I was driving up north today for a wedding and you popped into my head–I remembered when you had cancer and how we thought we were going to lose you. I am so grateful that you are well. Ali and Daniel have surely been through a lot, but I think you can rest assured that they can take care of themselves. They are both wise beyond their years, and count their blessings. It’s hard to believe that Daniel is so young! Like me and my sister, they are incredibly lucky to have such an amazing mom…cheers to you!

  63. says

    I always wanted to keep my chlldren safe and cocooned and did my best to do that despite everything. I never would have chosen these experiences for them, but I think they are well equipped for the challenges that everyone faces. I think we all need to be survivors in some sense. Thanks so much for your good wishes.

  64. says

    It always feels worthwhile to write something that helps someone else appreciate what they have. Thank you for letting me know; and all the best to you and your kids.

  65. says

    There’s nothing harder for parents; and I hope this makes it easier for parents to see the rewards that can result from challenges. And also to remember how fortunate we all are. Thank you.

  66. says

    Totally agree; at this point in life, there’s nothing better than seeing your children become independent caring adults. Thank YOU for tripling the good by sharing. xxoo

  67. says

    How wonderful to hear from you, Akemi. I so relate to what you say; I agonized over so many things I thought my kids were missing and wish at the time I had the understanding you already have, that your children will blossom into wonderful people. How can they not with you as their mom? xxxoo

  68. says

    Your story sounds so similar! My heart goes out to you and of course I know exactly how you must be worried. I hope this gives you some comfort thinking ahead. I also think your children ultimately will take pride in your survival from cancer, as mine do now. All my best to you and your children.

  69. says

    I consider US the lucky ones to have had you in our lives all these years. Your support and caring and being there was a huge part of how all of us managed to get through the experience of cancer. I could never express how deeply grateful I am for all the comfort and love you provided all of us. xxxoo

  70. says

    Exactly right; it was a nightmare that turned into a dream better than I could have hoped. And I do hope others can learn how good can come from something bad. Thanks so much, Ava.

  71. says

    Ref-24 the best gift,At this phase of adult ,independent social responsibility should be understood by
    youth with parenting sensitivity,care,generosity ,inner divine feeling.Usual social life constraints may
    affect way of life of both youth&parenting.Health consciousness is vital life awakening process for both
    youth&parenting .Healthy negotiations&attention are resolution of negative social impact in between parenting&youth.Parenting sympathy with youth can lead goodness in future biological/married life
    of youth.

  72. Cheryl Berger says

    I can’t resist commenting for a good cause! You put in words so eloquently what all parents wish, feel and hope for their children. Our family’s motto is that difficult things in life make you stronger, and it proves true time and time again. You have a right to be very proud of both your kids, (and yourself, too). They did not get to be mensches without wonderful role models and guidance.

  73. Anu Ghatak says

    brought tears to my eyes…thank you for dedicating this one to unlocking a vaccine for a child who needs one

  74. says

    A six-organ transplant! You have already responded amazingly to life’s challenges; what a survivor you are! Thank you for sharing your story, and commenting.

  75. says

    Thanks for sharing this story. Dan sounds like an incredible guy who knows the true meaning of caring. I’m thrilled to be able to contribute to shot@life’s campaign to bring vaccines to those in need.

  76. Myra Goodman says

    Darryle, you have set a great example of putting your family first and the healing power of love. Daniel is one of my favorite young men. You’ve been such a great mom, and I am so grateful that you are here to be my friend and kvell over your wonderful son!

  77. Sue says

    Thanks for sharing the wonderful blog about your amazing 24 year old son! Loved reading it and knowing that you are helping so many children receive a much needed vaccine through Shot @ LIfe!

  78. Sandy Manheimer says

    Your many thoughtful and giving activities inspire me to be more ambitious (in a selfless way) and generous–like you!

  79. says

    Our challenges were tough on us; but so much less than what many children and parents face daily; such enormous challenges. Making them your partners is a great way to put it; thank you.

  80. says

    Thank you. We’re just examples of what parents and children face every day; managing to survive much much worse challenges. I feel incredibly blessed and lucky.

  81. BecSta says

    Your story brought tears to my eyes. I can’t imagine going through all your son has, but it is truly inspiring to hear how he has grown from these situations. Thank you for sharing.

  82. Erin says

    Daniel sounds like an incredible (and incredibly strong) person, and I’m so sorry for the loss of his dad. Thanks for sharing this story.

  83. says

    Thank you so much for writing this post and supporting Shot@Life! I’ve volunteered on the campaign since the beginning and believe so passionately in the cause.

  84. says

    What an amazing kid! I have a 24 year old also, but I can’t imagine him going through the kinds of experiences your son has. I’m glad that it turned him good rather than turned him fearful and insecure as it easily could have. That is proof of the resiliancy of the human spirit.

  85. Rachel says

    Your son s a very courageous and wonderful young man. Thank you fir sharing this emotional heart-tugging and beautiful piece.

  86. Netta Conerly says

    Alternately heartwarming and heart wrenching story. Best of Luck to your son on his career choice. Thanks for your article for Shot@Life.

  87. says

    The human spirit is amazing and amazingly resilient, as you say. I wouldn’t wish anything negative for your son of course, and I didn’t for mine, either. It is gratifying to see adversity turned into courage and character. thanks so much.

  88. says

    Beautiful post, Daryl. And your kids are beautiful too. You never do know what life will bring you, eh? But I know that this could help save a life—so feeling good about that! xo

  89. says

    I wouldn’t wish anything negative for your son of course, and I didn’t for mine, either. It is gratifying to see adversity turned into courage and character. thanks so much.

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