Kate only got one “first day of school” milestone under her belt. She went off to preschool in September of 2015 and posed for Mommy’s 286 pictures with such pride…sitting there in her sweet little sundress from cousin Lynn and her lime green hair bow. She was so ready for school and she just blossomed in the four months she spent there, molded and shaped and loved by three of the best teachers to grace the profession.
Kate had only just returned to school for four days after Christmas break when she relapsed and passed away in January of 2016. Her teachers were only mildly aware that she’d been battling something over break – a cough, allergies, we weren’t sure what. Man, if that’s not a true statement. We weren’t sure WHAT.
The preschool graduation that followed that spring wasn’t something I really thought about. In those early days of the grief fog and haze, the things I thought about most were what I was missing of our past. NOT what we would be missing of our future. It wasn’t until the fall last year and what would’ve been her first day of elementary school that I really started to feel the pain of missed milestones. I posted a photo on Facebook of an empty front stoop…our version of the first day of school picture. That photo went a smidge viral and shared the harsh reality of what parents like us faced on these missed milestone dates.
Now, with what would’ve been Kate’s graduation from kindergarten among us (literally this week in our county,) I am feeling so angry for all that she was robbed of. The haze and fog lifts every time a new milestone is missed and this is no exception.
Truth is though, I don’t know if she would actually have been with her classmates or not. My heart (or my mind; I can’t quite decide which) tends to protect me from the reality that we faced had Kate lived. When I think of that time, I think of Kate healthy, happy…then gone. I rarely address or admit to the REASON she had to go.
Reality, had she survived, would have been grim. January 2016 would’ve seen us at least a month, probably more, inpatient at the hospital for brutal chemo that would’ve (hopefully) shocked the leukemia into remission once more. From there, we’d look and search for the best hospital, trial, bone marrow transplant unit, etc. and start making arrangements to be far away from home – and each other – for quite a while.
I don’t know all the specifics about BMT and how long one has to wait before a match is found. I don’t know what happens in the meantime. More chemo? Inpatient? At home? I have no clue. But I do know that we’d likely have moved away – Cincinnati, Duke, somewhere. The process of a BMT is brutal. (This I know.) Had she survived that, she’d have been in isolation from almost everyone. For a long while. Truth is, I don’t know when we would’ve come back home and when she’d have been gifted the opportunity of school again.
I don’t know if I would’ve had a kindergartener ready to graduate this week or not. Cancer didn’t let me find out.
And that’s just it. Today it’s kindergarten graduation. In a few months it’ll NOT be the first day of school. Again. And again, and again and again until she misses every promotion ceremony from school to school. High school graduation and college acceptance. Proms and homecomings and life and more life. For the rest of MY life, I will wonder what HERS would’ve become.
I don’t know if I would’ve had a kindergartener ready to graduate this week or not. But Kate Olivia…I would give my life to have yours back. Even the worst of your days would be a blessing for you to get the chance to earn these milestones.
I love you beyond measure and I wish to God I’d gotten the chance to hear you read to me. Pick out your favorite book and I know you will once I get there. One day closer to you, my love.
I love you. I miss you. Best friends forever. I promise.