My mother signs my name
in the blood of my enemies
and refers to this as her only contract.
Max Ritvo was a brilliant poet who died three days before Sam, from Ewing Sarcoma, Type 2. His mother is my dear friend. We were, and are, allies.
Max writes about his warrior mom, Ari, while she stood on the front lines of the battle for his life. I know that battle too. Being a mom created in me a brave, scary kind of intensity toward fighting for my kids. Last year, I spent Mother’s Day in the hospital and was proud to hear Sam say, “I think the doctors are afraid of her.”
I hope Natalie knows I would fight for her with an equal intensity and love.
This morning I woke before dawn, and headed to Council Crest, a beautiful park above the city I used to hike up to, straight from the hospital. When family came to give me a break during long chemo stays, I could walk out the back door of Doernbecher and catch a trail through the west hills to Council Crest for quiet moments of reflection and desperate prayer. There is one lone statue of a mother playfully holding her son up to toward the sky and I’ve always been jealous of that blissful, carefree sort of image (above). It’s been a long, long time since life was pure delight. I did my heavy grieving this morning before 6:30am. I talked to Sam. I told him again, "I'm so sorry," "I miss you," "I love you so much." I let out some fierce tears. I think that allowed me to survive the rest of the day. Grieving is essential and when it's time, I hit it hard.
Sorrow is a part of me now and I don’t suppose it will ever separate from me. I’m just learning to carry it with grace. Thankfully, joy and sorrow can co-exist and I am capable of both. Joy is not common among bereaved mothers. Somehow, I'm able to find it.
My sorrow comes from immense loss, and the loss was so substantial because of my great love for Sam. Maybe that’s why I don’t mind the sorrow.
I don’t hate today. Some of my bereaved mom friends do, and we need for you all to give us the freedom to feel how we need to feel, even though it looks different for each one of us. We still speak the same language of loss. It was hard, but there is something about Mother's Day that causes me to feel close to Sam. Love. Touch. Memories. Our bond. I love being his mom.
I did some digging today, as it turns out, Mother’s Day started in honor of a bereaved yet compassionate and driven mother who poured herself into preventing the deadly illnesses plaguing children like her own in the late 1800’s. Her name was Anna Jarvis. You can read her story in TIME Magazine here. I am far from that kind of nobility, but I like to believe I speak her language of loss and passion for change as well.
My first Mother's Day without Sam is almost over. I survived. Maybe it's because my daughter is just as remarkable and her bond with Sam also keeps him close. How did my kids turn out so beautiful? I really can't take the credit.
I miss Sam more than words can describe. He was.....he was Sam. He was my son and I am as proud as a mom can be. My heartbeat. My son. Mother's Day brings me close to the love I have for my kids. I expect you mom's can relate to that.
*Max Ritvo's poetry has been recognized and praised by The New Yorker and MANY other publications around the country. The rest of his poem "Giving Her 100%" can be read here. He was brilliant, authentic, heartfelt, and he loved his mom. Max primarily wrote about his battle with Ewing's. His book "Four Reincarnations" was published just weeks after this world lost him. I am so grateful he left us his art. I desperately hope he and Sam have finally connected in their spirit filled ways beyond our understanding. No doubt they would enjoy each other. They loved their moms.