20 Years

Philip and Nicole - 1994?

Philip and Nicole – 1994?

Sometimes, when I especially want to torture myself, I think of life as a long, long road made up of days that turn into weeks that turn into months that turn into years. And “20” is the number that keeps coming up. I’m 56. It’s conceivable I’ll live another 20 years. And I say, “No. I cannot. I cannot live 20 years without my son. I cannot become an old woman who’s lost her son so many years ago, who’s gotten older while he’s stayed the same.” It’s as if in 20 years he’ll be more dead, as if “more dead” makes any kind of sense.

So here are my two angels, Philip and Nicole. Nicole died 20 years ago today. Which means my brother and sister-in-law have lived that long without her. They were at the beginning of starting their family when she died. She was four, and her sister Christina was 18 months, the same age as Natalie. They went on to have three more children. That’s a whole hell of a lotta love.

Philip and Nicole are ten months apart – she is the older one. By the time Philip was a year and a half, he and Nicole were the same size and had the same curly hair. People often thought they were twins. I have many pictures of them together, and in some of them – like the one above – there is something very adult about the two of them. One of my favorites – one I can’t find – is where they’re leaning on a low stone wall, Philip with his navy cardigan and baggy plaid pants, holding a sippy-cup and looking to the side; Nicole in her flowered dress leaning on him with one arm around his neck. In another world, he’d be the tough guy with the drink in hand, she’d be the doll by his side.

What to say? I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to figure that out. I miss these children terribly. They’ve shown me how bloody harsh life is; they’ve also shown me just how madly I can love. My heart is breaking all over again. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

Here’s one more photo. October, 1994. Nicole has only weeks left to live. She looks well, her hair’s growing back after the chemo. So were the cancer cells that raged in her head. But I believe these two are at peace, and for that I am grateful.

Philip and Nicole, October 1994

Philip and Nicole, October 1994


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jmgoyder
    Nov 05, 2014 @ 03:41:07

    Their beauty and your pain brought me to tears. I send you much love.


  2. Denise Hisey
    Nov 06, 2014 @ 11:42:43

    They are so sweet and cherubic. I wish you much peace as you continue to grieve, Denise.


    • Denise
      Nov 10, 2014 @ 02:28:02

      Their sweetness both soothing and devastating. How can one heart break so many times? Don’t we all feel like that?

      Thank you for caring. You give a little room to breathe.


  3. grahamforeverinmyheart
    Nov 09, 2014 @ 14:27:32

    Such gorgeous children. It makes no sense at all. Life is unfair. Remember the days when we all used to sing and believe “all you need is love”…. How I wish that were true!


  4. SusanB
    Nov 12, 2014 @ 20:15:22

    Denise, I’m ashamed of myself for not coming here much sooner, your blog is a beautiful tribute to your life’s loves, your memories and your pain. These two children are at peace, yes, and for you and me and everyone else who lives a life without their kids, our forever peace will come.


  5. Denise
    Nov 12, 2014 @ 20:37:05

    Thank you, Susan – and you know there’s nothing to be ashamed of. I’m glad you came to visit. Your blog breaks my heart. I watched Nicole suffer through treatments, saw her slipping away from us…and when I read what you write I feel like I’m going through it with you, like I’m a ghost in your story. I wish I had a horse (I used to ride), I wish I could get on his back, give him his head and just go with it. Sometimes I can’t find air. I see the picture of you and your horse on your blog and I yearn for something I’m still trying to put words on.

    I don’t comment much, but know that I read everything you write. Your spirit comes through, loud and clear.


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