One night I was tired and achy, but it was too early to go to bed. Instead, I crawled up onto Rebekah’s bed so I could be with her while she finished cleaning her room.
Our roles reversed. She found her Strawberry Shortcake blanket and covered me up. She would occasionally set down what she was putting away and come over and caress my cheek with one of her soft kisses. She would stare at me adoringly, as if I were the most important person in the world.
Knowing that my upcoming surgery and hospitalization would be hard on Rebekah, I thought of a plan to help her prepare her for the inevitable. When I first had cancer, the kids went to Build- A- Bear and created a special monkey with six hearts in it, one for each kid, and with a voice box that says, “I Love YOU!” when you press her arm. Part of my cancer tradition with Rebekah has been to go the the Build-A Bear store each anniversary and buy a new outfit. I plan to have the monkey with the most outfits in the world, because I want to live many, many years. My plan was also to remember the monkey’s name, but that part hasn’t worked out so well. Little details have begun to slip through my mind like money through a teenager’s fingers.
About two years back, I found the identical monkey at the thrift store, so Beka and I have matching monkeys we love to dress and play with. When McDonald’s had baby BAB monkeys in their Happy Meals, we suddenly had a very large, adorable family.
I decided if I took the monkey to the hospital, Beka could help pack my suitcase and the monkey’s. That way, when she came to visit me, she could also change the clothes for me. Of course, this meant we had to plan a trip to Build-A-Bear to buy matching pajamas for our matching monkeys. I thought I had found a wonderful diversion and a way to make the countdown a little more pleasant.
I knew I needed to broach the actual separation of us being apart. “Beka, aren’t you glad that we have been getting used to being apart? I have gone on a few trips and Bethany has been taking care of you every Wednesday.”
After a few more minutes of chatting and cleaning, Beka stopped in her tracks and stood next to the bed, her sweet, little face twisted with sobs so large she couldn’t even exhale. I had her crawl onto the bed with me and we snuggled like spoons while she cried and cried. “You have been gone SO much!” I tried everything to console her.
When she had settled down, I asked her if she wanted to pray. I was shocked when she said, “No,” but I appreciated her reasoning. “I don’t want to start crying again.” I prayed with her and the tears began again.
After about 15 minutes, Daddy peaked his head in the door with the Daddy solution, “C’mon, Beka, come sleep with us.”
The next morning she woke up so happy and rested, and I was relieved. I asked her how she liked sleeping with us.
“Fine,” she said, but wrinkled her nose and continued, “but Daddy takes up a LOT of room!” A few minutes later I discovered where her thoughts had gone to in the following silence.
“I’m tired of cancer.”