Saturday, February 28, 2004

For Amy - originally published June 30th, 2001 in The St. Catharines Standard
[co-written with my wife Sheri]

We sat on a park bench that day, quietly eating our lunch of hamburger value combos. Drew, unaware of the somberness of the occasion, ran from tree to tree, hamburger in one hand, a clutch of fries in the other. To him it was just another day in the park. But it wasn’t just another day, it was Amy’s birthday. And this beautiful setting wasn’t a park; it was Mount Osborne Cemetery.
For as long as I have known Sheri, we have made this pilgrimage every May, to celebrate the birth date of a child whom I’ve never met. A child I love and know through the memories my wife holds and cherishes within her heart.
Before Sheri and I met, she was engaged to another Matthew. When Amy was born, they thought they had the perfect baby. After a while they started to notice that Amy wasn’t eating well at all. She cried every time she ate. After seeing her weekly for months the doctor couldn’t find anything wrong with her and wrote it off as gas.
Then, on Christmas Eve of that year, with the baby having a fever of 104 and obvious trouble breathing, they went to the hospital. She was rushed to Hamilton’s Children’s hospital at MacMaster University, where after a few days and lots of medical tests, the doctors discovered the presence of a rhabdoid tumor in her liver and, unfortunately, it had already spread to her lungs. This rare form of cancer usually strikes in young children. The survival rate is almost nonexistent. The doctors warned that Amy would most likely die because at a mere 12 pounds she was way too small for chemotherapy and two years away from being able to have radiation therapy. After the operation, she spent 28 days in ICU. The doctors warned that this day was the day she would most likely die at least six times, but miraculously, she got well enough to be transferred to the Children’s Ward. She received two rounds of chemotherapy but unfortunately they were ineffective. She never left the hospital. On February 23, 1996 Amanda Marie Roach passed away. She was nine months old less three days.
When Sheri and I met in that coffee shop, Amy had been dead less than eight months. My mother had died less than three years before, and as I’ve stated before, I was very effective at using that time to do absolutely nothing. Well, nothing I’m proud of anyway. My mother died of a massive heart attack brought on by clogged arteries and years of hypertension. Her death was sudden, and I never had the chance to say good-bye. I miss her terribly. And sometimes I’m angry with her for not looking after herself better. But mostly, I just miss her. Patricia Evelyn Perras-Jamieson died in the early hours of February 12, 1994. She was only 43.
All this stuff was going through my head that day as I watched Sheri kneeling at her daughter’s grave. I sat on the park bench, baby Joey cooing as I held him in my arms. Drew kneeled on the ground in front of the bench, a look of concentration on his face, as he pushed his fire truck back and forth on the wooden bench slat.
I’ve come to the conclusion that we’ve been sad long enough. As time passes we are healing and gradually letting go of the past. Even though we think about our lost loved ones every day, they are not at the front of our thoughts all of the time anymore. I never thought the day would come that I would feel happy again, that I would go a day without feeling that really empty void in my life. Grief and sorrow have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. And I’m sick of it. I don’t want to be sad anymore. I don’t want to be miserable or depressed. I want to enjoy my life, my kids, and my wife.
Sheri stepped away from the grave and looked over at the three of us sitting, waiting for her. “I’m through with being sad. I know that there will always be someone missing from each of our lives, but I think that I’m ready to say that it’s ok. Come on boys,” she said, “Let’s go!”


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