Pulling the IV Pole

by Tim on October 16, 2014

During Dale Jr’s most recent chemo treatment, he ended up back in the hospital. He got so dehydrated from vomiting after the second of the four days of infusions that he had to be admitted. So almost six months to the day after we left that inpatient pediatric oncology unit hoping to never have to go back, there we were again for another four-day stay.

He remembers everything about the last two times we were there, particularly the location of all the play areas. He was so weak the first couple of days that he could barely move, but he wanted so desperately to go up to the fancy playroom two floors above the oncology unit.

There was no way he could walk the distance. He couldn’t even walk much past the door of his room. So I found a wagon and loaded him in with his stuffed bird doll and a blanket. You could tell he felt awful, but he wanted to go so much that the medical staff suggested we at least try. I took the wagon handle in my left hand and the IV pole in my right, and I dragged it all behind me toward the elevators.

About halfway there, I was almost struck down with a vision of what I had seen in this place six months before.

Outside his room when he was first diagnosed in March, I saw a dad pulling a little girl in a wagon. She was wrapped in blankets, too weak to move. He dragged the wagon handle in his left hand, the IV pole in his right. They made laps of the oncology unit. As I watched them, I had this haunting feeling that what I was seeing was a prophecy of our future. I never imagined that it would literally come true.

I became that dad I wrote about. I wanted to fall to my knees, but I knew I couldn’t. We have to keep a brave front for him.

We made it to the floor the playroom is on even with my awkward ‘driving’ skills. Since the children’s hospital is located on a major college campus, a lot of college students volunteer there. I was rescued by two of them. One offered to push the IV pole the remaining few hundred feet to the play area while I pulled the wagon.

If you ever wonder what you can do for someone, carry a little piece of their burden for a bit by doing something practical. It doesn’t need to be much or for long. Just pulling the IV pole along for a couple of minutes matters.

This was the big playroom for the entire inpatient part of the children’s hospital. Children with cancer, severe burns, injuries from accidents or traumas, and much more all mingle together with volunteers. It’s like the center of the unfairness universe. But we make the best of it. The kids with cancer tend to get the most sympathetic looks and quiet words. Everyone here knows some of them won’t survive.

The kids play, and for a little while we forget what all is going on. He lasted about fifteen minutes until I had to take him back to his room. He slept for three hours. It was all heartbreaking. We were living on the other side of the prophecy. If I could have rammed that IV pole up cancer’s ass, I would have.

While he slept and I drank bad coffee from the parents’ pantry and ate from a stack of individual cups of chocolate ice cream, I tried to think about anything to be grateful about in all this. It turned out to be not all that hard really.

It’s the people who will walk to the edges of worlds to care for our children. These nurses and doctors walk toward the center of other people’s hell and do their best to help, to heal, to give hope.

The families find a bit of comfort in each other even if we’re often too busy attending to our own children to talk much. We are like strangers huddled under a shelter in a terrible storm.

We have all been offered platitudes by well-meaning people to explain why we are here in this place with our children. Those people will never really understand what it means to be here. They just need to make sense of it for themselves and maybe for us, too, in an attempt to avoid the feelings of terror we feel.

But what kind of divine plan can have children screaming as the chemicals burn a hole in their chests? What kind of plan can have parents’ hearts lying shattered on the hospital floors? What kind of plan decides which little ones live and which die?

The solace I find is that people care for us and help us, for whatever reason. Maybe it’s because of their faith. Maybe it’s because it’s simply who they are. Maybe it’s a combination of these and so much more. I simply don’t know.

The kids in the oncology clinic try so hard to carry the banner of bravery left for them by all the courageous souls with cancer who went before them. They, too, do not know how to quit. They inspire us. They teach us what is most sacred in life. They teach us that we don’t have time for all the petty things in life. Our time here is just too precious.

And somehow all this care and courage turns everything into a certain ragged grace that comes out in between the cracks of chaos and hope. It calls us on to follow the footsteps of those who have been out here before us. We are not alone, even if few will ever take the path we are on.

Is any of this fair? It almost doesn’t matter whether it is or not. We can curse the challenges and heartaches in our lives, but it does little to change them. Lately, I feel a bit less angry. I’m not sure why. I guess I realized it wasn’t making any difference except to harm me and others.

We are loved. We are pitied. We are embraced. We are sometimes just on our own. We try our best. We win some days and lose others. We hope in a good future because the alternative is too terrible.

Perhaps people see us as a symbol of how fragile life can be. Perhaps those who live fairly straightforward lives see ours as a rollercoaster precariously balanced on the edges of gravity. Some days are very hard. Some are pretty average. Others are extraordinarily amazing beyond words. But it’s quite obvious that the lives of others are not much at all like our own.

It’s hard to see this as a journey anymore. It’s neither a marathon nor a sprint. We live outside of time. It’s just today now.

We are exhausted, constantly worried about finances, short with each other, and desperately hoping for the days beyond all these challenges. We joke that autism is about eleventh on our list of things to be anxious about right now. We do know that ourselves of two years ago wouldn’t recognize who we have become.

We take heart in how much both our kids inspire others. They have gone through more challenges than most children end up facing their entire lives. So many root for them and want to help. They’ve pulled the IV pole for us whenever they could. I could never put into words what all this means to us.

My hope is that you find people like this in your own lives. We all need them. We aren’t meant to do this alone.


For the last eight years, we’ve worked to help our J-Man learn to say the ‘b’ and ‘p’ sounds. For most of those years, it’s sounded like this mixture of a glottal stop and a fake swallow combined, his lips and teeth open. In other words, about as opposite from an actual ‘b’ or ‘p’ sound as you can get.

A procession of speech therapists have tried a seemingly endless encyclopedia of techniques to help him with this. As he gained more and more verbal sounds, the sounds he used as his own approximations for ‘b’ and ‘p’ remained steadfast. He still has approximately the verbal speech of a two or three-year-old (he just turned nine), but the clarity of the speech he does have has improved in leaps and bounds in recent months.

It would be one thing if it were just us talking to him. We know what he means, and in that regard his glottal approximations haven’t made that much functional difference. We know, however, as he gets older and learns to express himself more and more, and the more clarity we help him achieve, the more he will be able to make his voice heard by others. Obviously when he gets older and grows toward adulthood, the more vital it is for him to be at least somewhat understood in situations anywhere from ordering lunch to advocating for himself to others.

So we kept trying. We tried every form of modeling the sound for him, but to no avail. We focused on getting him to close his lips – an essential component of bilabial sounds like ‘b’ and ‘p’ – but he would just touch his lips and then go right back to forming the sounds the way he always had.

Many years and approaches later, we noticed that the throaty, glottal noise was moving slowly forward in his mouth. We wondered if maybe he was ready and preparing himself to make a change. His speech therapist had the brilliant idea to substitute ‘b’ or ‘p’ for ‘m’ to get him to close his lips as a transitional step toward ‘b’ and ‘p’ later. So, ‘blue’ became ‘mlue’ or ‘muhlue’, ‘mink’ for ‘pink’, and so on. This finally seemed to click for him in a way nothing else had before. It got that frontal, similar, bilabial sound going and moved the sound forward in his mouth. We were getting there. We could feel it.

Then on occasion he would successfully make a ‘b’ or ‘p’ sound! It seemed rather random, but in reality it was primarily when he wasn’t thinking about it. Instead of overthinking it or remaining so invested in patterns that had built up over the years, it just popped out there.

BeautyWe thought about what a Herculean step this was for him after almost eight years, how much he stuck with it and did the work and the practice. I can’t imagine something being so hard, but yet him working at it for so long. It made us even that much prouder of him.

I recently had to go back to the Head Pain clinic in Michigan, this time by myself. Mary frantically was texting me that he was repeatedly making those elusive ‘b’ and ‘p’ sounds in songs and scripts at home. I asked her to make a video clip and send it to me. She did, and I sat on my hospital bed and wept, tears of joy and pride.

Tears that he had climbed to the top of this incredible mountain, and tears that I had been 700 miles away when he did. I had missed that moment. I am the primary stay-at-home parent. I have been here for just about every first of everything. A big part of me hurt. I know how hard he worked, and the time, talent, and energy a small army of people had put into helping his speech progress over the years.

I felt sorry for myself for a little while. I sobbed as I watched the video over and over again. Then I became grateful that moments like this are part of my life. I get to bear witness to my two brave, determined sons who conquer challenges great and small every day. They do not quit, ever. I am grateful that they make me a better father and a better man. Lord knows I need both of those things right now.

I am grateful for the people who work on their behalf to make these moments possible. These moments don’t appear out of thin air. They are the culmination of hundreds and thousands of hours of work by numerous saints who give their lives so that our children can have that chance to become the fullest possible expressions of themselves.

We start on the next journey now. There will always be a next journey. But now he can say words like beauty, bright, brilliant, believe, beloved, best, blessing, brilliance, bravery, possibility, potential, powerful, promise, peace, perseverance, progress, and proud.


The Screams

by Tim on August 26, 2014

In the J-Man’s classroom when a child is upset or overwhelmed, they may begin to scream. Perhaps they scream in frustration, anger, terror, or confusion. Perhaps they have no words except to scream. It may come out as a shriek, a brief and shrill alarm, a cacophonous string of high notes, or a bloodcurdling and unending scream.

When you’re in the classroom enough, you learn to know whose screams belong to whom. You learn from pitch, cadence, and duration what they likely mean. You learn when to be alarmed and when to be a calm but firm presence.

You learn how to pick your own child’s screams out of a sea of hundreds of voices and background noises. In a store, it’s like active sonar pinging you back toward them.

Some screaming you get less used to, assuming you do at all. The screams of terror at the dentist as your child flails and claws desperately to get away. The screams in the ER through which your barely verbal child asks, “When?” as you say, “It’ll be over soon.” The screams when it takes seven of you to hold him down to get an IV in.

No, I don’t think you ever get used to any of those screams. You often just retreat to some sheltered and shielded place inside some dark recess of yourself and hide, or maybe leave your body entirely, until at some point it stops.

RevivalThere are the screams of your minimally-verbal or non-verbal child who cannot tell you what hurts or how. There are plenty of verbal kids, too, for whom pain and body sensing are too abstract. They just know they hurt, and they want it to stop. And you feel powerless as you are left to guess what the body of your beloved child feels and needs desperately in that moment.

There are the screams of your neurotypical children who know exactly what is going on. They know their pain precisely and exquisitely. They scream in absolute terror, and you cannot stop the blood draw, the dental work, or the IV because they have to be done. They have all the words they need to express the bloodcurdling fear.

“STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT NOW NOW NOW NOW GET AWAY STOP IT NOW!” You try to soothe and reason with them, but that’s impossible. You even try to bribe, but they’re way past that. Even with all the additional tools you have in your arsenal with neurotypical children, terror is terror, beyond reach of anything except the pain finally stopping.

We have been in the pediatric cancer hospital and clinic. We have heard the screams of children enduring untold pain, the chemical war being waged in their own bodies. Their skin on fire, their weak bodies vomiting up bile and cancer, their legs failing them as they try simply to stand.

They stare blankly at the floor and the walls and their parents. Some are too exhausted to scream. Their screams are in their eyes, radiating from their souls. Some unknowable dark energy on that hospital floor turns your blood cold.

Eli screams when they draw his blood for the thirtieth time. He is just so tired of it all. He vomits what little is on his stomach and turns green. He is too sad to scream. He just quietly whispers, “When will I be done with the chemo?”

He goes to therapy now because he is showing signs of traumatic stress. He holds in so much screaming because he doesn’t know how to let out all that confusion, anger, exhaustion, terror, and hurt. His body has betrayed him. He is five years old. He has no language for this.

I see his face when he hears the other screams. Sometimes he just pauses and continues playing as if it’s not happening. But I know better. He’s the most observant child in the world. He has to hear it, but something inside him closes down, covers over that gaping wound to protect his precious soul. It is how he copes, and I respect it. Sometimes you can see he wants to go comfort whomever is screaming, but he is uncertain. He doesn’t know what he should do.

Maybe he innately knows Mr. Rogers’s advice that in times of great suffering, look for the helpers, and in the oncology clinic, there are so many helpers. He has such a good and loving heart. I want so desperately for him to come through this with that intact.

Another child a few infusion chairs away behind a curtain, screaming and trying to rip out the access needle from his chest. I see him later. He is going bald. You can tell he was once a strong, vibrant kid. He is angry that life has betrayed him. I want to cry.

I wonder if the doctors and nurses go home and scream sometimes, whether they drink their terror and break the bottle against the wall. They know some of these children will die. I don’t know how you make your peace with that. I think they are superheroes for every life they do save. But we are human, and we most often remember the faces we’ve lost.

In nearly every facet of my life, screaming is never far away. Blessed are those who choose to enter these hurt and uncertain places I’ve seen and seek to help others find rays of peace.

May those of us for whom this is part of our lives never become immune to it. May we instead find a way to accept our place in it, to soften our hearts to embrace those who need us rather than allow our hearts to harden against it all.

How do we do this? I have no idea. Many of us are here in this state of being because this is how the story of our lives has played out so far.

Maybe just ask whomever or whatever power or force greater than yourself that you believe in to help you. I don’t know how it works, but I think it somehow does.

Help me to soften my heart toward someone in pain rather than harden my heart and retreat inside myself. Help me to walk into dark and difficult places and show compassion to all who are heavy-burdened. Help me to be silent and hold a space of peace, mercy, and grace when there are no words. Help me to reflect the sound waves of the screams with waves of love and comfort. And when the screams are my own, help me to know that there are people holding me and my heart in theirs until I find my voice again.


“Is love available even here?”

by Tim on June 24, 2014

A wise friend of mine has this tattooed on her wrist. It reminds her of one of the most fundamental questions we must ask ourselves when life goes to pieces and hope seems so far away. 

This question has come to me often in our many hours in the pediatric oncology clinic. Of all the children we see, I know the inescapable truth is that some of them will not survive. There will come a day in the not-so-distant future when their bright smiles, indomitable spirits, and their endless courage will shine only in memories. 

Cancer is a cruel and evil monster. You cannot bargain with it. Its sole intention is to take over and kill. We live in the presence of an unfeeling, relentless enemy. We fight it down to the ground with our bare hands. Some of us will lose. It threatens every day to tear our lives to dust. 

But in the face of it, we can ask ourselves this question. Even in the midst of terror and the very end of hope, we can ask it. 

Is love available even here?

I see parents altered down to their DNA by fear. They have emptied themselves of everything they have to save their children, and have become shells of what I imagine they once were. Yet they carry on, hunched over by the weight they bear, determined, going on pure instinct and love. Covered in cracks, they threaten to shatter at any moment. But somehow, they never stop; they never quit.

I saw a dad bent low, exhausted, and leaning from shouldering the weight of the world, pulling his frail daughter in a red wagon with one hand and her IV pole in the other. He took step after step, lap after lap on the pediatric oncology floor. She was too weak to stand and could barely move in the wagon, propped up with blankets and pillows. I wondered whether she was a prophecy of our son’s future, and her dad of mine. But somehow, flowing from his hand, to the handle, to the wagon, and into her body was a wordless spirit and bond that would bear itself to the edge of doom. 

Is love available even here?

One family had been in that hospital for six months. They lived in a time outside of time, a place outside of place. Their entire universe had shrunk to a couple thousand square feet of hospital floor. Days were measured not with hours, but in good or bad, progress or setback. But somehow, they reached out to us, perhaps seeing in us the same terror they have seen in their own mirrors. They offered us encouragement, told us we would be strong enough, and then they returned to their child’s room having worn that path bare. 

A little girl of barely two, thinning hair and a nasal gastric tube came toddling into the play area and settled in next to Dale Jr. They played in a sort of slow motion. Their IV poles bumped into each other. They smiled at each other and seemed almost like kids again, like nothing bad had ever happened. Her mom laughed, and we laughed. Seeing our kids happy now takes on infinite layers of meaning. In those moments, the future stops, balanced between joy and terror. But somehow, our children hold hope for us within the present moment when we can barely breathe.

Is love available even here?

One child wrapped himself around his IV pole and stood on the base while his mom pulled him along. He was too physically weak to walk himself. He was pleased to be upright and moving briskly around the clinic again after his body had succumbed so much to the chemo. And his mom was happy that he was happy again. Everything around us remains unknowable. But somehow, in that moment they found joy wrapped around the same instruments that ravage his body. 

Two little girls, both bald from the chemo and swollen from the steroids, sat at the playroom table, each with IV poles standing like prison guards next to them. Bags of fluids dripped slowly into their arms, chemical warfare tearing their bodies down to scorched earth. Each day, they balance on the edge of a knife between death and the chance to rebuild their lives from the depths of their merciless cancer. But somehow, neither paid the IV poles or chemical weapons any mind. These things had become so much a part of their lives that they sometimes melt into background noise. 

They sat at the table together playing Candy Land. They are about my son’s age. They laughed with each other again and again as the game went on. They were once strangers, but somehow these unimaginable circumstances led them there to that game at that table on that day where they could laugh and be kids again. 

Is love available even here?

I saw the parents’ ashen faces. The staff paused and parted and give them space. I knew what this must mean. They faced the unspeakable question. There are no words anyone can offer. There can be only silence. But somehow, in the pausing and parting, the standing by and with, they were surrounded by those who will watch and wait, stand vigil through this total darkness until the day comes when it is time to speak again.

Is love available even here?

My own beloved son says, “The medicines give me bad dreams. I am scared of ghosts, monsters, and bad guys. It started when I started taking the medicines.”

He pleads with me, over and over, “Daddy, when can I stop taking the medicines? Daddy, please can I stop taking the medicines?”

I feel broken. No, it’s so, so much worse than that. I can’t find the words. All I can say to him over and over is, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

He covers himself in band-aids because he feels torn apart. He hides the king and queen deep inside the castle and surrounds them with knights and superheroes of every kind until there’s an impenetrable ring encircling the castle. This is how he speaks of his terror. 

He’s 5. This shouldn’t be happening to him. This shouldn’t be happening to any of them.

We learn to give him chemo at home ourselves to save trips to the clinic. I take extraordinary precautions to not spill a drop of it or get any on myself, yet I am injecting the entire contents of it directly into his chest. I have to suspend my emotions, tell myself this is the only way to save his life. He lays there, his vibrant energy flowing out as the chemo flows in to replace it. It flows into the cracks in his body and soul and pushes them apart even farther.

I spend the whole week of his treatments between the verge of tears and crying, floor-pounding rage. I hide my emotions from him. He is already bearing too much. His play therapist believes he is suffering from traumatic stress. He worries constantly about the house catching on fire or bad people breaking into the house, neither of which has ever happened. He locks the doors of rooms he’s in, even if we are with him.

He knows enormous words like antibiotics, histiocytosis, and heparin when he should be telling jokes about bodily functions with the other boys. 

Is love available even here?

Love is the only thing that can remain unbroken even against the full fury of these horrors.  We have been surrounded by people who feed us when our bodies are crushed and weary. We have been enveloped in the thoughts and prayers of family, friends, and complete strangers when our faith and hope in the future have faltered. Their acts of kindness have flowed through the empty places in our lives and renewed our faith in love and compassion.  

These stories and countless like them will go on. There are no tidy, happy endings. When we love someone fiercely and completely, we risk losing everything. We risk devastation, and we have so little control over any of it. 

But somehow, we choose to love regardless. It is what makes us human. It is what  gives our lives meaning and beauty.

It is why love with always be available, even here, even anywhere, whatever may come. 


When It Falls Apart

by Tim on May 2, 2014

It has been a long time since I’ve written anything. Life for us has turned into a never-ending series of challenges, challenges unlike any we’ve ever faced.

As some of you know, I was hospitalized in Michigan right before Christmas for almost two weeks in an intensive program to try to cure my 24/7 migraines. This worked… for a while. Even with this period of decreased head pain, the aftermath of the previous year – most of which was the product of my own horrible decisions – replaced it. Then within a few weeks, the headaches returned, and everything merged into something that left us surviving from day to day.

Then it got worse. Much worse.

In late February, Dale Jr. was complaining that his right arm hurt. We thought he had perhaps fallen on the playground at school or while playing with our friends’ kids. But it didn’t improve, and he certainly wasn’t faking it for attention. He couldn’t put weight on his arm and was constantly guarding it against his body.

So we took him to the pediatrician, who seemed convinced that we were overreacting. Dale Jr. passed a full range of motion test. But the pediatrician said just to be on the safe side that he’d order an X-ray to see if perhaps he had fractured his clavicle or had some other kind of injury that might not readily show up during an exam.

What ultimately showed up was something we never could have expected, something that would instead completely change our lives.

The X-ray detected a small mass on his right first rib, enough outside the focus of the X-ray to be unable to get a good look at it. So they immediately called him back in for a CT scan of that area. Within no time, they called us – at off hours on a Saturday – with the results. They weren’t good, but they couldn’t be more specific than that. We were told to immediately report to the North Carolina Children’s Hospital for direct admission to the Pediatric Oncology floor.

We heard the word ‘oncology’ with horror and disbelief. All we could do was throw together some luggage and leave within an hour, having no idea what was going to happen next.

The next days were like being cast into a cauldron of denial, desperate hope, and abject fear. We felt like we were in a bad dream we would wake up from any minute. We fell into that trance of just getting from hour to hour.

We took walks around the Pediatric Oncology floor. He played in the play areas, rode tricycles up and down the hall, and chatted up the nurses, doctors, and the other kids, like nothing was really going on. In time, he began to ask questions about why he couldn’t eat, why they were doing so many tests, why he had to have all these things stuck into his arm. He worried about the other children there too weak to stand and walk on their own. He asked why they had little or no hair. We never figured out whether he feared that would be him someday. I know we did.

We tried to shelter him from all this fear and the complete unknown we all faced. But who can really stand against something like this.

After several days in the hospital, the tests came back that he had multiple areas in his chest and abdomen that were growing abnormally. If it came back positive for some form of cancer, it would be classified as metastatic, and his odds of survival would involve numbers we would not be able to speak aloud. There were other things it could be, each with increasingly better odds for getting to a place beyond this nightmare. We knew it would be something; at that point we just begged for him to be able to live.

We had to wait the better part of another week for the pathology results. We paced the floor. We barely slept at first and then just started collapsing after that. We begged for him to be shown mercy. We begged to be allowed to take this from him and bear it for him.

We walked into the exam room together to hear whatever the doctor had to tell us. As I crossed the threshold of that door, I remembered all too clearly the walk, almost six years ago to the day, into a doctor’s office to hear the diagnosis of autism for our J-Man. That day felt like the end of the world, though in hindsight I now know it wasn’t. The more we learned from that day on, the more experience we got, the more we realized that so much wonder and beauty would permeate our lives. I clung to that for dear life.

This time the stakes were infinitely higher. Autism will never be cancer. But over these years, our J-Man had already taught us how to bring forth the very best of who we are. I never could have imagined how much we would need what he has given us. I had to believe that we would again rise to whatever was coming next.

The results came back that Dale Jr. has Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis (LCH). It is extremely rare (1 in 200,000) and is currently a lifelong condition, but the treatments are relatively manageable and the outcomes are good. The doctors said they actually cheered. It could have been so, so much worse, and they had feared it was. We all exhaled.

dale-jr-capeIt is an unusual disorder in that it has properties both of cancer and an autoimmune disorder. In the upside-down world of oncology, this really was the best possible outcome for him. Other cancers could have meant survival rates as low as 25% or worse. With LCH, when caught this early, if he responds positively to the treatment protocols, his future prospects are excellent.

But in the meantime, he must get weekly chemotherapy treatment for at least 12 weeks. If the resulting scans show that his lesions have adequately shrunk or disappeared, then he can go to monthly treatments for another nine months or so, for a total of a year of treatment. After that, he’ll get regular scans, and we just pray it never comes back.

Because of all this, we had to withdraw him from preschool. He was devastated. They have rallied around him even in his absence, lavishing love, gifts, and their sincerest thoughts and prayers upon him. We went back to his school for a brief visit one day, and they treated him like a rockstar coming home. The church the preschool is part of has cared for us like their own family.

We recently learned that after his first six treatments, his lesions are indeed shrinking. He crossed the first major hurdle on his path back. He should get to start kindergarten on time in August. Hope is being reborn.

We are so proud of him. He has faced all this with amazing bravery. He has a port in his chest, scars from two surgeries, and has all sorts of things done to him weekly. Yet, he takes it all in stride. He asks lots of thoughtful questions. He comes to us and talks about being afraid, with no shame or self-judgment. We are basically nervous wrecks. He is a superhero.

We worry that he is having to grow up far too fast. He should be back in preschool playing on the playground and telling jokes with his classmates. But he has accepted this with grace, and I imagine someday it will serve him well.

We look at our two boys and realize something extraordinary about them both. They teach us time and time again how to be brave in the face of challenge and adversity. They show us about kindness in the midst of fear and uncertainty. They take steps forward into the unknown every day. Do the next right thing; that’s all. Worry about the rest later.

They bring out the best in others. People love them. They each call forth something deep and beautiful from within everyone they meet. We face many hurdles ahead, but we can most certainly be grateful for this. They are already building the community they need, and we need, to thrive in the months and years to come.

In his minimal, halting speech, our J-Man recently put together the words ‘family’ and ‘together’. Dale Jr. tells us how much he loves us at least a dozen times a day. Out of the shattered fragments our lives had become, they are living out what is most important. And I am their pupil once again.

And this is how we will rebuild.