Exactly one year ago today, almost to the very moment I am typing this, was a day like any other. I woke up at 6am, got my boys us to get ready for school, got them onto the bus and I went off to work. There was nothing unusual about anything. The night prior, the same thing. I always make sure to try to keep weekday evenings during the school year as routine as possible. I come home from work, kiss the boys hello and ask them how their days were, go upstairs to change, come downstairs and pour myself a glass of wine and relax for about 15 minutes before getting up to make dinner. During this time, the boys get showered and finish their homework so that we can all eat together, talk about things, and spend quality time together. After dinner, we cuddle on the couch and watch TV before they are told it's bedtime. So, off they go, always complaining that it is too early for bedtime and how none of their friends have to go to bed that early etc. What they don't realize is that I know that by the time they get upstairs, brush teeth and finally get settled in, it's hours later anyway. Three boys tend not to just go straight to sleep, as they talk, talk, talk, so the routine bedtime was based off of the assumption, and confirmation that no one would be asleep before 9:30/10:00 anyway. And, the fact of the matter is that the bus comes at 6:45am, and I knew full well by experience that getting three sleepy, grouchy little fellows off to school is no easy task.
Nothing was different. Yet - everything was completely different. Had I known that the moment I kissed him goodbye and got him on the bus would be the last time I would ever see my baby alive again, I would have never let him go. Every single day is painful for me. Every day something new will remind me that Shane is not here with me.
My grief and despair is equally as bad now as it was that day - one year ago. April 25, 2018 - what seemed to be a perfectly normal day immediately and unexpectedly turned into the worst day of my life.
Donating Shane's organs wasn't even my idea. The truth is, I was in deep shock, denial and heavily medicated. It was Shane's brothers - grieving kids themselves - boys who lost their childhoods forever that day - who were able to think of others - you - throughout the worst time of their own lives.
I say this because I want you to get a perspective, an idea of the goodness and beauty that live within my children. Their selfless natures are only one teeny fraction of the blessed qualities that each of them possesses, and this is something that you should know.
I have written this letter, because I need you to know who Shane was, and how exquisite of a human being he was, and how his spirit is, and will continue to inspire many. You are now an inherent part of my soul, my baby, my love, my 'monkey bear' (this was my nickname for Shane because when he was a baby he would climb up my body like a little monkey climbing a tree, and wrap his arms and legs around me like a koala bear = Monkey Bear). You have been given a gift far greater than I believe you will ever know.
I must admit something. Because I am writing this letter from a place of truth. While, as a fellow human being I am deeply happy that you have a future that perhaps you did have not one year ago today, the instinctual and maternal piece of me - the MOMMY - feels resentment I never knew I'd have. I am an honest, good person - but I am also a mom who lost her son. A person who will most certainly never feel true happiness again, because there will always be something missing.
I now have only two kids to count, not three. My instincts still (and likely always will) prompt me to get three of everything: 3 Easter baskets, 3 donuts from Dunkin Donuts, 3 hoodies when I can get away to surprise them with a present from my travels, 3 kids to feed, cuddle and love. Three to two becomes an infinite void that will never be filled.
Right now, there is someone on this earth with Shane's beautiful heart. A heart that was certainly crafted from fine gold. An open, caring, loving heart. A heart that only felt the good in this world, that turned a negative into a positive no matter what (even when Santa said he wouldn't bring anything but coal - Shane was happy that mommy could have a warm house and maybe one day a big diamond from said coal). A heart filled with empathy I have yet to find in another human being. A heart so precious, that Shane would give away his prized possessions because he just loved to make others happy and always spoke about the looks on their faces when he did. So, whoever you are - you need to know how truly special that heart is that is now beating with life inside of you, each beat feeding you with the life that I so long to still have with me.
Please take great care of that heart and continue to spread the love that Shane so selflessly always did. And, each time you feel its rhythm - I ask that you try to think of Shane, one of the most amazing human beings there ever was - as a final gift from him - to you.
I wonder if you are reading this because you are now able to see through Shane's eyes: If you can see the sheer beauty in the world, in the littlest things, as Shane always did. If you are able to read this, you need to know that Shane saw the world differently than most people. Shane found goodness and beauty in everything, and everyone. Not only did Shane compliment people, even strangers (we used to call it the 'Miss Crabtree moment - if you know the Little Rascals, you know what I mean), Shane was known for finding the shape of a heart everywhere we went, no matter where or when - there was always a heart to be found: in raindrops, clouds, strawberries, stones, shadows, anything - I can go on and on.... That says a lot about him, I think.
I also called Shane my "rainbow hunter" because after a storm, Shane seemed to always be the first to find the rainbow in the sky. Trust me, there was a competition. So, if you are one of the people who can see through Shane's eyes - the next time you notice a heart - or a rainbow - or simply see beauty in something, no matter how insignificant it may seem - please know that Shane was beautiful too - inside and outside. And, oh, his eyes. His beautiful almond-shaped, brown eyes - perfect eyes - I always asked him where he thought he got them from because they were unlike any in the family. Those perfect eyes perfectly symbolize the person Shane was: just beauty and perfection, unlike any other.
I've heard that someone received Shane's lungs - The lungs that breathed life into my baby's body. The lungs that filled with the air of joy or anticipation on Christmas morning, before he blew out his birthday candles on his cake, waiting for a Broadway show to start, the night I won a cooking competition for our family's Sauerbraten recipe: That deep inhalation of breath, of life, air that was slowly released or quickly exhaled - depending on the situation.
I cannot tell you how many times Shane and I were together walking, usually hand in hand (he was not ashamed of me, thankfully!) - making memories and just talking about things. I am so grateful that I have never taken a moment for granted. Every breath Shane took was one taken with gratitude by me. I pray that you feel that gratitude as well, because the breaths we each take on this earth have a finite number - while Shane's has ended - yours has begun, and each breath you take please try to remember how pure and awesome they had been being protected by my Shane.
Each year at Halloween (our favorite, and it was a huge deal in my house - we even made our house and barn into walkthrough haunted houses), Shane would have a vision in mind as to what he wanted to be. But, it was never (not once) the typical costume selected by someone his age (example: I took him to Alcatraz when he was just old enough to know what Halloween is (and to show him what can happen to 'bad people'), and in the two weeks until Halloween, Shane decided he wanted to be 'The Birdman of Alcatraz'. Since then, his costumes became even more specific and the last two years of his life, his specific vision required that he sit in a chair for over two hours, with me painting a special glue to his face used for such purposes. He sat there so patiently, and I had no idea what I was doing, other than the occasional break to watch a YouTube instructional video. He didn't complain, but all I kept thinking was the fumes he could be breathing into those precious lungs, so all of the windows were open, and I made him take breaks to ensure he was OK. I was so careful to make sure he didn't inhale the fumes - so that I could protect the lungs that now protect you. But, when he was finally able to see the final result, the massive inhalation of surprise and giddiness, his face beaming with excitement and pride knowing that I was able to transform him into what he had envisioned in his own mind.
The lungs that now fill with air, used to be filled with gratitude, pride and joy. I can tell you more often than anyone I have ever met. The lungs that gave my baby boy life, the second he was born and that anticipated newborn baby cry - now belong to you. So, please take the time to smell the flowers. This is something Shane and I did all the time. Perhaps he knew his time was short, perhaps he knew he had a reason. I will never know, but I ask that you understand this. Please take the time to appreciate the things that most people take for granted. For, this is what life is about.
I want you to know that I have dedicated my life to ensuring that what happened to Shane doesn't happen to another child.
Hate kills. Hate killed Shane. The one with the golden heart, eyes that see only beauty, and lungs that beam with the joy of being alive.
I wish I could have prevented his heart from being broken because of the cruelty of kids that will likely never know the love everyone has for Shane.
I wish I could have wiped the tears that must have streamed out of those beautiful old-soul eyes that fell down his beautiful face.
I wish I could tell him how much I love him, cuddle with him, hold his warm hand and feel him just breathing precious air. I just want him home safe, with me.
Please know that while I am extremely happy for you, and we may never even meet, all I ask is that you PLEASE, PLEASE take good care of yourself. Because as long as you are alive, a part of Shane is alive too, and this brings me comfort.
Very sincerely yours,
Sandy - Shane's mom
My name is Sandy, and I am Shane's mom. Since his (ugh, I still can't admit it's happened) death I have kept a journal of thoughts as they came to my head.