We lost our precious lil' love to AML Leukemia on March 8, 2010. As an incredibly strong family unit, we fought this horrid disease for 2 1/2 years........only for it to come back a fourth time to finally claim Hunter's life. Zen and I are truly devastated and the beautiful light that used to brighten our days and enhance our souls, no longer exists. Our hearts are truly and forever broken. We have a long journey ahead of us, but we are committed and devoted to surviving and living our life embracing Hunter's amazing spirit. With tremendous honor, we will carry on his legacy of love, his legacy of courage and his remarkable ambition to live strong, live fearlessly and live with passion.

You will remain forever in our hearts baby love. We carry you with us every moment of every hour of every day.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Rough Day

Just not sure how to quite begin this posting. I feel as if I've already said, expressed, written, and cried out all the possible things that we've felt over the last 6 months. I feel as if I can only say "We miss our lil' man", "we are so, so sad", and "we are totally devastated over our tragic loss", so many times. I am starting to feel like a broken record.

It's been almost 6 months that we've held Hunter's loving lil' body in our arms and listened to his sweet, innocent and cheerful voice. It's been almost 6 months that our lives were forever turned upside down and our hearts were forever broken into a million different pieces. It's been almost 6 months that we've been without our lil' love, without his smile and without his touch. The pain is still there and it's running just as deep, if not deeper.

I still cry myself to sleep some nights.......and there are times that I still cry when I wake. The images and memories of Hunter that cross my mind just completely wreck me. He was my lil' warrior. He was my precious lil' love that stole my heart and made me care about nothing else in the whole entire world - except for him and his safety.

I know that it's going to get better. According to all the moms and dads out there that have reached out to us and have graciously shared their experiences..........they say it gets better and that the pain is not as horrible as what we are experiencing right here and now. That the shock and disbelief do eventually fade.

Well, I am still in shock. I am still in disbelief. And I am still in a great deal of pain. So far.....it hasn't gotten any easier.

We pulled up one of Hunter's videos last week to pass it along to a dear friend of ours, and at first it was like I didn't want to go there. I didn't want to have to go sift through his life to find the one we were looking for.........there are too many. I had been putting it off and putting it off and then finally I said to Zen, "I need to find the video of Hunter on the beach in Australia for Wendy". He kindly went to his computer and pulled up what he had archived on his drive and as soon as the Hunter videos started to load with photos.........he immediately looked it over and closed it. "It's not here", he said, must be on the back-up drive upstairs. So I simply said, "I'll go look for it up there and will not torture you any longer. If I'm not down in a few minutes or if you don't hear anything from me....please come up and check on me".

Sure enough......after about 10 minutes of silence, he shouted upstairs, "are you ok"? I couldn't even answer. I was upstairs at the desktop........in a deep trance.........sobbing. As soon as Hunter's beautiful lil' face popped up and all the videos started showing his smile and his fun energy and all of our happy and sad times.......I got stuck. It was like I was dying and our life was flashing right before my eyes. All the pain came rushing back, all the memories immediately surfaced, and once again......my heart was crushed. I felt as if I was going to vomit it hurt so bad.

Zen rushed upstairs and held me tight and then looked over my shoulder as I continued to try to find the one particular video we were looking for........we were both destroyed. Destroyed for the day. We couldn't recover. It was like we were in a time warp and I personally felt as if I was walking around like a zombie all day long.

At around 7pm, we went and sat outside to watch the sunset and the flood of tears came rushing back. Zen took one look at me and knew what I was thinking about and joined me in my extremely heartbreaking thoughts. We sat out there and remembered Hunter and talked about him and his life and how we wished his life would have been different. We talked about all the pain he went through and how he always went through it with a smile. He made the absolute best out of every moment and we wished so desperately that he had MORE wonderful moments. We wished that he would have had MORE time to play and feel good.......more times when his body wasn't under attack from either the cancer or the chemo. I wanted him to have a life full of so many more happy experiences......where his body wasn't aching or too weak to move. I wanted him to be back in our arms, sitting on the back deck, watching the sunset with us.........like we've done before.

It's just so final. It's just so painful. It's just so cruel. We feel as if we'll be punished for the rest of our lives. I know that there are lots of really wonderful things that have come out of Hunter's life and his fight and all that we went through. We have found beauty beyond belief........beauty in life, beauty in people, beauty in ourselves. But the bottom line is that he's not here. He's not here to hang out with Ryder and be the amazing big brother that we knew he would be. He's not here to show him how to be strong and how to be courageous........even in the most difficult circumstances. He's not here to play with him and show him how cool Lightning McQueen is and introduce him to the rest of the gang. He's not here.............

And sure - we'll take him as an angel. But angels don't sit down at the dinner table with us, angels don't come with us to the park and slide down the slides.........angels don't ask for juice or come and grab your hand to walk you somewhere....or wipe your tears....the way Hunter would. We just have to assume he's "around" or "present" and sometimes - that's just not good enough. In fact, most times it's not. But unfortunately..........that's all we've got.

So we'll continue to live our days, missing Hunter, loving Hunter and remembering him and his amazing life. We will show Ryder just how cool he was and let him know that Hunter knew Ryder was on his way to join our family. When I was just 4 months pregnant with Ryder, Hunter would gently pat on my belly and say, "mom........baby". He knew he was going to be an older brother and he'd rub it so nicely and smile. Such a sweetheart. So kind. So loving. Always so gentle. Such a wonderful lil' guy.

Hunter cracking up as he spits out his medicine that we would have to mix with chocolate pudding to get him to take it. It wasn't long before he caught on to our tricks!

Sitting so patiently getting his cool mohawk when his hair started falling out.

His broviac port in his chest that we would have to bandage up for tub time.

He looooooooved getting smooches from dad...........always.

The best day of our lives. Hunter had an amazing day and we thought we were on on way to him fully recovering from his bone marrow transplant. We found out 2 days later that his cancer had returned for the fourth and final time. Now that Hunter is gone.........we are starting to realize how good we had it. Hospital or not, cancer or not, he was with us and we were "getting through it", doing whatever it took to stay together.

Man do we miss those piggy back rides.

Love you sugar pie. Not a moment goes by that you are not nestled in our hearts. Safe and warm and forever protected.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hunter and Ryder at the Great Vow Zen Monastery

So one of Ryder's first adventures was visiting the Great Vow Zen Monastery here in Oregon. We packed Ryder up in the car at 9 days old and took a 2-hour road trip up in the hills, where we went to share another little wonderful piece of Hunter and honor his beautiful soul.

We attended a Jizo Ceremony that is held to remember children who have been called back into the ocean of life.......away from sadness and away from suffering. The Jizo "Bodhisattva" is a much beloved figure in Japan, Korea, and China, and is a special protector of children, travelers, and women. Zen and I felt naturally drawn to this and thought it would be a special place to share some of Hunter's love, (Zen is Korean and Caucasian, I am African American and Caucasian.......so Hunter and Ryder are Korean, African American and Caucasian).

It was a very touching ceremony and upon it's completion we walked the beautiful remembrance gardens and chose a Jizo statue that we felt represented Hunter and everything he embodies. This particular one stood out to us and had a very warrior-like presence about him and seemed to be pretty studly and very unique.

We decorated the Jizo with our little touch of Hunter, (and Lightning McQueen of course), and also left him a sweet note with a piece of one of his favorite blankets..........and Hudson Hornet:

Love you so much Baby Cakes. Your amazing soul is an overwhelming amount of love, warmth and inspiration to us. We cherish you and carry you with us wherever we go. May you dance on forever to the rhythm of our hearts. XoXo and warm snuggles - Mom and Dad

After we decorated the statue, we moved on to an amazingly beautiful tree, which was two trees intertwined into one, and spread some of Hunter's ashes. As his ashes gracefully blew in the wind and fell to the bottom of the tree - I felt as if the earth was going to open up and swallow me whole. The pain in my heart was so incredibly intense and it was aching with such sadness and disbelief. We were so, so sad at this particular moment and it was reality slamming us in the face, once again, confirming that Hunter is gone. It was as beautiful as it was heartbreaking.

Zen holding Ryder right before the Jizo Ceremony began.

Overall, I felt as if this day brought another level of peace to us. I was comforted and proud to leave some of Hunter's preciousness in this beautiful garden. It felt safe and warm and visited by many kind and loving souls. Another amazing place for Hunter to frolic in on the days he feels like running in the wilderness.

About the Jizo Bodhisattva:

Jizo is the bodhisattva who plunges fearlessly into any place or situation to help those in need. For anyone who has lost a child, Jizo is a powerful image of hope and solace. Jizo's qualities include unflagging optimism, fearlessness, and gentleness.

Jizo Bodhisattva is usually portrayed as a child-monk, often carrying a pilgrim's staff with six rings that jingle to warn animals of his approach and prevent mutual harm.

Jizo also carries the bright jewel of Dharma truth whose light banishes all fear. Jizo travels to wherever there are people who are mired in the darkness of unhappiness and fear, unable to free themselves.

Jizo is the Japanese name of this Bodhisattva, who was also known in ancient India as Kshitigarbha Bodhisattva, the Earthstore Bodhisattva, guardian of the great earth

A Bodhisattva is one who devotes his or her life to freeing others from suffering. Bodhisattvas are not worshipped, but are an inspiration to awaken to the qualities of an enlightened being that are inherent in everyone.

At Great Vow Zen Monastery, they practice with Jizo to help awaken the Bodhisatta's qualities in ourselves.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ryder Zen - a scrumptious lil' bundle of love

Ryder Zen, 5 days old.

Our newest lil' bundle of joy arrived on Thursday, August 5th at 11:08 pm. He was a relatively big guy coming out at 8 lbs. 15 oz. and measured 22 inches long. He came rockin' down the birth canal to Kings of Leon and entered the world extremely calm, cool and very, very observant - super wide eyed and ready to be loved. As we requested, once Zen cut the cord, he was immediately placed on my chest and Zen and I took in his sweet face, his scrumptious lil' toes and his extremely peaceful energy. He's truly a dream come true. He is now 11 days old and he has been nothing short of amazing. He's the most laid back baby that seems super content with all that is going on around him. We've already taken him on several outings and he has seemed to enjoy each and every one of them. We honestly didn't think we'd get another baby that was as mellow as Hunter........but he seems to be proving us wrong. We've got ourselves, yet another "chill baby".

He's already got a very sweet demeanor about him........very gentle and very soft. We embrace his little body with such adoring tenderness, with which he seems to be enjoying thoroughly. I'm quite positive he feels the overwhelming amounts of love and gratefulness that he's held with every single minute his lil' body is in our arms. He sleeps snug as a bug right by my side every night and is already an amazing snuggler.

The labor and deliver, I thought, was going to be a piece of pie. I seriously thought he was going to slip out like a fish and come out in about 4 hours. Well.........that was NOT the case. Ryder definitely made me work pretty hard, and boy, was it painful. I started having very mild contractions the night before at around 10pm and they seemed to continue throughout the night. At around 7am, they seemed pretty regular and started picking up in intensity. We arrived at the doctors office at 9:30 and they hooked me up to the baby monitor. The contractions were about 4 min. apart and were heading in the right direction. Our extremely cool doctor, that we love, love, LOVE, came in and said "we could either send you home and wait it out OR we could send you over to the hospital, break your water and get this lil' guy out". He knows all about Hunter and knows how very anxious we were to have Ryder in our arms. So, OF COURSE, Zen and I both opted for BABY NOW!!!!!!! So he sent us over and broke my water around 1pm. Well nothing happened and the contractions seemed to be fading away and becoming very inconsistent. So I walked the halls, bounced on the labor ball, rocked in the chair and still..........not too much activity. So we induced with a pretty mild dose of Pitocin at 7pm. Still not too much happening, so then upped the dose of Pitocin about an hour later and then low and behold - at 9pm...........GAME ON. All I will say is HOLY FREAKIN' CRAP - it hit me like a Mac Truck and before I knew it, I could barely catch me breath. Those contractions came on so quick and SO STRONG, I felt as if my body was going into convulsions. Right around 10:30pm I started asking for some relief. I just couldn't endure the pain any longer. I requested the epidural at that point and my nurse said, "sweetie, you're almost there, he's about to come out", and somehow or another I got the point across that mamma needs some relief and please get it as soon as possible.

So by the time the epidural technician came and got it in my body with the first test dose it was already 10:48. By the time it hit my system is was about 10:58 and Ryder was born at 11:08. So I didn't get much relief....in fact - I got none at all. I guess I should have asked for it sooner. Now I know.

None the less, as soon as he was on my chest..........the pain was forgotten and our baby boy was born.

Zen coaching me through the contractions.
Always so nice to feel his touch and hear his voice.

Holding on to Hunter's favorite train, Henry. I wouldn't let go and wanted him with me through the whole process. Henry still sleeps with me at nighttime and stays clutched in my hand throughout the entire night. I will forever hear in my head Hunter's sweet voice........"mom.....Henwy".
He is never far from my thoughts.

My note to Hunter:

Hey baby cakes.......your presence has been felt and has completely embraced us these last couple of weeks. Your dad and I are missing you and loving you more than I can possibly express. Even though our hearts are still very broken, you've filled them with such an overwhelming amount of joy and beautiful memories......memories that I've cherished every single day that you've been gone. You carry me throughout my day and gently snuggle with me at night. And I want you to know that I will never let you go.

Your little brother was born last week and you must have done a good job coaching him in the belly because he came out super cool.......you must have told him he's got some big shoes to fill. I certainly hope you shared your love of music with him......I'm hoping he's got some killer dance moves to share with us once he starts moving around.

I still sleep with Henry clutched in my hand and Ryder will soon see him and hold on to him as tightly as I do. Lightning, Mater, Hudson Hornet and the rest of the crew are kept close at hand as well. They make me smile and I can still hear your precious voice when you'd ask for them.

I am off to sleep. I hope you visit me in my dreams........I am in need of some wonderful Hunter snuggles. I love you so much and miss you terribly. Sending you smooches, sweet dreams and lots and lots of toe kisses....XoXoXo mom