It took me the better part of 24 hours to even attempt to write this. I opened this post up, typed, backspaced, and closed so many times. Ultimately, though, I’ve decided just to take a deep breath and jump in, no matter how long and rambling this may turn out to be.
Carter Whipple-Button, born March 19, 2011, struggled almost his entire life to just be well. His body attacked itself in ways that defy grownups many times, and fought as long as he could to combat the cancer that invaded his body. But in the end, it was just too much and that tiny little body that had scarcely had a pain-free moment gave out. Carter passed away on Wednesday, February 22, 2012 – just shy of a month away from his first birthday.
I had come in from an afternoon at the park with family to see that I had missed a call from a mutual friend of Carter’s mom, and then also opened up my laptop to see multiple messages letting me know. It was such a juxtaposition. I just came in from playing with my son – born a day after Carter – who is healthy and happy. I could hear him talking to his Daddy as I sat on the couch, wrapping my head around the fact that such a tiny life was snuffed out before he even got a chance to do anything.
It is so damned unfair.
But almost immediately, several of us began thinking of how that didn’t have to be the case. We raised more than $1,000 in a few short days to help Carter’s family offset expenses, and people were still asking how they could help. We had another hospitalized March baby fighting his own battle with an as yet unknown ailment that was robbing his body of nutrients, as well as possibly cystic fibrosis, and knew of another who was fighting cancer as well.
Slowly, a small seed is starting to sprout a shoot. Could we turn Carter’s short life into a legacy of helping other families with medical crises? We are still discussing how to move forward, but it seems like the heart is there. We want to lend emotional support to families, and when we can, financial support in some way as well.
But Carter’s passing also made me angry. At cancer, yes, but also at people. I find myself fighting the urge to shake my fist and yell at people who take for granted their healthy children, their charmed existence, their tiny problems they turn into mountains. For I know in my heart that Megan Whipple would give anything right now to hold her son, to smile at him and to surround him with love again. She’d give her left arm for her chief complaint to be getting up in time for carpool, or what to do this summer. She’d take a punch square in the face to be rocking her little boy, even if it was at 2 a.m.
Fact: Life is too damned short, and its end is wholly unpredictable. We should all act accordingly. Hug more. Smile more. Engage in petty grudges less. Put your children first more, even if it’s uncomfortable and you have to compromise somewhere. Breathe in, breathe out, and let it all go.