11 on the 11th.

Today is Beaudin’s birthday! Huzzah!

Also, only two more days to vote for me (and two more days until MY birthday!)


Ok, back to the birthday:

I suppose once you think your kid may die, birthday’s always hit a little different.

The birthday after he was diagnosed, April 2019, I felt pretty good about his survival. We did have the best cancer, after all, so what could do wrong?

Birthday Beau 2019

Narrator voice: Little did she know, lots could actually go wrong…

April 2020 was odd in the ways 2020 was odd in general, but Beau was healthy and well on his way to finishing treatment. We did the precious, and now seemingly cliché, birthday party parade in our cul-de-sac and since it was only a handful of weeks into the pandemic, we had *many* car loads of people pass through because everyone wanted (needed?) something to celebrate.

Birthday Beau 2020.

But April 2021, well, that is where birthday things got tricky. We were 5 months into relapse and that meant that stats were far less, “Oh, 94% survive,” and far more, “Welp, 60-77% make it.” Moreover, April 11, 2021 had us divide between two states: Joshua and Beau in Philly, and me and Jude and Selah at home.

How do you make a birthday special for a kid who is living, isolated, in an unknown city, away from family and friends?

Well, the Filkin family, that’s how.

The Filkin’s are a family that prior to Philly we had very little connection to. Long story, tolerable: When I helped lead a MOPs group (2012-2019), Jane Filkin was one of the pastors at the church that sponsored the group. So, we knew each other as acquaintances and worked together on church-business things, but that was it. I knew her as a steady, pastoral presence, and nothing more. Fast forward, during the summer of 2020, the Filkin family made a prompt, life-changing move from Boulder, CO to a suburb outside Philadelphia. No one moves across the country with three kids without a good backstory, but those details are neither here nor there, what you need to understand is that the move was one of those shifts in life that introduces the “before and after” narrative thread. This move for Jane, Scott and their three kids had them physically and metaphorically starting over, from scratch.

Enter March 2021.

When Beaudin and I settled in to Philly I got a text from Jane. She wanted to deliver some food and “a couple things for Beau.'” I thought it would be nice to see a familiar face and again, always recalled her being quite pastoral. I figured we could use some of that in our life. I knew something upending had happened before they left Boulder, but really had no details, and for that I was thankful. She was a friendly face, and I needed a friend.

She came to our apartment with a car load of items. Organic shampoo and conditioner, a candle, a huge scarf (that I proceeded to wrap myself in almost daily), toys and crafts for Beau, and quarts of delicious food from a local Deli, including a shaved Brussel sprout salad that I still dream about.

We sat on the couch and immediately I felt like I had a dear friend alongside me. Because if you know me, you know I cut to the chase, I asked her why she was here, what had happened (in Boulder), and how on earth were we both going to make a way. We spoke for over an hour.

I’m not sure how I got here, we both said.

I can’t really believe this is my life, we both agreed.

Sometimes the pain feels entirely too much to make sense of, we commiserated.

Deep inside, I think this is where I am meant to be, we understood.

We had both found ourselves in a land that wasn’t our own, trying to find our footing. Us temporarily, them permanently, but refugees alike.

That was the first of many ways Jane helped us settle in. She is the reason Beau was able to join a little league team during our spring in Philly, an activity that, not hyperbole, literally saved me from complete mental decline. She organized Beau to join her son’s team. We would drive out to the suburbs on warm weekday afternoons and Beau would get to play baseball with kids his own age and Jane and I would sit in the grass behind the dugout and she would hand me chilled wine in a stainless steel tumbler. It was in those moments, I would realize I wasn’t going crazy after all.

She would invite us for dinner at her home and we would show-up to her kids ready and willing to let Beau tag-along. The Filkin house was warm and welcoming, it felt like home.

She was able to host and I was able to have a friend. It was something both of us desperately needed.

When I mentioned to her that I would be going back to Colorado to trade-off with Joshua for a week, and would miss Beaudin’s birthday, she immediately said, “Ok, well then, we will host him a birthday party at our house!”

There is only one way to miss your child’s birthday when they have relapsed cancer and you are worried it could quite possible be their last, and that is to be forced to. I had to go back to Colorado. I had other kids that needed me. Beaudin needed his dad. And yet, I cried on the flight home because what if this was his last, and I missed it.

Joshua and Beaudin went to the Filkin’s house for dinner on April 11, 2021. Joshua texted me updates:

“They have a full scavenger hunt for him.”

“There are presents, and they made him a cake that has AmongUs figurines on it.”

“They have a bow and arrow set-up. He is in heaven.”

“Beau is so happy!”

There is only one way to miss your child’s birthday when they have relapsed cancer and you are worried it could quite possible be their last, and that is to have a dear friend love your boy just like you would.

It’s been two years since the Filkin’s hosted Beaudin’s 9th birthday party and here I am crying in to my coffee over how they could have ever been so good to us. Philly holds such mixed emotions, because for all the moments that memories of that city are gutting, I also think back on some of our time there in a way that makes it hard to breath, my heart in my throat.

Today, Beaudin turns 11. 11 on the 11th.

This weekend a friend came for a playdate and his mom brought birthday cake. Beau said he didn’t want anyone to sing happy birthday. He did allow me to say, “Huzzah!” after he blew out his candles though he gave me a long eye roll (and did his best to hide a smile).

Yesterday, I told Beau to “have an amazing last day as a 10 year old!” and he looked me square in the eyes and told me to never say something like that again because I should know how birthdays make him uneasy with thoughts of mortality.

Ok then.

Today Beaudin woke-up thrilled to be the center of attention. He opened his gifts and gushed about their contents. He gave everyone big hugs. Even Jude who was in a horrendous mood at 7am because, “Beau! It’s still a school day!” To which Beau said, “Yeah, but that means it’s a birthday with all my friends!”

He is 11 and alive. There is nothing more remarkable. Nothing more worth celebrating.

Early morning birthday pic with Beau, 11!

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