Dear Mr. Sparks,
Today is my mother's birthday.
My mom is the most extraordinary person that I know. She is kind to everyone, forgiving to a fault and I don't know a single person who doesn't like her. She is my best friend, my biggest cheerleader, keeper of all my secrets, my defender, the person I know I can always count on. She was, still is, the most perfect grandmother I could have asked for for my son.
My father was in the Navy and rarely home when I was a kid. My mother raised us 4 girl pretty much on her own. Every school play, baseball game, scout meeting - she was there. Usually volunteering to help in some way. She can fix a dryer, change oil in a car, she cooks, cleans, sews and helps anyone who asks with anything they ask for. She taught us to be self-sufficiant. She takes care of the many grandkids whenever she's asked. Every kid in the county who knows her calls her "Nanny".
When Shane died, I couldn't even tell her. I had to tell my father first. I didn't want to break her heart. She put her pain aside to be there for me, to help make arrangements, drive us to the funeral home, make food for all the visitors, clean the house. She opened up her house for the wake.
When my ex moved out, she was the one who helped me pack up my son's things to move. She's the one who took down his room 2 years after he died because I couldn't bear to even open the door. She's the one who let me call and cry nearly every day. She moved me to my own place. She made sure I was ok on my own and checked on me often.
She remembers every birthday and angelversary. She knows what to say on the worst days.
She reads everything. My love of books came from her. One of the books you autographed for me was for her. Any imagination, creativity, audacity to do things new... all came from her introducing me to books at a young age.
When my grandmother's health worsened, she took on 90% of the care even though she's one of 8 kids. She didn't want to bother them by insisting on help. All while raising my sister's 3 children and shuffling them to baseball games and school and cheer-leading practices.
She is a saint in my eyes.
My mom is the one who takes of my son's grave. He was the first to be buried in a newly formed family cemetery on her land. My sister is buried there as well. She tends the flowers and mows the grass over their graves. Can you imagine how hard that is for her? I think about it a lot and wish I lived closer to do it for her.
Having a sick grandchild is so hard on grandparents too. They want to help but can't. They do what they can but it's so hard to see your children struggle and your grandchild fight to live. That's not what they wanted for us, not how they envisioned our lives to be.
Grief is hard on grandparents in so many ways that people don't realize. Not only do grandparents grieve for their grandchild, but also for their children as well. As parents, we want to fix things and take away our children's pain. How do you take away the pain your child feels grieving the loss of their child? How do you stop the life-long grief of trying to survive the worst pain that someone can go through in this life?
I got a tiny glimpse of her pain when my sister died and I had to stand by helpless to save her from the pain of being a grieving parent too. It was heart wrenching. I grieved for my sister and my mom at the same time.
Grandparents are not often recognized for their own grief, endurance, support in dealing with CDH. I work with many who volunteer at our charity as a way to honor or remember their grandchild and a way to work through their own pain and questions. There are many grandmothers who confide in me personally so they can remain strong for their son or daughter and grandchild. These men and women are hurting because of CDH too.
I've written to you before about how CDH affects marriages and siblings, but it has such a ripple effect on everyone in the family. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and on and on and on. CDH has hurt my mother as much as it's hurt me. It's hurt my entire family and thousands of other families.
So today, on my mom's birthday, I ask you Mr. Sparks to please help us so that no other amazing women like my mom are forced to do the things my mom has to do because of CDH.
Dawn M. Torrence Williamson
Proud daughter of Patricia Jones