Every single day...since the first day that our world turned upside down and it seemed as if it all stopped turning, that day when Jacob was diagnosed with cancer...I have been completely amazed at the love we feel from friends, family...and even perfect strangers. In the midst of the very most difficult and darkest days we've ever had as a family, we have been lifted up and strengthened by so many.
There have been so many "random acts of kindness" through this trial that I want to write about, share and always remember & treasure in my heart ...so many that it would be impossible to list them now.
I've been keeping a mental list of things thinking...I can't forget to thank them for that! Then the wheels turn in my mind of all the ways I could send thank yous to the many many people I need to thank. I hoped to send a little card, write a personal thank you and send along a little gold ribbon for you to keep and think of us. Or, have some photos printed up and send them out to everyone who loves Jacob so much...maybe a series of photos that would show how far he's come and what he's been through...and a "thanks to you" for helping him through it!
There's this little slideshow in my mind with the music picked out and in it, the faces of everyone I love, everyone I know who has lent a helping hand, said a little prayer, followed his story or so many other things, the faces flash through the slideshow video to the song "Angels among Us". Yes, whenever I hear that song...I think of you. I'll always think of you - you know who you are...even if in some cases, I don't know who you are. You're still one of my angels. I thought I could take profile pictures off of Facebook and use them for the slideshow and then create a thank you video to share with the world. I even have a folder in my computer with a collection I started...it's huge. But, what if I forgot someone? What if I can't find someone to put in there...would they think I didn't care? ...and there are so many countless people who I'll never know, never meet, who I'd want to thank and don't want forgotten. You just can't imagine the feelings of gratitude, the weight of knowing I'll never be able to properly thank these people.
Today while I was in church, I met someone who made me realize that even with the best of intentions and the most magnificent thank you card stuffed with ribbons and photos or a movie production to thank the world, I'll never reach them all. I sat behind a lady who eventually introduced herself and asked if I was really Jacob Watson's mother. I said yes and thanked her for asking. I figured she had heard about him from the church newsletter or various days when they had announced a prayer request for one thing or another. ...wrong. This woman let me know that she worked in the Blood Bank at Primary Children's Hospital. She recognized his name because she saw it so many times, over and over as his doctors sent requests for blood, platelet and plasma transfusions during his treatment. She even remembered when his blood type changed after his transplant and he no longer needed A+ blood, but 0- . She would have known from that, that the transplant had worked! It brought tears to my eyes to meet her in person. This special woman had been a member of our own church...a church we moved into 2 months after he started treatment and only recently have started attending regularly. How many others are there? It could be a neighbor or someone across town who worked in the laboratory downstairs that sent up his "lab results" every single day. They know his name too. What about the ones who got the samples from our boys and then did the typing to find Jericho was that perfect match? Did they rejoice with us that day? They knew even before I did. And what about the ones who got that initial blood sample, looked under the microscope and recognized leukemic cells were stained all throughout it. What did they feel? Were they crushed by the realization too? Somehow, I'm sure they were...it must be hard to be that one. I realized it must have meant something special to to that lady in church to actually get to meet me too...how many names does she see at the blood bank that come through frequently and regularly for so long, and then stop coming. Do they wonder why that child doesn't need transfusions anymore? Do they wonder if the child is better or if they even made it through? It must have meant a lot to her that she could actually meet me...and she hopes to meet Jacob soon when he can come back to church again.
It's time to say thank you. Thank you ALL for everything...and I don't know where to begin. Somehow just writing a thank you on this page and hoping that you will see it just isn't enough. I can only hope that seeing Jacob getting better, knowing your prayers have been answered all along the way, knowing our family is still intact, we're making it through and we kept our sanity...(I think) We still have our son and we're stronger now because of this journey - I hope that is the greatest thanks and that you can feel our love right back to you.
We love you, we thank you...and we will follow the loving example you have given us in our efforts to help and love others. This experience has taught me compassion and understanding beyond anything I ever could have imagined. I'm grateful for that too.
Now for my own record, I don't want to ever forget the feelings of love and appreciation. I honestly don't expect anyone to read all the way through this list, but just for the record, I will always Remember....
The kids at his school who dropped to their knees in prayer
The ones who went to his teacher and asked, "how can I pray for Jacob Watson? I've never prayed before."
The school student body council who got 1000 orange wrist bands with "Jacob Watson" written on them and sold them throughout the community, then brought him the proceeds from those sales to him on his birthday in the hospital.
The friend and leader who gave him an iPad. Wow...unbelievable how entertaining and useful one of those can be for so long in the hospital.
For all the people who bought those wristbands and wore them faithfully throughout his treatment.
I can't forget his two little brothers and one best friend who made 100's of paracord bracelets in honor of their "big brother Jacob" and sold them to pay for their own football sign ups because they knew mom & dad couldn't afford it this year.
The thousands of other people who prayed for him...and the ones that still pray for him every-single-day.
The cards, the letters, the emails, Facebook posts and the posters signed by the whole school that we hung on the walls and ceiling of his hospital room.
All the kids who shaved their heads for Jacob.
The one 13 year old GIRL cousin who shaved her own head bald for him!
My friend's mom who sent a cafeteria card and kept it loaded for us so we could eat (Josh LOVES you!)
The mom who visited one day and dropped off a copy of her child's favorite book "I love you Forever" with a note about how much this hospital meant to her and all she'd been through...and the loss of her little one.
The nurses ( I need to list the names of them all and collect photos of them so we never forget their care and sacrifice )
The doctors - wow, to think of the training and knowledge and the teamwork between them all.
The cleaning ladies who came in every day and mopped the floors, wiped out the sinks and the toilets and disinfected every surface in his room including the walls!
Our cousins - who came every single day for weeks to see us through that horrible beginning. She'd make dinner for her family and a little extra and then he would bring some up to us. ...and in his pocket, she'd send him some vitamins for me to take with instructions to watch me take it!
Another cousin who wrote me a note every day, and another to Josh and another to Jacob every-single-day for 9 straight months...and never missed a day telling us she loved us, was thinking of us and praying for Jacob every day.
The other cousin, who came every week from an hour away and just stop by to visit us, talk with me, and usually slip me a $20 bill...or a $100 bill-whatever she could do that week...while her husband was deployed in the military far away.
For the time she came and knew Jacob was so frustrated and also a little angry and she left to go to the store and came back with a bunch of nerf guns and targets for him to shoot and blow off steam.
Jacob's younger cousins and far away friends who spread the word in their own home-towns and had their friend's praying too.
The dinners that were brought to our house while I was gone, the people who fed our children and sometimes Dad each night.
The families and moms who took our kids into their families sometimes for days at a time and even weeks while we were at the hospital with Jacob.
For taking Jericho and spending days with him, treating him like your own little boy and loving him. (He still talks about you and loves you)
The friend's who signed up Joshua for Lacrosse, took him to practice and games and cheered him on at every play! ...how can I ever thank you for that?
The families and coaches who picked up the boys to get them to football practice, took them to games sometimes filled their water bottles, made sure their helmets were on right and cheered them on through football season.
The friend's who came and cleaned our house. Oh...the embarrassment of having other people clean when it was so incredibly bad at that time...but the joy of coming home and it was already done, nothing I could say, nothing I could do...but just relax and appreciate that it was so clean...and even organized. The boys got new dressers and someone brought buckets to use for sorting and packing things away. Cleaning supplies, rags and even new lightbulbs.
The friend's who came and took care of the lawn. They basically landscaped the whole thing, pulling weeds, trimming trees, hauling away debris...
And then when we had to move...
The sisters from church who came to help me pack.
The ones who packed Jacob's whole bedroom because I couldn't even go in there without crying...knowing he would never get to see this bedroom again because he couldn't come back to that house.
The kids who came and loaded the boxes onto the trucks.
The Men and boys who came and carried the furniture, showed up with a moving trailer and then delivered everything in it's place to the new house. "Where do you want this?" they'd say...and in it went, all set up.
Then the dinners came again, from a new neighborhood. Welcoming neighbors bearing gifts, desserts, fresh baked bread, cookies...so many yummy things!
The church who through fast offerings helped pay our rent for a few months so we would be able to move and not be burdened with financial struggles so we could focus on Jacob.
My mom for the loan to pay the deposit.
The landlord at our old house who "wrote off" the rent for the last month and 1/2 that we were there and his understanding through the move with how hurried it was, how long it took to get it all done and the mess we left behind...I had wanted to re-paint and fix things, clean carpets and so much more to leave things good...but he let it all go.
The family from California who had bought our house years before and heard about Jacob, but really barely knew us...but felt compelled to host an auction on Facebook to raise some money to help us out.
Then the Yardsale - I need a whole 'nother post to write about that and add the pictures from that amazing day when an entire neighborhood street was filled with items that had been donated to our "cause" and that entire neighborhood that worked together to make it happen and raise money for our family to help us through.
The one special friend who put it all together and worked endlessly to make that happen...even suffering from heatstroke on that August day at the yard sale because she just kept going.
The friend of that friend who couldn't even make it to the yard sale and didn't buy a thing, but donated hundreds of dollars to help. ...that money came at such a crucial time just as we were bringing Jacob home from transplant and had so many unforseen expenses!
The young women who helped make the posters to point the way to the sale and passed out the flyers all over the neighborhood.
The couple who just gave us their brand new king size bed that they had recently listed on KSL.
The family who let us use their vacation home in Midway just so we could get away with Jacob and enjoy that time together. ...it was the first place I remember feeling truly happy since the day he was diagnosed. It's where I saw him run for the first time since he started treatment. It's where I saw the first "real" smile on his face since cancer took so much from him. He soaked his legs in the hot-tub, he fished in the stream behind the house...he caught some! It was also the first place he rode a bike again, he rode his longboard there and it's one of his favorite places in the world now...(and mine)
The best friend from Nevada who drove 4 hours more than once to come and help out. She brought her carpet cleaner and did all the carpets in our place, washed down all the walls with me, took down the blinds, soaked them in the tub and rehung them...we scrubbed baseboards and cleaned out floor vents, put in air filters and washed window wells checking off every item on that bone marrow transplant "going home checklist".
Then she bought me a wonderful new vacuum and helped me research and pick out the best air purifiers for Jacob's room and one for the upstairs.
While she stayed for her visit, she made freezer dinners and packed them all away in our freezer for after transplant when she knew we'd be so tired and so busy. Some of them in individual serving sizes so Josh could take things to work and i could take small portions to have at the hospital when I didn't want to eat in the cafeteria.
All this and then hugs and prayers and tears together each day while she was here with me. ...how do friend's know just the right things to do and say?
The same best friends who shared their vacation with us, going home early with still 2 days left on their hotel stay so Josh and I could get away too and be alone together at a time we needed to be more than ever before. Once last year during treatment, and again just after Father's day this year...best gift ever.
HopeKids - for all the family fun we have been able to enjoy through the hardest time in our lives
Make A Wish - for making his wish come true!
Honda World - for helping that wish come true and throwing him a party...for treating him like royalty when he comes to their store and inviting him out to go riding with them anytime he can!
American Family Insurance - for sponsoring Jacob's wish.
Super Sibs - for sending little cards and letters and even a trophy to Jacob's super siblings who are the unsung heroes through things like this.
Again...I can't forget those two little brothers who worked so hard to keep Jacob safe. They sanitized doorknobs, light-switches, stair rails and counter-tops and toilets every..single..day for months! ...not to mention how they sanitized themselves! Taking off their shirts and shoes when they got home from school to go upstairs, wash up and sanitize their hands and faces every day & carrying that sanitizer with them to school each day carefully avoiding other sick children.
A big brother who put his life on hold for months so he could be there for Jacob whenever we needed him, sleep at the hospital for days and days so I could take care of his little brothers at home and then weeks and weeks during the transplant when I got sick with a cold and couldn't be there with Jacob at the hospital. When I could be at the hospital, he would stay at home with his brothers, take them to school, pick them up, make them do homework and chores and even cook their dinners.
A big sister and her husband who basically "adopted" a little brother for a few months, moved him into their apartment with his little plastic dresser drawer of clothes and shoes and diapers. Wrote me notes every night to update how he was getting along. Worked on potty training him and kept teaching him to be 'good'. They had barely been married just over 1/2 a year when they had to take on the full role of parents for a while...and they did it happily.
The lady who worked at blockbuster who I saw almost every day exchanging movies for Jacob to watch. She recommended new ones and old ones and never forgot to ask how he was doing. It's funny how you remember people like that.
The lady who runs the Panda Express restaurant close to our home who also asks about him every time we go and when she sees me or Jacob come through the door, she tells her chef's to whip up a fresh batch of orange chicken...because it has to be cooked fresh for Jacob! Then she forgets to charge us once in a while and other times our total just doesn't seem to add up. He must get the "Jacob" discount.
Christmas...another one I need to write an entire post about! We'll never forget that Christmas...it was unbelievable! I have pictures of all the gifts, the Secret Santa notes the Christmas tree and stockings.
The little jar that came from somewhere in Idaho...and made it's way from hand to hand with donations for us all the way to our front door and then delivered by a stranger. Who do we know in Idaho? Where did they hear about us? ...I'll never know.
The little Christmas tree that had rolls of money tied in ribbons all over instead of ornaments. The tree had sat in a church building during a community Christmas party with a flyer telling Jacob's story. There were rolls with $1 or 2-$1 bills and a $5 together or a $20 and even a $100...some donations probably from little children and others from caring people who had more to give.
And then there's the moms. The moms of other children who are fighting cancer too. The indescribable gratitude and love I feel for them is so beyond words. They have held me and cried with me, talked me through some of my scariest thoughts and felt those fears right alongside me. I don't know where I'd be without them. ...probably, most certainly not sane - and likely still crying.
The sweet friend I met because her son was in one of Jacob's classes at school. She insisted that I accept her offer for a full service facial. I have never had one before...had no idea how nice that is.
Then Jacob started getting better and very recently, we've been able to do some fun things together thanks to:
The guy at the tire shop who balanced and rotated the tires on our van so we could go to Zion.
The "Cancer-mom" friend who arranged for us to have a hotel room to stay in because Jacob can't sleep in a campground.
The Hotel room that gave us the room at no charge and welcomed us back "anytime".
How we just happened to pick some National Park Day when they didn't charge anyone the $25 to get into the park and then the next day when the registers were down so they couldn't charge us again!
Then there's the other "cancer-mom" who's husband is a big time lover of fly fishing and wanted to "set Jacob up" with his own fly-rod and gear for fishing on his birthday. He had such a good time on the river while everyone else went hiking.
I can't believe it myself how long this list is getting and I can't stop the tears from falling even as I wrote this. It brings back a flood of memories and feelings of love. I know there's even more. I know I'll remember little things along the way and I'll have to come back to this page and edit this post to add those things to my list. I never want to forget the kindness of people in this world and how they have shown me true service and sacrifice, generosity and love. It's also for Jacob, because he doesn't remember so much and I hope someday he will read this and know how loved he is, how many people were there for him and have loved him through this. These experiences will always be treasured, something to look back on and remember when we are feeling down and alone, that we are not alone...never alone.