We were born 20 days apart with just 2 houses sitting between our own. My dad taught him how to swim; his dad taught me how to ride a bike.
We were always outside, waiting for the tell-tale whistle from his parents at dusk, letting us know it was time to come in for dinner and bed.
In our early teens, he would climb the tree in front of my house, clamber up the roof and knock. There was a landing just outside of my window and we would sit there, contemplating life until we were caught.
His parents had been married just shy of 45 years when his mom succumbed to cancer this past September.
The funeral was held in late October and just 5 days later, with the fragrance of the funeral flowers still permeating the living room, his dad passed away from sudden cardiac arrest, right into my friend’s arms. It was two days before their 45th anniversary and we all collectively knew, he had died from a broken heart.
My mother and I had wept during Mr. White’s eulogy for his wife. He spoke of their first date- when Mrs. White had invited him to lie underneath a Christmas tree to watch the twinkling lights.
Mr. White then compared those twinkling lights to the thousands upon thousands of prayers family and friends had sent up to God as cancer ravaged his beloved’s body.
And then, just like that, he was gone, too.
My friend and I stood in the kitchen where he had administered CPR to his dad, just hours before and we hugged, screamed and sobbed. At 39 years-old we still felt like children, never ever having been in his parents’ house without them there.
Shocked and numb, I drove away, contemplating the loss.
Mr. White’s eulogy had been full of love and awe for his wife and the life they had shared.
And I wondered,
“What is a well-lived life?”
Have I lived one?
Am I living one?
In this distracted day-in-age, it feels all too easy to lose sight of the most important part of life:
Our connection to others.
And if that is the meaning of life,
Then I’ve lived it well.
Let us all lie under the Christmas tree and watch the twinkling lights.
A place where, although still heavily restricted, we at least know what we are dealing with.
For three years, feeding Elizabeth was a game of Russian roulette.
Try a new food and wait 2-4 hours to see if she begins to vomit. Sometimes until her body goes into shock.
Repeat for the next fourteen days because she could pass the first few trials and fail the seventh attempt.
Such is the life of a child with FPIES- Food Protein Induced Enterocolitis, a nightmare of an intestinal allergy with no formal testing other than eating the food and seeing what happens.
Pair that with IgE mediated allergies to dairy, eggs and peanuts, throw a gluten intolerance that triggers severe eczema on top of it and you have our fourth baby girl.
Our little warrior, who in her first few years, endured misery.
No wonder she was growth restricted in the womb! No wonder she didn’t just spit up but vomited after each nursing session! No wonder she never slept and always cried. The foods I was eating were her triggers and I had. No. Idea.
I eliminated all major allergens and lost twenty pounds in my attempts to continue to nurse her only years later to find out that the avocado I was surviving on was one of her triggers.
It took batteries of tests, UV light therapy and trial-and-error with her diet to realize her horrific head-to-toe eczema was caused by wheat. Steroid creams, nightly wet-wraps, and baths with me at 2 o’clock in the morning in desperate attempts to provide relief, even if temporary.
Yes, I keep putting it off because if I’m being honest, I don’t want to go back there.
I am running away as fast as I can from those awful memories, from the trauma that was raising baby Elizabeth.
But without risk we become stagnant.
Her diet never evolves and we never know, unless we try . . .
And so I finally take the call.
I set the date.
And I wait.
This is the first of many in-office food challenges for Elizabeth because she has so many FPIES fails: rice, sweet potato, beef, avocado, peanuts, and quinoa just to name a few.
But in a few weeks we begin with rice.
The first challenge: getting her to agree to eat a cup of the food.
A child with food allergies learns to become wary of any new food not previously deemed “safe” so I’ve had to start having conversations with her about trying this new food further adding to my guilt.
What if she fails?
What if I convince her to eat it all and she begins to vomit?
What will that do to her trust in me?
How will I stand myself?
I’ve held her limp, near lifeless body in my arms after an FPIES fail. I’ve helped load her onto a stretcher and into an ambulance at just 9 months-old. I’ve witnessed my husband and babysitter administer an Epipen three times while on the phone with 911.
I don’t want to go back there.
And yet, here we are.
Facing the trauma.
Looking beyond the wave of fear with the hope of passing and swimming in the deep richness of food variety with her sisters.