Jillian’s motto. The word’s I try to honor and live by. The words I use to inspire. But at 4:00 am, those words mean nothing. I’m alone with my thoughts with only my pup allowed to see my mask unveiled. Is it really a mask, or just who I am today? I think it’s both.
Halloween has always been a favorite “holiday” of mine. For years I’ve decorated my house inside and out. Looks like Vegas. The more decorations the better. Tacky? Yeah. Do I care? Nope.
Last year my house was dark. There was no one home to answer the door as I was in Gobels taking care of Jillian. I drove straight from her place to help Josh and Kaytie as they took their kids trick or treating in their new neighborhood. I didn’t get home until all the goblins had gone to bed.
This year I was home, but I didn’t decorate. Instead, I passed out candy in between packing up Jillian’s room. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, in fact I’ve been avoiding it. As I’m packing away all of Jillian’s soccer trophy’s and medals, it felt as if she was in the room with me. We were sharing stories, singing our hearts out to the Backstreet Boys as we barreled down the highway toward some soccer tournament in some state. We were just hanging out. Doing what we’ve always done.
But in the quiet dark of the early morning hours, the reality hits yet again. Jillian is not here. I just packed up her room. And what I felt this morning was guilt. Yes, we can add guilt to my crazy collection of emotions.
Guilt that I was unable to protect her from melanoma. Guilt that I didn’t know the dangers lurking underneath the glass of those tanning beds. Guilt that I thought her freckles were “cute”. Guilt that the only worry I had from her frequent sunburns was whether she was in pain.
No one needs to fix it for me by telling me I’m not guilty and shouldn’t feel that way. I’m not going to debate my feelings. I am guilty.
The awareness I’ve tried to share about melanoma has many faces, too. I want to educate. I want to expose the freaking beast. I want to prevent another family from having to pick up the pieces of a shattered life. I want to honor Jillian. But by digging deep, I’ve discovered another reason. I want to make it up to Jillian by helping to save lives through these efforts. I didn’t save her life. I hope I can help save yours.
“Laying out and tanning beds pretty much screwed me”.
~ Jillian Hayes
I’m still standing, by the way. A little wobbly from time to time, and plenty of scabs on my knees, but I’m up. It’s 7:00 am now, and the sun will be rising soon. It always does.