In 2015, I had the privilege of being a Guest Blogger for a mom who lost her child to brain cancer. Her blog was always about set backs, love, and moving forward after losing someone so full of life.
Sadly, I was unable to find the blog that I originally written for but wanted to keep this close to my heart. Below is the original post from 2015, just six months after Derick gained his angel wings.
Cancer Does Not Define Us…
Dalai Lama once said, “There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called yesterday and the other is tomorrow, so today is the right day to love, believe, do, and mostly live.” For some reason, Derick Palmer seemed to live by every inspirational quote ever created. He was only eight years old, and was able to see the beautiful gift that everyday had to offer. Obviously, Derick would not keep that happiness to himself for long, he would share it in silly expressions, winks, and hilarious things he would say.
It takes a special kind of person to make others realize that it’s not the inspirational and motivational quotes that we find on the internet that inspire people to be something great. It’s people like Derick who never thought twice about sharing his love, who never looked back, and most importantly who ALWAYS charged forward, even in the stormy times. He is the inspiration.
My eight year old brother passed away on March 22nd, 2015. It wasn’t sudden, and we were warned in December that there wasn’t much more that the doctors could do. So everyday I prayed. I always had a little bit of hope in my heart that one day, Derick would get up in the morning and walk again and the cancer would have magically disappeared. And even though he has been gone for a little over six months, I still have that little bit of hope in my heart that he will get better. I know, it sounds crazy, but it’s true. I guess its because I had so much hope in my heart when he was still here with us, I can’t help but hold on to that hope now.
My name is Mikaela Palmer, I am 19 years old, and I HATE cancer. You know, people always say, “hate is a strong word.” Yes, I know that it’s a strong word, but it’s the closest word I have to express my disgust towards it. If I had a word that was stronger than hate, I would have used it. Looking at the way my family is, you would have never even guessed that we lost the sun, the moon, and the stars when we lost Derick. People always say, “I don’t know how you are so strong,” or “Your family is the strongest family I know,” but that doesn’t feel like a compliment (probably because Derick was the strong one, not me). Our family had no choice to go through what we did, Derick did not have the choice either. Cancer does not define us, and it definitely did NOT define him.
The last few moments with him always play in slow motion in my mind. On his last night with us, he slept a lot. When he took his last breath, I couldn’t believe it. Everyone was crying right away, but I again, had this hope that maybe he will just pop back up and say, “gotcha!” but he didn’t. Derick was on a ventilator at the time, and it was still running. Someone told me to turn it off, and I remember saying, “no, he might need it.” When the machine was eventually shut off, I felt my heart fall. You know that scene in the movie My Girl (1991), where Vada loses her ring in the forest, and her best friend, Thomas J. goes back by himself to find the ring? But when he got to the spot, a beehive falls and swarms around him and he gets stung by bees (which he is allergic to) and passes away. Well, at his memorial service, Vada walks in and sees Thomas J. lying there without his glasses. She begins to hysterically scream, “Where are his glasses!? He can’t see without his glasses!?” Well, that is exactly how I reacted to the ventilator being turned off, because Derick couldn’t breathe without it. That moment is always constantly playing over and over in my mind.
Many people have told me that loved ones that have passed away can connect with us through dreams. Recently, I was racking my brain for an idea for a tattoo as a tribute to Derick. I got suggestions like: a teddy bear, a ribbon, a nerf gun. But none of those were really a good enough for him. I was having a hard day and just wanted to find something that could be so significant to me and preserve his honor perfectly. As I cried while falling asleep that night, I asked Derick to come visit me, and to wake me up after so that I can remember everything that happened in the dream.
In my dream that night, I was at a fundraiser pool party for childhood cancer. I heard Derick’s little voice yell to me from the water, “Kae! Kae! Over here!” when I turned to find him in the pool surrounded by kids, a girl walked past me. Time seemed to go in slow motion, as she walked, I read her tattoo, it said, “Always on my mind, forever in my heart. March 22nd, 2015.” I stopped to talk to the girl a little while later in my dream, I told her that my brother was a warrior and passed away fighting cancer. I told her that he was very important to me and I cared about him so much. As she responded, I looked into her eyes, they were very dark and big with long eyelashes, just like Derick had. Her response was, “Don’t worry Kae, I still care about you too.” I immediately woke up and knew that it was Derick speaking to me.
Losing someone you have so much love for is devastating. Sometimes I forget that Derick isn’t going to be home when I go to visit my family during the holiday break. I forget that no one is going to run up to me in the airport and give me the biggest hug. I forget that no one will ask me to make home made chocolate chip cookies, or to play video games, or to make popcorn. I forget that when I say bye to my family and head back to college, I won’t have someone giving me the biggest hug, asking me not to go.
As I sit here trying not to get any tears on my keyboard, I also remember that so many things are preserving Derick’s memory. My mom, Gina Palmer, started the Wrapped in Strength Project that gives hand made towels to little cancer fighters all over the United States. And there’s Wavy News and their story on the Wrapped in Strength Project, and spreading the word for importance of funding for childhood cancer research. Also, the Roc Solid Foundation and their attempt to break the world record of Largest Toy Gun Fight in Derick’s honor. But most of all, I think all of the stories that people have of him is what really shows the kind of person he was. There aren’t enough words or thanks that I could give to all of those people who share their Derick stories with everyone they meet.
Many people always question me when I tell them that I am so blessed. I am blessed to have such a wonderful family, I am blessed that we have such a caring community, I am blessed for the 19 years I have spent on this earth, and I am the most blessed person because God gave me the opportunity to know and love someone like Derick. My heart feels so empty without him here, but in a weird way it also feels so full from all the love he gave in the eight years I was able to spend with him. There are not enough words to explain my love for that little silly boy, but he filled my heart with such happiness that I can’t help but smile when I think of him.