This is the continuation of ‘The Thirteen Days of Arthur,’ a series of writings by Melissa Mouzin-Bennett, mom to Arthur Hancock…
This is my last post for my “Thirteen Days of Arthur” project, tomorrow is Angel Day, the day our precious Arthur got his wings so he could play in heaven. You may be trying to do the math in your head and think, “hey, tomorrow’s Angel Day, that’s fourteen days”, but I don’t count it. Anyone who has worked for a living knows that you can’t just come in at noon one day and work ’til five and then come in at eight the next day and leave at noon and expect to get paid for two full days. Arthur is no exception, his birthday is a half day and Angel Day is another half day, adding up to only one full day with us.
Looking back on the past (almost) two weeks, I have to say, I’m really surprised at the way I’m feeling about seeing this set of writings come to an end. First of all, I never expected for so many people to read these things…I started this as a tribute as well as a sort of penance, a way of trying to show Arthur from heaven how much I loved him while he was here and how much I still do love and think of him. I thought a few close friends and some of my HPE family may read a couple of these and just chalk it up to another of my crazy projects, I never would have imagined that Arthur would have actual “fans”! I would also like to thank Leslie and Carly for posting these tidbits in the Families for HoPE blog. If I could give any advice to a parent facing what I went through (and am still going through) with Arthur, I would tell that parent to not be afraid. I feel like every regret I have as far as Arthur is concered stems from decisions I made out of fear. Everything I’m proud of came from forcing myself to be brave. Really, the biggest fear in this situation is the unknown, and unfortunately, when it comes to terminal illness and human life, the outcomes aren’t in the hands of humans.
I’m not really surprised that people in the HPE community and parents of special needs kids could relate to Arthur’s story, what surprises me most is how many people with seemingly “normal” lives were drawn to hear more about Arthur’s lessons. I guess, really, the things Arthur taught us were pretty universal: bravery, unconditional love, laughter, spirituality, taking care of yourself physically, living in the moment, being kind to each other, and putting your best foot forward. In a way, I will be glad when this project ends, it took more time and emotion than I ever could have imagined, but I also feel like there is still more that could have been said.
I was going to write a great little send-off story tonight, but instead, I decided to repost a note that I wrote last year right before Angel Day. Funny, when I reread it today, I noticed how uncomfortable and forced my writing seemed then compared to the stories I have been telling for the past several days, the words didn’t flow like they do now, I clearly wasn’t ready to talk much about him yet. I thought about cleaning it up, but decided to leave it exactly as I posted it one year ago because it’s so clear that I was in a way different place then. Those of you who have known me for years have heard the story of Angel Day and fully understand why we call it that, not only did Arthur get his wings that day, but we also met so many angels on Earth:
The Meaning of Angel Day
I’m sure many of you have heard the story of December 11, 2007, but here’s a recap for anyone needing a little inspiration: It was a Tuesday, I was still on maternity leave and Roy had the day off from work. Art had been to his sister Caitlin’s holiday performance the night before and Marena’s 2 days before. It was a very busy week because it was Brittney’s turn to perform that night. Arthur was looking like a very sick little boy. He was very thin and pale, I told Roy just a couple days before that I could no longer change his diapers or see him in less than a onesie…his little ribs and hip bones sticking out just broke my heart. That morning Arthur refused his breakfast, I tried to feed him by dropper and when that didn’t work, I offered him the chance to go to breast (which was very difficult, but he did seem to do ok, just didn’t seem to be able to get as much that way). He also refused his seizure medicine which I worried about, but we set out on this journey with the resolve to do nothing to cause pain or stress to his fragile little body, and that’s what we stuck to. So we all bundled up and drove from home in Vincennes at the time to Terre Haute to finish up our Christmas shopping.
On the way, we stopped in Sullivan at the office I was then working at to give my co workers and a few clients a chance to see him. One client in particular, who I had never really been that close to asked if it was ok if she put him on her church’s prayer chain and shed a few tears in our presence. We wrapped up the visit and headed off to the “big city”. Everywhere we went, people asked to see our baby, asked about his condition and offered prayers and kind words. I have never been approached by so many friendly faces of people who I had never met. Then we walked into Hobby Lobby. Always have loved that store and their corporate culture of open spirituality. Our cashier took one look at Arthur and began to tear up. She could barely finish our transaction. She then asked if she and her friend could pray for him, of course we said yes and didn’t realize she closed her register, went to the back room to retrieve her friend, and laid hands on our son praying for him right there. It was beautiful and haunting. They weren’t praying for his body or health, only for his soul and strength for his family.
We went to several other places that day with Arthur being the center of attention, then got hungry. Taco Bell on 41 South is where we went to lunch, and I swear we met an angel in line there. A young man who appeared to be on a lunch break from a job that required a flannel shirt and steel toed boots didn’t ask about Art’s condition, prognosis, anything. Simply said “may I pray for your baby?” Of course we said yes, and that man’s prayer was eerily similar to the one the ladies at Hobby Lobby said. And the entire noisy restaurant became so quiet you could hear a pin drop. People stopped talking, eating, and deciding what they wanted to order. Time stood still and an entire restaurant of strangers prayed silently for our son, led by one man. It was the most surreal experience I have ever had.
One more stop, TJ Maxx and then we were on the way home. As we were getting into the car to drive home, Roy held Arthur up before putting him in his car seat and said, “kiss mommy goodbye”…where that came from I’ll never know because as a family, we never tell each other goodbye, it’s just too final, but that’s what he said, I kissed Arthur and told him that when we got home he was going to have to eat because he had refused all day. Arthur passed away somewhere between Carlisle and Oaktown on the car ride home. We missed Brittney’s holiday performance and the family came over and we all got to say our goodbyes before the funeral home came to pick him up.
This is why Angel Day is so important to me, it was the day when I saw the best of what humanity had to offer…what a perfect way to live your life, and end it. I like to commit acts of kindness on this day just to remember how good it feels to be thought about and also because you never know if the person you were just nice to will live to see tomorrow.