I have told this story a few times since the visitation… And anymore I preface any conversation with “I’m sorry if I have said this before”. I honestly can’t keep track of what I have said to who and when! That’s not completely true, I remember smiles, hugs, and condolences… I just don’t remember who has heard what. Angela catches me talking to myself sometimes because I overthink past conversations in my head all the time… And they sometimes spill out of my mouth while deep in thought. It’s weird, and something I never used to do.
The Blog. Full Disclaimer.
Having a blog is a certain level of narcissism that I never really thought about. Weird since I have been posting on planetstahl for 20 years. This last year with Summer’s cancer battle has had me thinking about what and why I share and post. I guess, it’s fair to say I’m a narcissist. I certainly have always felt like what’s going on in my life was worth sharing with everyone. A narcissist talking about narcissism? Is it possible to be impartial in this conversation with myself?
In the beginning, I did not write about our journey through Summer’s cancer as a way to share it with the “world”. Obviously, a blog is written with a certain level of self-exploitation because you ultimately do it in the open. But in general, Planetstahl has been a tool for sharing what’s going on with the farm or the kids… And the receiving audience has been my immediate family and friends. In the beginning, it was all about sharing Illinois news for my family back in Florida.
Fast forward to the events of the past year.
When my Grandpa Stahl was sick and passed away from his stroke… I recall the family texts and phone calls telling us everything that was going on with his treatment and condition. (Tim is the king of this!) I never thought much about it until Summer got sick and I started taking and making phone calls to family members. This really kicked into gear when Summer was accepted at CARLE in Champaign. After I had given updates via a phone call, my Mom or Dad would ask, “do you want to call your brothers and sister?” I was more than willing to let them share the news because I did not have the mental fortitude to make that call three times over.
I was not going to be like my Dad sitting on the phone or sending those monster texts from the hallway of a hospital to the whole family about the current conditions. Planetstahl was the perfect way to share with everyone what was going on with Summer and her treatment. It was a clean and sanitary way to share the info without getting my hands dirty talking to people face to face.
But it also drew a lot of people in that I did not expect.
After Summer has been through her surgery at CARLE, I came back to work for a few days and had a rotation of co-workers, customers, and friends coming through my office door to offer their support. At one point, a customer, Rich, and I were sitting and talking about Summer and her cancer and he started crying. I was totally taken aback that this stranger of my daughter would absorb my pain and take it in. We were both sitting there looking at each other through watery eyes when I told him “I am so sorry that I projected this pain onto you”. Maybe it’s some masculine way to deal with drama, but internalizing and working through the personal battles by yourself seems like the way you are supposed to “do it”. Two grown men crying about Summer being sick 90 miles away would solve nothing.
After a few weeks… It became obvious that Summer cared very much about what I was writing. And it also pulled me back from throwing down hard truths and some brutal realities that the rest of us around her were dealing with. We were in this to win this. There were very few moments in the blog that I would ever call pessimistic. Knowing that Summer was reading until the last few weeks kept me writing toward a clean diagnosis and healing.
So, I know that if I were to look back at some days during the last year in this “story”… It would have some formidable holes in the reality of the situation. We knew how bad it was. We did not share that. Full transparency with the diagnosis was reserved for those moments when we were sitting with doctors in rooms with test results.
When we were in Hospice and I had the opportunity to make some posts… (Something I had not done much of since our 2-week jaunt across the US on vacation) The blog numbers were off the charts. I knew a lot of people were waiting for updates while we were gone. But I promised myself that the blog was not a concern while we were spending time on the epic roadtrip. If I had time to write, great, if not, so be it.
After Summer passed and we were at the visitation. I heard about the blog a lot. Anglea was probably totally sick of hearing the word blog. Angela was quick to point out the that there were 3 or 4 people in the room on most days at St. Jude. The stories of the days probably would have had a different emphasis and key moments if told by her, Summer or Nate. A lot of people were following along. I knew that. But I still felt bad that our family’s pain was being absorbed by so many. Just like that conversation with Rich in my office, was it fair for me to unload our pain on strangers to Summer?
I do not have that answer to what is right or wrong.
I do not know that Summer’s story will resonate with anyone outside our family for more than a few months or years after her passing. (The scholarship fund is our best hope to keep her name in front of our neighbors for the next decade or more)
I do know that the blog has served as a document that will keep a bit of our family legacy alive as long as it’s kept alive online.
Some folks said to publish the words. I may print them off so that I have this document on paper in the off chance the site gets lost or deleted. I find our photo books serve as a great reminder that printed images and words stand the test of time better than a website or social media.
As for full-blown publishing as suggested by more than a few folks… Well, this blog is a mess. I would need to decide if all the posts need to be edited with the full background of what was really happening every day we were with Summer in treatment. Also… There were weeks when I was not with her… Would I need to go back and defer to Angela’s diaries from those days? I really don’t think I have enough here to work with and I am not sure that our journey through Summers cancer and St. Jude will inspire anyone.
Again, inflicting pain on others was not the goal.
Writing has been tough lately. I worked all last week and every night seems to have plenty going on. Even a lazy weekend day does not leave anytime for making a blog post. I will keep wrapping up the funerals and visitation.
Angela, Mom, Linda and Aiden spent 2 full days with Thank You cards… You will likely gert one of those before I make my thank you post!