Friday, December 21, 2012

A Christmas Letter

Each year we send out a letter to update the near and far as to events in our household to those we know both in our past and present.  This year we once again shared our story, and to many it was a redundant tale of pain and woe, while to others who have not kept in touch, the news was a harsh slap in the face.

We suppose that there will be many notes and calls of regret about not keeping abreast of events in our lives, and that is unfortunate on many levels.  Some time we will share the number of friend requests we received on Facebook in the hours after Evan's death, but now is a time for peace and not anger.

Here then is our Seasonal Note/Christmas Missive/Annual Tidings for 2012.  This picture was watermarked behind the words of the letter and were taken at the Children's Inn at NIH in one of his poetic moments.

Never has a Christmas letter been so hard to write as this one.  The temptation to succumb to procrastination is immense.  And yet if this task is not completed it is possible that it would spell the end of all substantive writing from our family.

There is no easy way to say or write this line, and with it there are the memories of the first moments of a new reality and sharing it with those closest and farthest.  August 18, at 5:45 in the morning, Evan, our 13 year old gift from God, was given back to God as he lost his 5 year battle with cancer.  The details of circumstance of his death can be found within the blog that we kept as we travelled this tortuous road together with him. (

There is a giant hole in our hearts, we are told that it is a hole that only God can fill, but frankly we do not believe that; and are not sure we are interested in a divine intervention if the last one was to take our son/brother from us.  The question “Why?” is at the forefront of our minds but is not going to be answered this side of eternity.  And the most difficult aftermath of Evan’s death is not the crisis of faith, but the unanticipated overwhelming waves of sadness and sorrow that make breathing the next breath a near impossibility.

If we were able to look back on previous Christmas/New Year’s missives we suspect that we might find a litany of activities and accomplishments brimming with optimism and the light that only comes from the strength of love.  Everything has changed, and nothing has changed.  Evan and Paul got closer and closer as the year progressed and as their relationship developed under the adversity and pressures of patient and care-giver, so Evan sought out to build and strengthen the bridges in his life to others and healed damaged relationships with Morgan and Lizy in a manner of grace and wisdom well beyond his years. 

There were trips and travels throughout the year.  There were the usual trips to UNC for treatment and also for Paul’s interview at the School of Medicine; then there were the new trips to Bethesda, Maryland and the National Cancer Institute with side trips to Washington, DC.  As the year wore on and Evan’s ability to travel was diminished, Morgan felt led to represent the family at the Nevus Outreach Conference in Dallas.  She was of course a hit; and her strength, courage and poise were the source of great pride for mom and daddy.

Halfway through the year as the stress and tension of fighting a battle that Evan appeared to be losing ideas sprang forward to do something constructive as a way to inspire Evan, bring him hope and to give an avenue for creative and constructive energies to be expended: Miracle 2012. There was a two pronged approach: Construct a place of peace and reflection – Evan’s Garden; and music concert to celebrate Evan’s life and raise funds to retire the medical debt associated with 5 years of treatment.

Over 150 people(3 church groups, Hospice volunteers, a college football team and a soccer team plus all the friends from our own church, school and work) came and volunteered in the building of Evan’s Garden.  One of the iconic images of the year is Evan sitting on a gliding loveseat on the back porch as he helped direct construction while feeding off the hope and living prayers of all the people who gave of themselves digging, planting, mowing and sweating and sweating and sweating some more.

On July 28, Miracle 2012: The Concert saw hundreds of people gather at the Garner Civic Center Auditorium to participate in the concert, silent and live auctions.  It was a remarkable time of life, and while Evan stayed in the background, he thoroughly enjoyed the music and felt bathed in the love.  8 weeks later, The Regulars put on a live music event and played Evan’s favorite music to hundreds of people.  As a result of donations, auctions, and generosity; we were able to retire the full sum of over $28,000 in medical expenses.  And we were afforded the opportunity to approach our grief on our own time and terms. 

Three weeks later, Evan died.  It doesn’t get any easier to share this fact, it is not something that you can repeat a thousand times and the emotion is any less sharp.  It hurts in a way that words can never relate, and the resulting attempts by people to try and share began to feel like a bad sitcom.  It is with the best of intentions that people can say the stupidest most insensitive words; but while this may be the one time that society says it’s okay to be rude, it must be remembered that the intention was positive, even when the execution was poor.

To get away from as much of good intentions as possible we went to the Outer Banks to a Bed and Breakfast.  It was good to just be away from the hurting for a couple of days, clear our heads and cry in peace.

Since that time, Morgan has returned to school where she was the Assistant Director for the Fall play, while starting a new job at the State Farmer’s Market.  This is her senior year and her senior pictures brought both smiles and tears as Paul moved an upright piano into a field of tall grass well off the beaten track. The results are stunning. We have always know she is gorgeous, but the poses were Covergirl quality.

Paul got right back into the college soccer season and after a rocky start, the Mount Olive College team went on a 7 game unbeaten streak to finish the season.  They made it to the second round of the conference tournament, beat a team for the first time in 18 years tied to nationally ranked teams and set themselves up to be better next year.  And of course as soon as the college season ended, the club teams started up.

Lizy has been back to work since mid-October, and is glad that she works for such a compassionate organization that has supported her through this ordeal. In the time away from the workplace, she was able to finish her sewing/craft room (woman cave), and catch up on her own ‘to be done later’ list.

Rev. Pat continues to teach at church, while Snoopy  - the beagle,  gets older and slower, Shellie  - Morgan’s cat, gets meaner and meaner, and Pixel - Evan’s puppy, is rambunctious and playful all the time.

This time of joy and peace will have a little less joy in our home this year, but a greater sense of peace as we reflect on the gift that was given so precious and fragile, and now is gone until we meet again on the other side of eternity.  For us it is not so much Merry Christmas, but Christmas; just as we have dropped the greeting, “How are you?” in favor or “Hello!” Peace and Blessings to you all from the Coleman’s of Raleigh.

PS.  If you are one of the hundreds of volunteers who helped make Evan feel so special in his last few months, or contributed in any way to retiring the medical debt accrued during the past 5 years; we will never be able to show our full appreciation.  We always told Evan he was the greatest 'hugger' in the world because of the way he would embrace you with a totality that reflected his full commitment to you at that moment.  We would wish that you could have one of those hugs right now, and truly feel his love,  it is one of many little Evan-isms that we miss so much.

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