Olivia was my whole world. I loved my husband. My son, Wyatt. My family. But she was my everything. That happens when your child is sick. You know what a real possibility it is to lose them and it changes the relationship. You treasure every moment. You look at them with such complete love knowing that at any moment they could be taken away.
I often wondered if I would ever be okay if Olivia didn’t win her battle with brain cancer here on earth. I was convinced that I would never be able to get out of bed. I knew my relationship with her twin brother was wonderful but very different. I was Olivia’s primary caregiver and a lot of Wyatt’s care had to go to my husband and to grandparents. Olivia needed so much and she needed her mommy. I was her source of comfort. I was her whole world too.
Then that horrible day came. October 22, 2013. At 7:09 p.m. my husband and I held Olivia in between us and watched her soul leave her body for Heaven. And just like that our daughter wasn’t a physical being here on earth. Instead, she was a memory. A beautiful memory that we had to close our eyes to envision. That we had to look at in pictures and remember through videos.
The next morning I woke up with such an ache of my soul. I sat there in my disbelief wondering, did my daughter ever exist? Or was she some beautiful dream I had that I’ve now woken up from. I’ve asked myself that same question so many times. Was Olivia really real?
Of course I know that she is. I gave birth to her and Wyatt in February 2012. I sat with her in the NICU and saw how feisty she was as this tiny little preemie and I worried about her being a handful as a teenager. That was my biggest worry at the time other than wanting to get my little babies home. I never imagined that she wouldn’t live to see her second birthday. I never dreamed that I would watch her fight her entire life through one medical problem after another.
Olivia is on my mind every single day. I walk through our home and think about how it would be set up if Olivia was still with us. I think about what her room would look like. I imagine what she would be into today. Would she love dress up and tea parties? Or would she be wild and play rough with her brother? Would she be jealous of Landon, her new little brother? Or would she be so excited and want to help mommy with everything? I will never know the answer to those questions.
Now the only way to have a picture with my entire family is by holding a picture of Olivia. That in and of itself breaks my heart all over again. But at least by doing that we can include her in some way. It helps to solidify the fact that my daughter really did exist. And her memory will always live on.
Olivia Caldwell Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit that raises money for pediatric brain cancer research. All proceeds benefit the neuro-oncology research team at Children’s Hospital Colorado. You can learn more and donate at www.oliviacaldwellfoundation.org.