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  • Writer's pictureKatie Beucus

The Story of a Tree

I remember the night we learned Aaron had relapsed like it was yesterday. We had about an hour between learning the news, and him heading back to the OR for another surgery. Aaron never once googled his diagnosis. He didn’t need to know his odds to know he was going to push his body as far as humanly possible to try and beat his disease. And he did. He submitted to the most toxic chemos at the highest dose and the most aggressive radiation without batting an eye.

He always said I was the captain of our ship. What an incredible honor that was to be trusted by him in that way. I learned everything I could about his disease, found excellent surgeons and an oncologist who not only specialized in his cancer, but with whom he connected with and trusted. I knew his treatment plan, and medications, the dosages, interactions and side effects inside out and upside down. I read all of his surgery notes and scan interpretations. I collected 100s of pages of research. And so the night we learned he relapsed, for the first and only time he looked at me and the following conversation ensued:

A: “How bad is this?”

K: “What do you mean?”

A: “What are my odds? I know you know.”

And he’s right, I knew. It’s why I sat with a friend outside the hospital and just sobbed while he was in the OR this time. But the thing is, when your odds of developing his type of cancer in its location are only about .08%, even if the 5 year survival rate of relapse was 6%, that was still better than where we started. And someone had to be in that 6% so why not Aaron?

I prayed over him, and then we started to plan. We were going to have this conversation once, and then we weren’t going to let cancer take any more from us. This was hands down, the hardest conversation of my life. Harder than explaining cancer to the kids. Harder than explaining their Dad would be healed from cancer only in heaven. To sit with someone you love so much, and plan for life without them, is nothing you can possibly prepare for. And it’s a place I don’t let myself go to often because it’s too much, where I put myself in his shoes and consider how hard it was for him to leave us. Knowing he gave it everything he and medicine had, and still having to say goodbye. And he did it without fear, full of so much grace.

Through tears he shared that he just really wanted a place for the kids to visit. We discussed that while well intentioned, how often have we gone to visit our family member’s graves? Would that feel often enough for Aaron? It didn’t feel right. And so I did what I do best and began to research. On a whim, I suggested we plant him in our yard with a new tree. Aaron’s face lit up, he would become a tree. This is the night the tree was born.

Two months later, two days before he died, Aaron decided to donate his body to science. Hospice was wonderful in helping us find a location that not only would share with us the research Aaron’s donation helped propel forward but would also return his ashes enabling us to fulfill his tree wish. He had found his perfect fit.

So this weekend, we celebrated the reason Aaron is free and healed in heaven, by returning him to the earth and planting his tree. By filling the air around his space with joyful noise: We took turns writing messages to him on his bag and the kids drew pictures. Evan, Haddie, his parents and I all gave him last hugs and then I placed him to rest in the soil. He will stand tall and grow in the sunshine forever, in a place where the kids can visit him and talk with him and hug him every single day 💛

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