What advice do you have for parents whose child has a serious illness? Whose child has died?
My advice for parents who have a child with a serious illness is to make memories and take lots of pictures and videos. You can never have enough pictures and videos of your child. I would encourage them to try and do something fun with their child. Go to the park; go to the circus; do something you normally wouldn’t do because those are the moments you are going to remember the most. You might think “we have so many bills—we just can’t afford tickets to a play or a drive to the beach for the weekend.” But it’s something you won’t regret. Seeing the joy on your child’s face is worth it. Remember they are kids—kids just want to have fun with their parents. It really doesn’t matter what you do—just spend time together and make memories.
My advice for parents who have lost a child is to talk about your child often. Keep their memory alive by talking about them. Don’t worry if it makes others uncomfortable. Your child lived and left a mark in this world. Don’t forget that.
How has all of this changed you?
Losing a child is so hard. Of course it has changed me. I am much more compassionate. I think I was compassionate before losing Ryan, but since losing him, I feel like I need to really help those who are going through the unthinkable. I know what it’s like to watch your child struggle and fight for his life. And I know what it’s like to lose a child. Of course I wish nobody had to endure this pain and heartache, but if there are people who have to endure this, I would like to think I could offer them some compassion and help in any way I can. I don’t think I would have known what to do before. I am much more emotional. I was a very emotional person before Ryan died. I always cried at sad movies. Andy jokes that I used to cry at an Applebee’s commercial because a young neighbor brought dinner to her elderly neighbor, and it would make me bawl. Now, since Ryan’s death, I might hear a song on the radio that reminds me of him and just cry uncontrollably in the car. Oftentimes, I’m at Dallas Children’s Theater with Emily and I think about Ryan because I know he loved seeing HOW I BECAME A PIRATE, and I start crying during the middle of the play. Lastly, I appreciate the positive things in my life much more. I don’t take anything for granted anymore.
What does Emily know about her brother?
Andy and I talk about Ryan to Emily all the time. We have Ryan’s pictures displayed in our home, and we openly talk about him. She knows he was a happy boy whose favorite color was turquoise. She knows his favorite TV show was The Wiggles. She knows he loved sorting pompoms and pencils and crayons and anything he could get his hands on. She also knows he was very sick and was very brave and strong. She knows he picked out her name, “Emily.” She knows he loves her very much and is in heaven looking down on her with so much pride and love.
Has Emily been involved with anything Foundation-related?
Every Halloween, the foundation puts together goodie/treat bags for the kids receiving chemo at Children’s Medical Center – Dallas. We personally deliver these bags to the kids on October 17th (Ryan’s birthday). Emily has been involved in this activity since she was about three years old. She helps me pick out what toys and treats we put in the bags, and once we receive everything at the house, we set up an assembly line on the dining room table and put one of each toy in about 50-60 Halloween bags. This is something she always looks forward to doing. Andy, Emily, and I take the bags and hand them to the kids every year. Emily loves being involved in this because it makes her feel closer to her brother. I love doing this as a family every year and think it’s important to expose Emily to this life her brother lived.
Coming Up Next: In part 3 of this three-part series, the family talks about their excitement of seeing the show HOW I BECAME A PIRATE for the very first time.
Contributors: Joanne Goldblatt (Ryan’s Mom), Andy Goldblatt (Ryan’s Dad), Emily Goldblatt (Ryan’s Sister), Neil and Lois Goldblatt (Ryan’s grandparents), and Jack and Barbara Wilpon (Ryan’s grandparents)
Photos: Courtesy of the Goldblatt Family, and Ryan Diller
Compiled by Ryan Diller, a DCT Guest Writer who is pictured here with one of his favorite childhood memories. He is the former Web Editor of 1966: A JOURNAL OF CREATIVE NONFICTION, and his writing has appeared in MULTIBRIEFS and HOT PRESS. He is currently working towards an MFA in Playwriting at the University of Calgary.