Two weeks ago my thoughts and prayers were selfishly centered around my desire to expand our family and subsequent need for a minivan to accomplish that. I try not to be one of those people who believes that God cares about my minivan situation as much as He cares about starving children, but I’ve been in a 25 year habit of talking to Him about everything, and lately, I’ve had minivan on my brain.
Then, my Facebook newsfeed alerted me of this update: “OVERWHELMED. That describes the last 2 days of my life on all different levels. My youngest diagnosed with leukemia, seemingly, out of the blue; tearing me apart inside in a way I never imagined…”
This more-than-acquaintance but not-yet-good-friend took her three year old daughter, Leah, to the pediatrician for a cold that wouldn’t seem to go away. Less than twenty four hours later, the little girl was being set up for chemotherapy.
Suddenly, my minivan didn’t seem quite so important.
I sat in a room full of women last Thursday morning, crying, with everyone, as we were more fully updated on the story. Every woman in that room was a mother (hence the reason for the gathering) and for many, this story contained a name without a face. It didn’t matter. None of us could absorb this news with anything less than the feeling of, “What if this was my child?”
Weirdly, this isn’t the first time such news has reached me from a nearly identical relationship connection. A little over two years ago, a couple from our small group at church, who’s daughter is a few months younger than Eliott, announced what might as well have been the exact same scenario. Meet Lexie Grace. For almost two years, her picture has been on my refrigerator.
So what happens when bad things happen to good people? Well, by the power of the World Wide Interwebs, stories are told, connections are made, and support begins to organize. In Lexie’s case, “Love 4 Lexie” signs began popping up all around Alamance County. Money was raised. Prayers were raised. A community rallied.
After last Thursday’s full disclosure to my MOMS group, we were sent an email with the beginning notes of “How you can help.” In the newness of the situation, the family is taking things one day at a time. Not wanting to add to what I can only imagine could quickly become a smothering amount of support, I clicked the link to sign up for a meal delivery. I was ten minutes too late. Meals have already been arranged every other day from now until April. Women have booked Saturday mornings to vacuum someone else’s house. Gas cards have been shoved into envelopes. And of course, people are praying.
Obviously I do not pretend to understand even a fraction of how this family must feel. Yet, there are so many people who do. Like birth and death, I imagine this situation is one of those that is exactly as unique as it is common. Throughout my first pregnancy and into those first moments of motherhood, I remember trying not to allow myself to think that no one could possibly understand how I felt, yet constantly feeling like no one could possibly understand how I felt. An emotional oxymoron. It does not make the experience any less unique. In the case of cancer, it does not make the experience any less difficult.
The last time we spoke to Lexie’s parents face-to-face, we were celebrating solid foods, sitting up, and the prospect of walking, while Eliott and Lexie drooled near each other on the floor. John and I moved out of the area and have not kept in close contact with the family, but have been regularly updated on her status, and reminded to pray. Somehow, I’ve never taken down her picture. I am excited to report that Lexie’s last chemo treatment was in June of 2010, and she’s currently in remission. Those of us non-medical praying-type people like to say healed.
I have gone to bed every night this week with the thought on my lips, “Thank you for my children. Thank you for our health.” Admittedly, I feel guilty using one person’s tragedy as a reminder to count my blessings. But I’m human. How else can I respond?
I believe in the power of healing. I believe in the power of prayer. And so I also commit to offering this belief for Leah, daily, hourly, as often as I am reminded, because I know that this would be the response of my community if it was my child.
* Names and pictures have been included with full disclosure to and permission of the parents.