a wish for a prayer

Author: angiem, 04 08th, 2010

I have a friend who lost her daughter to cancer six months ago.  I saw her today for the second time since then, and I am amazed at her ability to go on, to get up and get dressed, put on make-up, go to work, take care of the rest of her family.   Her daughter, her firstborn, was just eighteen, so beautiful, so full of energy, so full of life when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  She lived for almost a half year longer, giving her family time to prepare themselves with her death.  But how can a parent prepare for something so horrendous?  I do not know.  I know there was a lot of screaming and praying and silent tears and sleepless nights.  And I know there was depression, and there still is, a vacant look in the eye, a smile that is forced, the desire to lie down and wake up on the other side.

And how does a child prepare?

I wrote this following piece when I found out the news.  My feeble attempt to understand what my sweet friend’s daughter had been going through, while knowing that I never could.

Imagine yourself at eighteen.  Maybe you’re a senior in high school. Maybe a freshman at a community college. Maybe you’re taking a year off to rest and decide what to do with the rest of your life.  You are intelligent.  You are beautiful.  And you have all the time in the world, because you are just eighteen.  You have a mom and a dad who love you, adore you, really, because you are the baby.  And while they want you out of the house so they could downsize and start traveling the world, they also can’t imagine you leaving them.  Or maybe you are the eldest, and intertwined with that love is that anxiety parents experience when their firstborn leaves, moves out to try life on her/his own.

Now imagine a visit to your doctor.  Your pediatrician.  The man or the woman who has seen you every year from the time you were born.  This is really the last visit before you move on.  You have a bad cough that just isn’t going away, or a bruise that isn’t fading, or a mole on your back that looks a bit strange since the last time you went tanning and fell asleep in the tanning booth, or maybe a headache that just won’t go away.

She examines you, making little noises at the back of her throat.  Same noises she’s made while examining your broken nose in second grade when a big ball came out of nowhere while you were walking around the track with your three best friends; or the time you stepped on a rusty nail and had to get a tetanus shot.  It sounds like she’s humming, or chirping.  In any case, it’s a comforting sound, so you close your eyes and wait for it to be done so you can get dressed and go.  You have plans tonight.

Then she sits you down.  Takes off her glasses, rubs her eyes, looks at you over her clipboard.  And says that you’ll need to go to the lab for some tests. You ask if it could wait until Monday, after all it is three o’clock on Friday and you need to go places.  To see people.  And there is that shirt, or dress, or shoes that you absolutely need to have for this party you’re attending tonight.

She looks at you and smiles and nods her head, but a sigh escapes.  First thing Monday morning, she reminds you.  Then she gives you a hug that’s a bit too tight and a bit too long.  And your childhood ends.  Because you know that something is going on.  There’s a war inside your body.  Something you have no control over.  And all cheer until you find out what it is, is false cheer.

So you call your mom.  She’s frantic.  She hangs up too quickly, then calls you back.  She tells you to wait for her right there, she’s on her way.  And you wait because what else can you do? Meanwhile thoughts race through your head: you’re just eighteen; whatever it is, it isn’t fair; there are never any decent magazines in the doctor’s office; maybe you’ll be done quickly at the lab; you hope you make it to the mall; you’re just eighteen…

And the weekend passes in a blur.  Your doctor calls on Monday.  You need more tests.  You go in.  You get hooked up to things.  Blood flows out of your veins and into countless vials.  You hear your mom crying herself to sleep at night.  Your dad, so strong, so tough, is breaking apart.  So you try to be brave for your parents and for your siblings who watch you with big, fearful eyes.  Or maybe you break down and cry with them.  You hope.  You despair.  You pray.  You pray for a miracle.  After all you are just eighteen.  And your whole life should be ahead of you.

If you find it in your heart, please say a prayer for my friend.  That peace and joy return to her.  Thank you, my dear and lovely readers.

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51 Responses to “a wish for a prayer”

  1. Make Do Style Says:

    Oh Angie I will and it is such a shame - you made me cry in a good way that is respectful of life and all that it is. I hope the family finds some peace for their loss.

    It is a reminder to make the most of life even the hard times xx

  2. La Belette Rouge Says:

    Absolutely heartbreaking. I cannot imagine the grief that comes from losing a child. My heart aches for all who knew and loved her.

  3. Ange Says:

    Angie you have the gift of writing eloquently from the heart. I offer a prayer through my own tears, that your friend may find inner peace and real joy in life even though one of the most important lives around her is missing.

    Love

  4. Susan Says:

    Angie:

    It’s terrible to have something like that happen. I could just imagine myself in that place. I didn’t know what to think of.

    Angie, running a cancer hospice, you might be seeing many people like this. How do you manage? you must be a brave woman.

    Joy always,
    Susan

  5. Lori Says:

    This is the most unbearable tragedy that one can imagine and the parents who go on after it are surely, cell by cell, thought by thought, completely other people than the ones they were before.

  6. Carol Says:

    Very moving Angie~~~
    I lost a nephew Greg, will be 3 years ago the 17th of this month. He was an only child, 43 years old. His parents worshiped him.I wonder everyday how they moved on and learned to smile again. It’s just not natuaral to bury your child.

  7. Susu Paris Chic Says:

    I’ll surely pray for her. Life is sometimes so tough. So difficult to understand.

    I’m glad to know that you are there at your friend’s side. So many people are left alone when troubles come. You stand together with her. Dear Angie!

  8. French Fancy Says:

    Oh Angie, this is so sad. Your poor poor friend - how can she ever get over something like this? I cried when I read your post ‘as the daughter’ - you’d have to be very hard not to, I think. What a tragedy.

  9. Janna Qualman Says:

    Angie, it’s heartbreaking. Made all the more so by your beautiful words, so filled with emotion.

  10. Mary Moon Says:

    I will.

  11. willow Says:

    Your friend and her family are in my thoughts and prayers today, Angie.

  12. mrsbear Says:

    I honestly, honestly can’t imagine their grief. They will be in my prayers.

  13. Stephanie @ La Dolce Vita Says:

    oh, I cannot even imagine. I write this in tears for that poor girl and her family. May they find the peace they need … they will definitely be in my prayers. Bless you, too, for your compassion.

  14. angiem Says:

    Thank you. Your thoughts and prayers are appreciated.

  15. belle de ville Says:

    I don’t have the words to say to express my sadness at this story.
    Angie, one of my friends lost his daughter to cancer after a 7 year battle. She was 23 years old (the same age as my daughter at the time). He is still destroyed and really will never recover.
    For me there is nothing worse than losing a child in any way, cancer, a car accident, a drug overdose.
    I went to a funeral yesterday of a woman who had fought against cancer for 15 years. She was 70 years old and as bad as her predicament was, it’s just not the same as a teenager or 20 year old with a terminal desease.

  16. Ani Says:

    I’m trying so hard to hold back tears… I can’t imagine… I don’t want to… but I will keep your friend in prayer… and you? You have an amazing talent to capture the emotion in your writing!

  17. Ava Says:

    I am praying for your friend Angie. I can’t imagine what she’s going through. I agree with Belle de Ville that it is so different when a young person dies opposed to an old one.

  18. Michelle @ The True Book Addict Says:

    Darn it Angie…now I’m crying. I cannot imagine being a child and finding this out. You feel like you have your whole life ahead of you. And I certainly cannot fathom the pain your friend has gone through. I hope I never have to or anyone else does for that matter. I will keep her in my thoughts and prayers and I will say a prayer for anyone who has children as well.

  19. Susan Says:

    I will tell you that one goes on but it is never the same again. Ever.

  20. Susan R. Mills Says:

    Chilling. I’ll definitely be praying for your friend.

  21. Jena Says:

    Oh Angie my prayers for your friend.

  22. Diane Says:

    So very sad. Praying for your friend. There is no filler for such a hole.

  23. Karen@SurvivingMotherhood Says:

    May I pray right now?

    Father in heaven, there is so much we do not understand. So much only You can see, and we must simply trust.
    God, one of those things is the story of this eighteen year old girl.
    I don’t understand the Why? But I am confident in Your love and grace. So I ask You today to wrap Your arms around this mother and bring her the peace only You can give. Please comfort her hurting heart, and give her hope because of who You are.
    I’m asking it in the powerful Name of JESUS.
    Amen and amen!

  24. Jill Kemerer Says:

    Horrible. It’s every parent’s worst fear. My sympathies and prayers are with your friend. And your piece touched me–very beautiful.

  25. deb @ talk at the table Says:

    oh , praying hard.

    and have I read this before?

    you are such a kind and beautiful woman, Angie. I feel honoured to know you.

  26. Becky Ramsey Says:

    I will pray. I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine a loss so horrific.

  27. Beth Says:

    I too have a friend who lost a child to cancer and I am in awe of her strength, grace and stamina.
    Something I learned from her that I thought I would pass on – while she understands why some people are reluctant to talk about her son with her, she wants to be able to talk about him with friends. He is still so much a part of her life.

    Prayers & peace for your friend.

  28. angiem Says:

    Belle de Ville - I agree with you. It seems that when they are so young, it is so much more of a sadness for the life that they could have had, but will not have the chance to.

    Beth - Thank you. I will keep that in mind. Her daughter will always be a part of her life, and my ear will be open.

    Thank you for your prayers. Karen, that was beautiful.

  29. Kary Gonyer Says:

    what a heartbreak..i have been in that room….that place…. with my mother when the doctor said, ” i am afraid i have some not-so-good news for you today….you have pancreatic cancer and have 3 months to live”. your heart drops,your throat goes dry,your ears ring,you feel like dropping to the floor, you are in a fog…a blur… a haze…i must be in a dream…..this isn’t happening….and then the months to follow…the disbelief, crying, fear, that blank stare….

    i feel so much sympathy for your friend and her loss… how does she go on…

    angie, what you wrote said it all….

    she is in my prayers and thoughts, my sweet friend..yes she is….

    kary
    xxx

  30. Corinne Says:

    Tears…
    praying.

  31. krista Says:

    i cannot even fathom the type of pain this family is going through.
    the tips of it are poking me hard enough to draw blood, while i know there is no way i can understand where they are.

  32. Merel Says:

    Sometimes its so hard to understand God’s way . Why is the most asked question to God. And sometimes it makes me sad that we always ask WHY? But than I remeber that even Jesus on the cross ask : My God Why do you leave me? Even Jesus did ask Why? Thats why He is so great and can feel our pain like no other. That is my comfort in my life. Thanks for posting this!

  33. Francesca Says:

    Your friend is in my thoughts. I hope one day soon she’ll be able to smile a little bit more.

  34. She Writes Says:

    Angie,

    As you know, I am not religious, but my heart goes out to her.

  35. Anya Says:

    I could not finish reading…I know HOW she is able to go on. She is able to go on because she would rather live her life celebrating the time she had with her daughter instead of submerging into pain and grief. She is a strong lady. I very much admire her…

  36. Bethany Says:

    oh gosh Angie, how tough.
    Your writing is true and heartwrenching.
    Of course, sending healing thoughts and prayers.

  37. Jeanne Says:

    Angie..this is very touching and I feel for your friend and pray that they all may find peace. As a parent, my greatest fear is that I child will pass before me. I am sure we all feel the same. I can not image anything worse. It would take every ounce of courage and faith to carry on. I imagine faith is what carries you from day to day. Your story makes me think of those I have loved that have passed before me and how I treasure the time I had with them and will always love and remember….it carries me from day to day. They never really leave you as they remain in your heart forever.

    Best wishes…

    Jeanne:)

  38. Bunny Says:

    Oh Angie, I was just logging on to come see you and my blackberry beeped and you were leaving me a comment at the same time…Dear God up in Heaven I pray for this family. That is my fear, the fear of all mothers that we outlive our children. I had cancer when I was 28 year old and I just pray I don’t pass on any of those genes to my children. One trip to the Dr’s and your life changes forever. I wonder where your friend’s strength comes from, my friend lost her 3 year old son to heart disease years ago she still talks about him all the time. I’ll say a prayer for them.
    I know I post about pretty parties and happy times a lot…it helps me because I am such a worrier, I guess the non -stop activity of my life keeps me so busy It helps stop me from worrying all the time, but it is important for all of us to understand how blessed we are for each day and each moment we have. Lets all hug our loved ones a little longer and tighter this evening and count our blessings.
    xoxo

  39. Wine & Words Says:

    Can there be anything worse than losing a child? I don’t think so. I loved the perspective from which you wrote. So hard for all, those going, those staying. My heart aches. I will pray for her indeed.

    ~ Annie

  40. julie Says:

    Angie Angie
    You always find the words that other’s can’t… Truly this scenario must be unthinkable to an 18yr old… and inconceivable to a parent… I don’t have children so I can’t imagine this grief.. I’m glad she has a friend such as you.. someone who knows how to open her heart and match it with action… Take care dear Angie.. will be thinking of your friend.. xxx Julie

  41. Sabine Says:

    Oh Angie, this is so sad. It’s such a reminder that we have so little control over our lives and I cannot imagine how heart-broken the parents must be.

  42. Victoria @ Hibiscus Bloem Says:

    I can hardy swallow after reading this Angie. My eyes are filled with tears. I don’t know how I would cope, as parent or child. Thinking of your dear friend and extending a hand and a hug across the miles. xx

  43. Allegra Smith Says:

    One of the people I admire the most is a friend up in Washington, Karen Gerstenberger who lost her daughter a couple of years ago and she had turned her tragedy into one of the most gracious and giving acts anyone could dream of. She brings comfort and love to children with her quilts and blankets, and all the love is kept inside every single stitch.

    I hope your friend may find the peace that brings Light into our lives and help her find the way to start her life anew with serenity and nothing but good memories of the past.

    Looking forward to seeing you soon. Hugs from here.

  44. Holly L Says:

    I pretty much started crying as soon as the page loaded and I saw this post. I cannot imagine what a family or an 18 year old goes through. I don’t know if I could handle it. I absolutely love what you wrote…you captured a moment of time so well. I can truly imagine that is what was happening in that dear girl’s mind.

  45. angiem Says:

    I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. It is indeed a blessing to have your prayers and well wishes, and they are eagerly and gratefully received.

    Allegra, thank you for mentioning Karen Gerstenberger. She has gone through so much heartache, I cannot imagine. Her strength and beautiful soul are inspirational.

  46. audrey Says:

    my dear Angie,

    when I first started reading this post i so much thought similiar things, how does an 18 year old even begin to think of something devastating like this. your writing is a beautiful comfort and an incredibly thoughtful way to consider such a painful loss.

    sometimes 18 years can seem like a long time, but when it comes to a child’s life it seems like so little time.

    i think of how she must have been an incredible blessing and source of joy for people who loved her.

    i shall say a prayer. i’m so thankful for the gift of prayer… it does so often help hearts that have been devastated…

    love to you!!

  47. jeannette stgermain Says:

    Since you work for hospice you know much more about the mourning process than most. Losing one’s child is one of the hardest things one can go through -I hope you can be a strength and support to her (And I know you will)!

  48. Maia Says:

    I just learned that a friend from college died of brain cancer. Such a terrible thing for a person with so much life ahead, and for their family of course who have to go on without them. Having had cancer at a relatively young age myself, I know a little of what it is to get news of this kind. Mine was not a death sentence, though.

  49. corine Says:

    I just caught up with your last 14 posts. I love your blog.

    Nothing is more terrible that what your friend has to endure.

  50. Dawn Says:

    Oh God. There are no words. How does one prepare for something like that? How are the ones left behind supposed to deal with it? It’s not fair, and I am so sorry. Your friend will definitely be in my thoughts.

    Beautifully written, by the way.

  51. Joyce Says:

    I will say a special prayer for your friend. My friend lost her 17 year old sun 3 years ago to brain cancer. Sending hugs to you both today! xo

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