A year ago in August, a child at my daughter’s school was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, an inoperable brain tumor. I didn’t know the family well, only to say hello at school functions or at church, and my daughter had only just become friends with the child a few weeks prior to her diagnosis. The survival rate for this type of tumor is zero. That little girl fought bravely for just over a year and passed away yesterday.
Like other members of the school and church family, we watched and prayed, hoped and dreamed as we waited for updates on her condition. She attended school sometimes for a few hours, when she felt strong enough. I watched the children of the small school come together in prayer and hope for their friend. They initiated ways to help raise money among themselves, such as days where the students paid $1 to wear hats to school, or a t-shirt from a favorite sports team. There was they day they dressed as super heroes, many with capes that bore her name, because SHE was their super hero.
As adults, we know that one day we all must die. None of us is going to live forever. Many of us fear death, and hold out hope that it is something that won’t come for us until we are very old and have lived a full life. We are angered by the seeming injustice when a child is taken from us. We wonder why. It is truly sad. Sometimes children are taken abruptly, and other times, an illness claims them a little at a time. Those children, who know they will not be in this world a long time, have a strength that is beyond measure. When I look into the eyes of a child that knows their prognosis, and knows they are going to die, what I see is a light in their eyes that shines with fierce courage and strength. I see determination and power. It is a beautiful strength, this strength that comes from knowledge and acceptance.
I watched as the child’s classmates tried to help her experience things she would not get the chance to experience. They held a prom in her honor, because as a middle school student, she would never get the chance to experience a prom of her own. Her friends created a beautiful tribute to her for their computer fair project. We watched, we prayed, we hoped, but we knew it would take a miracle. I do believe in miracles, but I also believe that we can never understand the will of God. I watch now, as her classmates and family carry out her final wishes. She made lists of what she wanted them to do after she was gone, and made cards and letters to be delivered after her death. I admire her bravery, and her selfless desire to try to ease the pain of others when she knew they would be hurting the most.
My heart goes out today for this child’s family. My heart goes out to all families living with the knowledge that their beautiful, precious child is only meant to be in this world for a short period of time. As parents, we are filled with joy when our children are born. We are also filled with hopes and dreams for that child. We can envision Little League, ballet classes, first dances and first dates. We can dream of college, and marriage and of our children starting families of their own. All too often we take these things for granted. We relax and know that our child has their whole future ahead of them. It isn’t always so, and I marvel at the strength of parents that know they have to let their child go. I honor those parents, and their courage. Sometimes when we need words the most they fail us. In tragedy we do not always know what to say, for fear of saying the wrong thing. We want to offer some comfort, but know mere words are little use to a grieving parent.
I honor this family’s bravery and their love and dedication to their child. I offer my sympathy and prayers to them. I offer my prayers to all families who have a sick child, and to families who have lost their children, through illness or accident. I honor the children who fight with such strength and courage, and I am humbled my their bravery and beauty. These children, these parents, these are the true super heroes of this world.