I awoke at 3am with the memory of a story told to me years ago by a caregiver at Children’s Mercy Hospital. She told me that she was sitting with a little girl who was dying of cancer. The child asked her, “Will anyone miss me?” I have a visceral reaction to this story – like Superman encountering Kryptonite - it knocks the wind out of me. When I awoke with those 4 little words in my head and the visual they created, I burst into tears. It’s late in the afternoon now and I still see that precious little soul lying in a hospital bed wondering if she will leave enough of a footprint in this world to be remembered.
Imagine being the recipient of that question………I remember cooking dinner and Heather was 4 years old. She left the kitchen and a few minutes later came clomping back in some high heels and a dress of mine. She had piled her hair on top of her head with one of my clips. She looked up at me with total vulnerability and asked, “Am I pretty?” I knew in that moment I was on sacred ground. I held her little soul in my hands. Whatever I said would have a substantial impact on how she saw herself. I told her she was beautiful inside and out.
I wonder if the oncology floors of children’s hospitals have a “Lose It” room. A hidden room that only the staff knows about, a room where you can collapse, power cry and then move on to the next child who needs you? I hope so. I’ve always wanted to be one of those lucky people who can cry and 5 minutes later, they look normal again……I look like a prize fighter for at least 12 hours – no sneaking in power cries for me!
My favorite movie is Ordinary People. Judd Hersch gave a magnificent performance as the counselor to Timothy Hutton – survivor of a boating accident in which his brother died. At one point, the counselor grabs the boy’s shoulders and says, “You’re still here and you’re alive – and that’s a good thing!” This image came into my mind as I was calming down from the 3am assault. I looked at my husband Robert and said, “You love me from your soul!” With an immense feeling of gratitude came the thought, despite all the potential pain in the world, love like you would perish if you lost the other. Give it all while you can. Let the people you love know you would miss them if they left.