Friday, September 20, 2019
Where Was I . . Worth the Ride
Last month, I wrote about the little boy at Phipps mistaking me for a hero, but his month I’d like to tell you about some real heroes.
Five years ago last August, my youngest son introduced us to a girl, who for the sake of privacy, I’ll call Chelsea. Over a period of about three weeks, he took her out a few times and brought her to our house. She was pretty, sweet, soft-spoken and funny, and my husband and I liked her immediately as did our dog, who climbed into her lap. She and I hit it off discussing Broadway musicals and Harry Potter books.
Right before they were due to return to college, Chelsea had an examination and learned that the brain cancer that she had beaten seven years ago when she was twelve was back. I didn’t know her medical history, so we were all shocked and heartbroken for her and her family. Understandably, because of her precarious health, she eventually had to break off the relationship with my son to focus on getting well.
Selfishly, I wondered why Chelsea had been brought into our lives? Had my son never taken her out those few times before school commenced, we’d have been spared this pain. What was the purpose of her coming into our lives for such a short time only for us to face the prospect of heartache, suffering and loss? I spent a lot of time thinking about her and crying. I hadn’t signed on for this and didn’t know if I could handle it.
I was presented with a choice: I could back off—no one would have known the difference. We’d only seen Chelsea a few times—or I could go along for the ride and offer whatever measly support I could. I realized that both she and her family didn’t want this either. Ultimately, I chose Chelsea over my fear of pain. I had to; I already cared about her. So, I befriended her mom on Facebook, who provided updates of her daughter’s (and her family’s) battle with brain cancer.
My family prayed, sent cards, gifts and offered support on Facebook posts—but it never seemed quite adequate. The day my first granddaughter was born was doubly joyous as Chelsea’s mom also posted then that Chelsea had gone into remission. But that didn’t last, and the cancer came back. There were so many highs and lows in their fight, that I can’t remember them all, but last year, Chelsea’s options for treatment narrowed, and she and her mom moved to Memphis to seek treatment at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. They lived away from home for months trying anything to save her life.
Sadly, in late spring, all treatment failed, and Chelsea came home to the North Hills. Updates from her mom became fewer. When her mother posted in late July that Chelsea would soon be leaving us, requesting prayers that she pass quickly and peacefully, we knew what was dreaded was here.
Chelsea passed away on July 20 at the age of 25 after a 13-year battle with cancer.
My family and I waited for two hours in line at the funeral home to offer our support and express our sorrow to her parents. I had never met her mother in person before, but that didn’t matter. Our aching hearts bonded.
I didn’t want to get on this ride; I didn’t want to see Chelsea suffer and die, but I’m so glad I hopped on board. Though we are heartbroken, I got to witness a beautiful young warrior fight, graduate from college, and live life like there was no tomorrow. I witnessed the terrible beauty of fierce, selfless, heroic parental love in action.
No, I didn’t want it to end this way, and I still don’t know the purpose of this, but I do know one thing—knowing you, Chelsea, and witnessing you and your parents’ grace and undying love for each other has made all the pain worth it. You enriched and blessed our lives. Rest in peace, dear girl.
This article originally appeared in the September 2019 edition of Northern Connection magazine.
NOTE: I've received a lot of feedback on this article, telling me how much Chelsea's story touched them. If your are so inclined, her family is supporting St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, and donations are certainly welcome.