The end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016 seemed to share a melancholy theme… death. Through the connective power of the internet and social media, I learned of the death of several wonderful people that had touched my life. Parents of classmates, good friends of my parents, and, most devastating of all, an adorable 4 year old girl, who I never met but had followed her battle with leukemia from afar. I’ve shed more tears over precious Kate Olivia than anyone else who has died.
Lindsey, Kate’s mom was pregnant with Kate when I learned of a fellow mother-to-be with diabetes who didn’t have access to a CGMS (continuous glucose monitoring system). This relatively new technology is a huge help when working to maintain blood sugar levels that will keep your growing baby healthy. I was fortunate to have two devices. One to spare! Through the diabetes online community, Lindsey and I were connected. It felt really good to put my discarded diabetes device to extremely good use when I shipped it out to Virginia. A few email exchanges and a connection on Facebook followed.
Fast forward a couple years… I was so sad to learn that Lindsey’s little girl was battling leukemia at the age of 2. I was awed and inspired by this strong little girl and amazingly devoted parents as Lindsey shared the ups and downs of Kate’s treatment. In September they celebrated the end of treatment. It was shocking when she relapsed so devastatingly quickly a few months later.
Reading Lindsey’s posts on Facebook in the days surrounding Kate’s death were heart wrenching. She and her husband Mike were experiencing and describing every parents’ worst nightmare. I don’t know how people live with that pain. But, as I came to see the past several days, they carry on by honoring and cherishing their daughter. I just made a donation to support the Rhoades family. Their family, friends, and extended community have nearly raised $20,000 to help them through this difficult time. If you’re so inclined, any donation is appreciated.
With thoughts of Kate and others who have recently passed away settled on my heart and mind, I just read the book Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. It tells the love story between a quadriplegic man and his caregiver. The story deals with death and it was incredibly moving. I balled my eyes out while finishing the book. Sienna thought something was seriously wrong with her mom! I tried to explain, in appropriate terms, what the story was about. She seemed confused by the idea that I’d voluntarily read something that made me so sad.
I’ll be 36 years old in less than two weeks and I still haven’t lost anyone close to me. The concept of death is still quite theoretical. I can conceive of it, but I don’t know how it feels to actually lose someone close and dear to me. When I think about losing a loved one, it’s too painful to bear for long. So, I say a prayer that God will protect them, and move on.
I know this wonderful streak can’t last forever. I also know that there’s nothing I can do to prepare myself for the pain of losing someone I love. It will happen one day. People I love will die. I will die. There’s really nothing that makes us more aware of our powerlessness and need for Christ than this realization.
So, what to do?
I’ve been holding my children extra tight the past couple weeks. I’ve been sure to give my husband a kiss when he comes home and always before we fall asleep. I’m mindful of spending my time connecting to my husband, kids, parents, family, friends, and the people I see everyday. What’s truly going to matter when it’s all said and done? Loving relationships, giving and sharing, helping and supporting, connecting and understanding.
We can’t know how much time we have or how much time is left with the people we love. But, we can spend the time we have purposefully – to love tenderly and connect deeply.