When life sends us trials and tribulations that we think may shatter our hope, it is best to remember verses like Jude 1:20-21(NIV): “But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.” It is with these verses in mind that I offer a short story about the suffering and heartache we are bound to encounter on this side of eternity:
In the end, Leukemia attacked Laurie without abandon. It was a tragedy that I didn’t believe I was mature enough to deal with at the time, but somehow God gave me the strength to sit with my friend during her final days here on earth. Looking back, I wonder if I will ever again be called upon to show the kind of courage I mustered during that summer in 1982.
I met Laurie the summer before cancer took her life. We hung around the same close-knit group of Lake Central High School students. There were eight of us that had become more cherished to each other than our biological families. That may sound extreme, but it’s true. Even though twenty-three years have passed since Laurie’s death, I still consider the members of our crew to be the best friends I ever had. Laurie’s courageous battle against the cancer that ravaged her petite body brought our band even closer to each other.
We took turns visiting Laurie in her bedroom, which had been transformed into a virtual hospital room. We became so accustom to checking her IV, listening to her monitors, and responding to her request for help that the seven of us could have passed for nurses.
The cancer had destroyed Laurie’s ability to speak, so she communicated her needs through a Texas Instruments’ Speak & Spell. The children’s educational tool allowed her to type in what she wanted to tell us, and then with the push of button the words became sound. It gave her the voice she had lost. And to this day, when I hear the robotic-voice of a “Speak & Spell” tears begin to well-up in my eyes. I don’t hear a mechanical fabrication, I hear Laurie asking me to add a pillow to the back of her head, bring her some ice chips or just hold her hand for a few more minutes.
At a time when most teenagers were at the beach, the amusement park, or movie theaters, there were seven teenagers trying to make a young girl’s last few weeks have some extra significance. But while we believed what we were doing was helping Laurie face death with more dignity, the one thing we couldn’t see at the time was that our sacrifice was leading us to have a better understanding of how precious life is.
Before Leukemia made its final assault on Laurie, she was a beautiful girl with an adorable smile, a glowing personality, and a love for Billy Joel music. When I first met Laurie I didn’t like a single Billy Joel song. Today, every time I hear a Billy Joel song I think about the smile his music brought to her face and I picture Laurie in Heaven, waiting to be reunited with her seven friends. Seven friends who, at the time, never realized how God was molding our lives. After the summer of 1982, I never again forgot about the sanctity of life, the gift of each new day, or the ability of humans to accomplish more than they believed capable, especially when they embrace a God who has given us every emotion – the greatest of which is love. And that emotion is just as strong on both sides of eternity.
I was impressed with both your introduction and the story. WE are all members one of another - and our task is to bear one another's burdens. It can be hard to find the right way to do this, and serious illness can interfere with honest communication even when it does not affect the powers of speech. Thank you
Dan, this is absolutely beautiful and heart-warming. You seven really made a difference to Laurie who much have been dealing with pain, suffering and a range of emotions. Thanks for sharing this story. It makes us all stop and think. ( I was in fifth grade then.) Ha.
What a Beautiful moving story! Thank you for sharing your heart. I was really Blessed.How precious is the time we have here; each day truly is a Gift given to us from our Lord! God Bless You and Your Family .In Christ your Sister ,Dee:)"Numbers 6:24,25,26."
Dear ,Dan as I was reading your heart it brought tears to me heart your moving article brought back many memories of a Dear friend of ours who battled with Cancer and is now in the Presnce of our Lord with Your Dear Friend Laurie. Thank you for sharing that Beautiful article. May God Bless you and your Family! In Christ ,your Sister Dee.
Beautiful, though painfully stirring testimony. 1982... was quite a tough year in high school for me too. I'd seen death as well... and much heartache. Now, 23 years later, Billy Joel and 'A Matter of Trust', secular or not, encourages me not to give up. Your article blessed me beyond measure. Thanks.