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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Sad (07/26/07)

TITLE: The Long Year That Was Too Short
By Kristen Hester


The kids were fighting, the dog was barking, and the dryer was buzzing on that January morning when I got the phone call that would change my year. “This is Phoebe Williams. I’ve just found out I have advanced ovarian cancer. Things don’t look good for me.”

A cold chill ran through my body. I pictured the petite, retired teacher who had faithfully attended the same aerobic class as me for the past five years. While we weren’t especially close, being tortured three times a week by our perky drill sergeant gave us a special bond.

“I felt God leading me to call, ” she continued. “I hate to be a bother, but I know you’re a woman of faith and I could really use your support.”

I did the only thing I knew to do and prayed for Phoebe, right then, over the phone. Afterwards, she thanked me. “That’s exactly what I wanted,” she said. I hung up after promising to call again soon, then sat on my couch and cried for my friend.

I dreaded what lay ahead. I was already feeling overwhelmed just being mom to my three children ages five, six and eight. The sadness and responsibility of watching someone die in addition seemed more than I could handle.

But as the year progressed, daily calls to Phoebe became part of my routine. Every conversation included a prayer, but she also wanted to hear stories about my children. She’d never had any of her own and the things that frustrated me were amusing to her. I began watching for their funny or mischievous antics to share with Phoebe. I called these “Phoebe Moments”.

“So what are the kids up to?” she would eagerly ask.

“Today Emma asked her teacher, ‘Mrs. Foster, what’s your last name?’” Phoebe laughed. “And Joshua got sent to the Headmaster’s office for squeezing an orange onto a girl’s hair at lunch.”

More laughter from Phoebe. “Haven’t you heard of citrus shampoo?” She always defended Joshua.

During the spring months, I often sat on my patio when we talked and described the birds that were building nests in my birdhouses. She’d taught science for twenty-five years and enjoyed educating me and helping me identify the birds.

By summer, I depended on our time together.

In late October, she called to tell me the cancer was going to win. “I’m ready to go to Heaven,” she said. Though her call wasn’t a total surprise, silent tears ran down my face. “You’re a good mother and I want you to enjoy every second of every day with your children. They’re a blessing.” As she continued her encouragement and advice, there was a sense of urgency and an unusual frankness to what she said. When time is limited, you don’t waste words on unimportant subjects.

November was a busy month for Phoebe. With the strength she had left she ordered Christmas presents, comparison shopped cremation prices, wrote her obituary, and planned her memorial service.

“I’ll probably die around Christmas. Since that’s such a busy time we’ve set the memorial service for the end of January. I’ve lined up volunteers to bring cookies and punch. After the service I want everyone to stay and visit.” She went on to describe the color scheme she had chosen for the tablecloths and napkins.

It was too much for me. “I’ll be sad. I won’t feel like a party,” I whined.

“I’ll be having my own party in heaven, so enjoy yourself. People are in such a hurry these days. They never take time to sit and visit.”

When Phoebe died in early January, I thought I was prepared, but I wasn’t. Weeks later, her memorial service went just as she had planned. I didn’t dare leave without eating cookies and visiting with friends.

In April, I was sitting on my patio watching the birds flutter around my birdhouses when a slow, reluctant tear made it’s way down my cheek. My two girls joined me outside.

“Why are you crying?” Emma asked.

“I’m sad because I miss Mrs. Phoebe.”

Uncomfortable with my tears, my older daughter wanted to change the subject. “Did you know Clara Barton* was born on Christmas day and died on Good Friday?” She had just read Clara Barton’s biography in school.

Emma said incredulously, “Well, she sure didn’t live very long.”

I laughed through my sadness. Remembering Phoebe’s directive to enjoy every second with my children, I pulled both girls onto my lap and enjoyed a “Phoebe Moment”.

*Clara Barton was the founder of the American Red Cross.

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This article has been read 1169 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Joanne Sher 08/04/07
Such vivid descriptions! You took me along on this awful journey - but with hope. I love how you ministered to each other. Isn't God great?
Sheri Gordon08/04/07
I'm so glad I found this story. It is really touching -- and has such a great message. Your writing is very good -- you pulled me in at the beginning, and kept my interest throughout.
Jan Ackerson 08/05/07
Love the "Clara Barton" moment at the end (she was my childhood heroine), with its reminder that joy can catch us even in sorrow. Lovely.
Lynda Schultz 08/05/07
Pass the Kleenex — this was so beautiful, sad, triumphant — and well done!
Verna Cole Mitchell 08/05/07
From the title to the end, this was a wonderful story. I loved the caring friendship of the MC.
william price08/05/07
Very real honest writing, once again. SUperb effort. God bless.
George Parler 08/05/07
Sadness and smiles woven into the same story. And you flowed from one emotion to the other seamlessly. Good job.
Betty Castleberry08/05/07
Very touching. It's a good reminder that sometimes people need someone to talk to, as well as to pray for them. Very nicely done.
Dee Yoder 08/05/07
This is one of my favorites so far! Really poignant and warm. I love Phoebe's idea that we should sit, visit, and enjoy our relationships at a memorial service since the loved one will be having a party in Heaven! This is a wonderful entry.
Seema Bagai 08/06/07
Everyone should read this as a reminder of how to truly be a friend to someone else. Thanks for writing this piece.
David Butler08/07/07
Isn't it interesting to note that in times of tragedy, relationships become everything to us.
This topic has brought this out very strongly in almost everyone's article I've read, and yours not the least. Very moving. Very good.
Bonnie Way08/07/07
Great story... how true that in reaching out for help, Phoebe was also able to bless the narrator. We all need each other.
Caitlynn Lowe08/08/07
Sad, but a bit inspiring at the same time. Good job!
Sara Harricharan 08/08/07
Catchy title. The little bit with Clara Barton was hilarious at the end. It made me smile even after you wove such a 'sad tale'. Phoebe was so real, so alive, I feel as if I knew her. You nailed this topic right on the head. Good job. ^_^
Kevin Rodgers08/08/07
This is such a beautifully written story. I especially liked the fact that though you 'weren't especially close,' she was able to tell that you were a 'woman of faith.' It sounds like the two of you became very close during that last year. It's nice to know that at least the memories remain with us. Wonderful!
Loren T. Lowery08/08/07
You wove an indcredibly touching and moving story. I especially liked the way the MC took the time to share life with her friend. Both gained so much from it. Great writing that included a valuable lesson.
Seema Bagai 08/09/07
Congratulations! Off to Masters you go.
Gina Woods08/09/07
Just lovely...A well deserved win again! Congrats! ~Gina
Sara Harricharan 08/09/07
Sherrie Jackson08/09/07
Congratulations, Kristen! I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to read this before today. And wow, you moved up to Masters FAST! God has truly blessed you with a gift. Good luck "up there." :-)
Charles Toscano08/09/07
Extremely well written. It read so very smoothly and the pace was perfect. Not crazy about the title, but I LOVED the story. Chuck
Debbie Roome 08/09/07
Hi Kristen, great story and I loved the ending. You are very talented. Thanks for all the recent comments you've left on my stories. Your encouragement is always appreciated
Martha Ford08/10/07
You just gave me a tug at my heart-strings, reminding me of all the deaths I attended as a nurse (now retired). It was impossible to remain detached. Your story is amazing in the way it gives each one of us a personal moment. Thank you and congratulations!
Linda Germain 08/10/07
EXCELLENT! Well deserved win.
Mo 08/11/07
Congrats on your EC win! (I knew you'd be in Masters soon!)
LauraLee Shaw02/19/08
This was a moving story from start to finish. How blessed your MC was to have that year. For those of us still around, it is a great reminder to remember to cherish this short life we have to live with our loved ones.