Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Bouncebackability (06/05/14)
- TITLE: Hugs and a Little Happiness: A Tribute to Tennessee
By Lisa Johnson
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They were older when she was born, so they seemed more like grandparents than parents. Naturally, they doted on her, this gift of a child, born in the autumn of their lives. She was bright and full of life, and everyone who met her fell in love with her. Yes, Julia Tennessee Curtiss was a unique and wonderful child.
I first met Tennesee when she was three years old. Diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma, she came to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital for treatment. She quickly became a favorite with the doctors and nurses. You could hear her coming, long before you ever saw her, with her sweet laugh, and the tap, tap, tap of her signature, patent leather tap shoes. You'd laugh, too, when you saw her. . . a little, bald-headed angel in a "fru-fru" square dance frock and those shiny, black tap shoes.
Her journey was not an easy one. From the start, her response to treatment was less than desired. Her numerous courses of chemo took a harsh toll on her little body. I cannot count the times that we thought we were going to lose her. But then, the next thing you'd hear would be the familiar tap, tap, tap of Tennessee dancing down the hallway, ready to hand out hugs and a little happiness.
Her disease was unusually aggressive. It seemed for every one step she took forward, the disease would drag her two steps backwards. Even though she was so young, it seemed like she had a wise, old soul. Once all of the established protocols were exhausted, she agreed to clinical trial after clinical trial. She always said, "It may not help me now, but maybe it will help another child, sometime in the future."
She never lost hope. She never lost the smile on her face, or the bounce in her tap shoe clad step. She faced her disease with courage and dignity, that far surpassed anything I had ever seen, even in adult patients, four times her age. To say that Tennessee was an inspiration would be an understatement.
Julia Tennessee Curtiss lost her battle with cancer, at the tender age of nine years old. Even her death could not overshadow the evidence of her amazing life. She planned her own funeral, down to the last detail. Her pastor delivered a message, that was more an altar call than a eulogy, using Scriptures that Tennessee chose. The final song spoke volumes about how she lived, and how she died. She had picked a Garth Brooks song, "The Dance." To this day, it brings tears to my eyes when I hear it, because I can picture Tennessee singing, "I could have missed the pain, but I'd have had to miss the dance."
Written in loving memory of Julia Tennessee Curtiss
Written by Tony Arata
Performed by Garth Brooks
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