The trials and tribulations of a middle-aged PACS consultant,
father, and garage sale junkie as he engages in his
never-ending search for sanity in an insane world.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

10 weeks

Authors Note: PACS-related blog posts will resume in a day or so, but I really felt the need to get this up tonight…for me if no one else.

I have often wondered how I would react if I woke up and found out I had lost one of my sons or worse, that knew I was about to lose one of my children and was basically powerless to do anything about it. Josh and Lisa Hunter, whom I wrote about two blog posts back, learned this today as they lost their precious 5 year old daughter Ava to GBM, the most aggressive form of cancer in children just 10 short weeks after she was diagnosed with it. Josh hoped he'd have 18 months to fight this battle. Instead he had no time at all to even start his plan of attack. In 10 short weeks Ava went from playing with her cousins to turning her world and that of her family completely upside down. The cancer was a vicious enemy. Almost eight weeks after she had the primary tumor removed from her brain it grew back bigger than before. All the doctors could do was to install shunts to relieve the growing pressure but in the end the insidious disease ended this child’s life before it really had a chance to start.

While we all grieve for Ava this child has changed the lives of everyone around her in the process. Josh’s blog, joshuajoelhunter.blogspot.com, went from 50 hits per day to nearly 11,000 hits per day with the vast majority of those people checking in on the progress of Ava and nearly all keeping her in their prayers. His blog chronicled the journey of a man and his wife who never surrendering hope of their faith when things looked hopeless and it seemed as though God had abandoned them. Josh's blog post relating to his daughter's passing, written through tears in the wee hours of the morning, is unquestionably the single most amazing piece of writing I have ever read.

When Pastor Vernon Rainwater announced Ava’s passing at the 6 p.m. service tonight and you could see, hear, and feel his pain. You could also see the tears running down the faces of the worship team as they sang the final song of the service. You could feel everyone’s pain. Yet somewhere in all this craziness I felt both power and hope. Right now though I’m just numb so I can only imagine how the Hunter family feels.

I had a discussion about this situation with someone last week whose response I found somewhat incredulous at first. The comment went:

I think they are lucky, actually. They get to make sure their little girl knows she is loved, knows that there is nothing her mom and dad would not do to help her live to the fullest, despite that it might mean less than forever. Some parents simply wake up to find their once healthy child dead and never get that chance... only to live with regret and remorse for deeds done and not-done.

Lucky? Not hardly…But it did get me thinking- is one situation worse that the other? Is finding a child you loved here today and gone tomorrow be it through an auto accident, SIDS, suicide or any number of ways “better” than watching the child die before your eyes and being impotent to do anything about it? Both scenarios are hideous and heart wrenching for sure. In between the "bad times" Josh and Lisa had time to spend with Ava and that in itself was a blessing. She was alert, cognizant, and they got to make every remaining second count. For me, though, I’ll take quick over prolonged any day. Thankfully, at least not yet, I haven’t had to deal with my own children’s deaths, yet I have dealt with people very close to me both going quickly and dealing with a prolonged situation so I know how it is, at least for me. Like the parents of SIDS children I also how it feels to be investigated by the police and DCF for a scenario that was completely out of my control. Being accused of something you had nothing to do with at all really sucks, yet it took me a long time to realize they were just doing their job and they didn’t like it any more than I did.

I lost my mom to lung cancer at the age of 62 . Mom was a career politician so talking was her life. In May Mom got to be forgetful more often than not and went to the doctor. A chest X-ray was done and found lung cancer. By August the found the cancer had metasticized to her brain and she quickly lost her ability to communicate. The last few months were sheer hell for her yet thankfully the end was reasonably quick with what was considered her “life” coming to a close in early December.

Dad was hospitalized for his annual bout of pneumonia just before RSNA 2002 at the age of 84. He was due to be discharged the Monday of RSNA, and looked great on Saturday night when I said goodbye to him. I got a call late Monday night about Dad and on Tuesday I was flying home to find him in the ICU on death’s door. This iron man passed away just a few short days later, but not before taking my hand, squeezing it, and mouthing the words “Help me” and knowing I couldn’t. And if you don’t think his words haunt me every single solitary day, think again. I can only imagine how Josh and Lisa felt when Ava looked at them the same way- and knew there was nothing they could do. The difference here is in this situation she had her whole life ahead of her while dad was near the very end of his… In situations like that you simply have to acknowledge the decision to live or die is in God’s hands, not mine.

I have also had very close friends whose children have died as well- some losing pregnancies that were far along, others babies, and while others as old as teens. All you can do is grieve with them just as I will grieve for Ava.

There is no logic here in my book. While Josh and Lisa may have had more years with Ava than someone whose child may have passed away at a much younger age that can also make saying goodbye that much harder too...especially when you look at the video posts Josh put up a few weeks back and it seemed like she had this thing beat. How do you also explain to a 5 year old that she is going to die when you don’t even have the answers to that yourself? Both are incredibly sad situations though and equally difficult for the parties.

I've always said before I get the thumbs up or thumbs down from God he and I are going to sit down over a pitcher of beer or two and some wings talk about things I don't understand. The death of a child at any age is but one of them.
We all are in God’s hands and our lives are shaped by the situations and how we react to them. Death is the final chapter in our life on Earth but just the beginning for those who believe in Eternal life with God. At the risk of sounding trite Josh, Lisa, Ava and all those whom this little girl touched were indeed lucky, because this little girl who was loved her entire life gave us back more love in the last 10 short weeks of her life than most people experience in a lifetime.

Please keep Josh, Lisa, their 12 year old son Noah, Pastor Joel and Becky and all Hunter family in your prayers. Most importantly though show those in your life the love the deserve, be it a simple phone call or an extended hug and vow to never ever live with regret and remorse for deeds done and not-done. You never know if- or when- when you’ll get another chance…

1 comment:

  1. Very sorry for the loss of your friend's daughter Mike. Your words will help memorialize her courage and grace during this terrible ordeal.