So, I've had several topics on my mind to blog about lately because it's been a while. I've been quite busy with The Pampered Chef stuff, quarterly payroll taxes and reports for my father-in-law's company, and life in general with two sweet handfuls. I have a few minutes to spare this morning, but all of my topics of interest have been overshadowed by the reminder of what tomorrow brings.
Over two years ago, I walked into a lonely, drab, window-less portable building to begin my year as a 4th grade teacher at Eagle Springs Elementary in Humble, Texas. Luckily, the looks of the classroom I would inhabit were no indication of what the year would be like. This was one of my favorite years. I made some sweet friends that I will no doubt remain close to for the rest of my life. I got to teach some of the sweetest kids I've ever had the pleasure of meeting (no, not all of them were that sweet, but you have to take the bad with the good, right? Ha!!) AND, I was teaching my favorite subject ~ writing. There were lots of other good things about that year, but we'll settle with those few for now.
One of my students that year was a sweet girl named Kristie. She is one of those kids that you thank God for sending to your classroom. You know what I mean, the one who always does her work to near perfection, is very polite, sweet, and always willing to help her teachers out with anything they need help with. I wouldn't call her a "teacher's pet", only because I have negative connotations of that as a bratty little girl who is bossy, none of the kids like her, etc. No, Kristie is not a teacher's pet. EVERYONE loves her: teachers, students, everyone. I will never forget this sweet girl. She is the product of a wonderful, nurturing, encouraging, and loving home environment. As I was beginning to learn more about my students this year, I learned from Kristie's mom, Cindy, that Kristie's older brother, Austin, had a rare form of bone cancer called Ewing's Sarcoma. Cindy had stopped working as a teacher so that she would be able to take Austin to his numerous treatments. As she was telling me, I teared up. I couldn't imagine this sweet girl and her sweet mom and their family having to go through this. Austin was still receiving treatments, though, so I was hopeful that everything would be okay. Cindy sent me his CaringBridge site information and, of course, I saw her frequently and she would keep me updated on his progress.
Throughout the school year, I saw Cindy more than any of my other parents, mainly because she subbed for me and several other teachers as much as Austin's treatment schedule would allow. She was always at the school on party days for our class and her youngest daughter's class, for any school activities or functions, and she did her best to make sure she was there for her two girls as much as she was there for Austin. When she was given grim outlooks from Austin's doctors, she traveled wherever she could in search of doctors and researchers who had options for Austin. She never let discouraging news slow her down. A foundation was set up in Austin's name and the foundation sponsored an annual golf tournament to raise money for Austin's treatment. Austin was able to do lots of things through different organizations such as Make-A-Wish, and Cindy was always shuttling him and her two girls wherever they needed to go to make sure they were able to live a full life, no matter how short it was. This woman amazed me and will continue to amaze me for the rest of my life, no question. Her devotion to her children and their wants and needs, even in the middle of the storm she was surely experiencing at the thought of losing a child was tremendous. All I could think when I saw her was that I would surely not be able to get out of bed and face the day if given the same circumstances. Not her. She tried to make her kids' lives as normal as possible. I'm pretty sure God was having to hold her up along the way.
Kristie's younger sister, Karlie, would have difficult days at school, but Kristie never did. She seemed to hold all of the fear and hurt inside, and I couldn't ever figure out if that was a good thing or not. Towards the end of the school year, Austin's treatments weren't really working, and the family was confronted with the reality that he would probably not make it. Just as always, Cindy held her family together and didn't let them give up or give in and they kept going about their lives and made sure to make the best of their time together. Austin continued to live the life of a normal 12-year-old boy.
A few months after I moved to Mississippi, I got an update that Austin was not doing well at all. My heart continued to break for sweet Kristie, sweet Cindy, and sweet Karlie. I prayed and prayed and prayed. On October 17, 2009, Austin lost his battle with Ewing's Sarcoma. I was devastated. I traveled to Houston for his funeral. What a beautiful yet heart-wrenching service it was. This sweet boy lived such a full life with such a loving family. It was still much too short. The amount of people affected and touched by this family and by Austin's life was awe-inspiring. So many people were there to help lay Austin to rest and to celebrate the life he was blessed with. I can't even describe it for you with words. Green (his favorite color) balloons were released with messages attached from friends and family ~ SO awesome.
Tomorrow, October 17, 2010, is Austin's first angel day. His family is still heart-broken from losing him, but they know, as I do, that he is rejoicing and playing with Jesus today! How awesome that must be!
Please say a prayer for Cindy, Kristie, Karlie, and their family today, tomorrow, whenever else you think about them. They're going to need them for years to come. Also, love on your babies EVERY day as much as you can. I remember Cindy saying that Austin always wanted her to rub his back every night before he went to sleep, so she always did. If my sweet Charlee is terrified of sleeping by herself all of the sudden and wants to invade our bed, is it really that big of a deal?
What Cancer Cannot Do
Cancer cannot cripple love,
it actually makes it overflow.
Cancer cannot shatter Hope,
it actually clarifies what Hope is for.
Cancer cannot corrode faith,
it actually strengthens faith's convictions.
Cancer cannot conquer the spirit
because courage faces cancer's affliction.
If you want to read about Austin's story, you can visit his CaringBridge site here.