My friend Lisa was turned on to blogging by her teenage goddaughter Lauren. It was Lisa, who in turn, got me started on my blogging adventure in December 2002. My adventure has consumed 489 entries over the last three years or so and a minimum of six hours a week of my life. Yet it may not have started at all without Lauren.
It was also Lauren who redesigned my blog to give it its present look. For the price of a $50 donation to the American Cancer Society, she invested many hours over many months designing and touching up my blog. I told her I wanted my blog to look a bit buttoned down. Yet I could not seem to do it on my own. While I have taught many classes in web page design, my attempts at giving my blog some style were utter failures. However, Lauren had that gift of making an ordinary web site look extraordinary. Do you like its look and feel? I know I do. You can thank Lauren.
You may wonder why it took months for Lauren to redesign my blog. I am a patient man but under the circumstances, I could hardly complain. It was not that the price was right, although I was happy to pay her much more. It was that Lauren had bigger fish to fry. She had Ewing’s Sarcoma, and a cancer had taken hold in her femur. An operation later, her femur was replaced. Everyone held their breath and hoped that this would mean the last of her endless hospitalizations and rounds of chemotherapy. She tried to resume a normal life and began attending college about a year late.
For a while it looked liked she had shaken the cancer. With her unflagging spirit and youth, I assumed she could put cancer behind her forever. Surely, she had more than paid her dues. Unfortunately, the cancer came back. Her pelvis acquired the cancer and then it spread to her liver. She died serenely on March 5th in her home, surrounded by many friends and family, after a heroic final battle with her disease. She was 19.
I never met Lauren in person, although I did have the good fortune of meeting her sister. Through many emails, reading her blog, and seeing her through the eyes of my friend Lisa, I did get to know her. Her radiant picture, which you can see on Lisa’s blog, shows a woman for whom love, unfailing good manners, humor and an enormous spirit of life simply shines through. It certainly came through in her emails. Despite months spent in depressing hospital rooms, and years of chemotherapy with its associated vomiting and other side effects, her spirit never wavered. She faced her own death courageously. Her faith in God never faltered either.
When I received the news of her death, I of course immediately sent Lisa my condolences. Yet it was not until Lisa posted this diary on Daily Kos that I understood the magnitude of this loss on everyone who knew her.
When my own mother died last November, I did not cry. My mother’s dying was a long and drawn out process. Her death was actually something of a blessing: an end to her suffering. However, when I read Lisa’s diary I cried right there in my office.
Most Americans never met John F. Kennedy yet millions cried the day he was assassinated. They cried, perhaps, because they saw in him someone they wanted to emulate but could not. Perhaps I cried for Lauren for similar reasons. Tragedy is a word used too frequently these days, but Lauren’s death was truly a tragedy. She was a shining and unfailing good-natured spirit who was forced to deal with horrendous adult issues while still an adolescent. Her death was nobody’s fault. Yet not even death itself could flag either her faith or her good spirits. She was at peace with herself through it all. She set something of an ultimate example to all who knew her. Everyone who knew her, including some like myself who never actually met her, feel both sorrow by her absence in our lives, and humbled that nothing nature could throw at her could change her sweetness.
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us,” Gandalf the wizard said in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. From a distance, that seems to have been Lauren’s philosophy of life: make the best of every day, no matter how challenging. I hope when my time comes to depart this earth that I can do it with just half her grace and a quarter of her courage.