Tag Archives: Children

Why I Love Working With Dying Children.

2 Dec

I read an article recently by a woman who teaches poetry and prose to dying children. Throughout the article, the author regularly mentioned how a certain little boy’s death would one day prevent her from ever returning to work. That little boy became another little girl who became yet another child. They all faced something we don’t talk enough about: death. Eventually, the author mentioned how this work contains so much sadness and fragility, and yet it is also the work she could never dream of walking away from.

Ever since August of 2013, I have been interning with Arts For Life, a NC-based non-profit organization focused on teaching art to children and families battling serious illnesses and disabilities. Specifically, I work with two populations of children: children undergoing treatment for cancer and other blood disorders and children undergoing physical, occupational, or speech therapy. I began this internship for a variety of reasons. However, the main one was due to my previous hospital experiences. As a child, I had to undergo three intense surgeries, which later included intense physical therapy, and I spent all this time in the hospital. During this time, the one bright spot in all the days of physical pain, tears, and uncertainty was the weekly craft nights. For one hour every week, I got to focus on making an art project rather than dwelling on how much pain I was in, which exercises I needed to do, or an upcoming surgery. Having a chance to put all my energy into something completely outside of myself helped to decrease some of my anxiety. Some of those nights, I dare say I might have even been happy. Due to my enjoyable experiences with art projects in the hospital, I knew I wanted to provide these same opportunities for other kids in the hospital.

Ever since I started teaching art projects to kids in the hospital, I have loved every minute of it. I love seeing the regular kids every week who have finally gotten used to me and will come up and just start talking. I love watching the kids burst with creativity, coming up with an alternative project I hadn’t even considered. I love seeing the smiles on their faces when they finish their project and run to show their parents. I love finding new ways to teach the children. However, more than anything, I love being able to take in all the different lessons they’ve ended up teaching me without even knowing it.

They have taught me the true meaning of strength. They have taught me what it means to not let an illness define you. They’ve taught me how “art” and “perfect” are rarely in the same sentence, and that’s perfectly okay. More than anything, they’ve taught me the importance of noticing the small things. One little girl I know is battling cancer, and yet she is one of the happiest little girls I know. She smiles, she laughs, and she plays. Most importantly, she does one thing I believe we often forget. She notices every moment: every smile, every time of laughter, every speck of blue sky. She absorbs every single piece of life, soaking it all in. I try more and more each day to live like her, but I’ve got a long way to go.

Numerous friends have asked me how I am able to be around kids who are dying. And you know what my response is? “How could I not?” These kids need me. They need the chance to be able to fully express themselves. They need a positive person in their lives who can bring something good into their hospital experience. They need someone who cares. A few years ago, I never imagined that person could be me, and yet, here I am.

I have yet to lose one of the children I teach. The more I read the article written by the woman who teaches poetry and prose to dying children, the more I’ve begun to understand that we all deal with death in our own way. How I react to losing a child I teach may not be the same way one of the child’s nurses might react. That being said, the important thing to remember is even if I lose I child I teach, there are still tons of other children who need me. Though one day may feel quiet as I mourn the loss of a particular child I cared for, there will be more children coming to clinic the following day, and I need to be the best I can be for them. Being sad around them isn’t my job. If I’m sad, they’ll get sad. That’s why positivity is so important.

Teaching art to children with serious illnesses and disabilities is not easy, but it is the first thing I’ve ever done that’s given me a deep sense of purpose. Seeing the smile on a little boy’s face means I was part of his happiness. Having a little girl cling to my leg begging me not to leave warms my heart more than she will ever know. I just hope one day these children will know how much they have changed my life.

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.-Plato

All hail spontaneity!

11 Nov

Today when I left Blacksburg, Virginia after a weekend with my best friend, Skidmore, I made a spontaneous trip to Roanoke, Virginia to see my other best friend, Kayley, and her daughter, Clara. Though Kayley doesn’t live in Roanoke, it was the halfway point between where she lives and Blacksburg, so it seemed like a good compromise, especially since I also had to drive back to Asheville today.

I hadn’t seen Kayley since February, so this spontaneous trip was much-needed. It just seemed to work out that I was in Virginia on a day that Kayley didn’t have to work. Therefore, we took advantage of our relatively free schedules to catch up with each other after not seeing each other for so long. Even though all we did was eat lunch and go to Barnes and Noble, it didn’t even matter because we got to spend time with each other (and I got to go crazy over the adorableness that is Clara). That being said, it was pretty much the perfect weekend!

“Mommy, why does she walk so funny?”

9 Nov

I don’t remember the day when I became uncomfortable with myself. I just know that I went from being a kid that wanted to experience every part of life with no regard for the opinions of others to a girl who viewed herself based on the ways others thought of her and treated her. Though I may not remember the specific day when my attitude about myself began to change, I know that it started with the staring.

Being physically different from your peers is especially hard for an obvious reason: since you’re not like your peers, you’re “different,” and being different isn’t “the norm.” Even though I find it sad that the concept of being “different” is primarily a culturally constructed concept that is perpetuated by societal attitudes, it’s not surprising. Due to “differences” being culturally constructed concepts, it makes sense that the act of staring is at the center. The center of making those who are different actually feel different, even if they may not think they are that much different from those around them (at least in the beginning). Having others openly stare at them automatically separates them from the crowd that they are trying so hard to fit into.

In the early days of noticing how others would stare at me, it felt like a punch to the gut, causing me to feel like the easy target, unable to move or even breathe. The moments that hurt the most were those in which my differences were noticed through staring as well as through vocalization. I remember one specific day that I was in the grocery store with my mom. As we came to the isle of milk and eggs, there was a little girl who walked past us with her mother. I watched the little girl as she moved past us, knowing that any second she’d turn around and her eyes would lock with mine, her mouth hanging open in shock and surprise. The girl saw me as she was walking towards me, and the staring began. The stare started at my feet, and the girl noticed the way that my feet pointed slightly inward as I walked. The girl then looked at my legs, focusing on the way that my knees knocked together as I walked. Eventually, the stare landed on my face, and the curiousity that I saw in her eyes was mirrored in my own. By the time the stare reached my face, the little girl couldn’t look away, not even for a second. Even as she and her mother walked past me, she would turn around and look back at me, still holding her mother’s hand but so engrossed in me that she wasn’t paying attention to where she was walking. Then, ever so slowly while trying to keep her eyes on me, she’d turn to her mother and ask, “Mommy, why does she walk so funny?” The words stung, and I walked away before I could hear the mother’s response. I followed my mom through the grocery store, thinking back over and over to the little girl’s question, wondering what the answer was. That simple question as well as the sadness and uncomfortable feelings that were associated with the staring has come back to me on a daily basis throughout my life, and even now, it’s no less painful than that early memory in the grocery store.

In the early days of the staring, if my mom caught someone staring, she’d look at them, smile and say “Hi, how  are you?” Even though I knew that my mom was implementing the “Kill them with kindness” approach, I could never make myself do it. For reasons I can’t quite explain, the stares were such a shock that I couldn’t even speak. Over and over, the stares of little girls and boys, and even adults, seared into me, searching for answers. Since I was as far from the answers as they were themselves, I looked away, not wanting anyone to see the pain that was reflected in my eyes. It wasn’t until I was home in the comfort of my bed with a stuffed animal in my arms that I allowed myself to cry. I allowed the tears to fall over and over, hating the kids who stared at me so much and hating myself for letting their stares have such an effect on me. After I couldn’t cry anymore for the night, I’d look up at my ceiling fan, watching the shadows of the blades reflected on the ceiling, wondering if there would ever be a day when I’d feel normal.

Even today, at the age of 20, the stares still affect me. Though I no longer cry at night because of them, they make me angry. Angry at the people who can’t accept that there are people in the world who look different from them, angry that the parents of kids who are gaping at me don’t explain to their children that it’s not polite to stare, angry at the adults who are in their 40s and still gape at me from across the grocery store, not even trying to hide their surprise at the way I walk. Angry at myself for still being so far from the answers as I was as a child, silently hoping that one day it will all make sense.

For Those Who Love Quotes…And Grey’s Anatomy!

17 May

Since tonight is the season finale of season 8 of Grey’s Anatomy, I thought I’d post some quotes from season 8. Enjoy!

  • I love you. It’s like you’re a disease.-Lexie
  • It’s one of those things that people say, you can’t move on until you let go of the past. Letting go is the easy part, it’s the moving on that’s painful. So sometimes we fight it, try and keep things the same. Things can’t stay the same though. At some point, you just have to let go. Move on. Because no matter how painful it is, it’s the only way we grow.Meredith
  • The human body is made up of systems that keep it alive. The one that keeps you breathing, the one that keeps you standing, the one that makes you hungry, and the one that makes you happy. They’re all connected, take a piece out and everything else falls apart. And it’s only when our support systems look like they might fail us that you realize how much we depended on them all along.-Meredith
  • I’m supposed to be studying for my boards, the most important exam of my life. And instead, I’m locked in the bathroom crying over a boy.Cristina
  • We’ve all heard the warnings and we’ve ignored them. We push our luck. We roll the dice. We play with fire. It’s human nature. When we’re told not to touch something, we usually do, even if we know better. Maybe because deep down, we’re just asking for trouble.-Meredith
  • You can seek the advice of others, surround yourself with trusted advisors. But in the end, the decision is always yours and yours alone. And when it’s time to act and you’re all alone with your back against the wall, the only voice that matters is the one in your head. The one telling you what you already knew. The one that’s almost always right.-Meredith
  • We are always looking for ways to ease the pain. Sometimes we ease the pain by making the best of what we have, sometimes is by losing ourselves in the moment, and sometimes all we need to do to ease the pain is.. call a simple truce.-Meredith
  • There are times in our lives when love really does conquer all.-Meredith
  • You get to a point in your life when you realize you have more yesterdays than tomorrows-Richard
  • You can’t prepare for a sudden impact. You can’t brace yourself. It just hits you. Out of nowhere.-Meredith
  • Sometimes, it takes a huge loss to remind you of what you care about the most. Sometimes, you find yourself becoming stronger as a result, wiser, better equipped to deal with the next big disaster that comes along. Sometimes, but not always.-Meredith
  • You have to go back to the beginning to understand the end.-Teddy
  • Sometimes it happens in an instance. We step up, we see a path forward. We see a path and we take it. Even when we have no idea where we’re going.-Meredith
  • Okay, do you know what will happen to Christina if she has a kid that she doesn’t want? It will almost kill her. Trying to pretend that she loves a kid as much as she loves surgery will almost kill her, and it’ll almost kill your kid. Do you know what it’s like to be raised by someone who didn’t want you? I do. To know you stood in the way of your mother’s career? I do. I was raised by a Christina. My mother was a Christina. And as the child she didn’t want, I am telling you, don’t do this to her, because she’s kind and she cares and she won’t make it. The guilt of resenting her own kid will eat her alive.-Meredith
  • I wish I wanted a kid, I wish I wanted one so bad.-Cristina
Who will be watching the finale tonight? 🙂