Tag Archives: Death

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

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Autumn’s unexpected change.

9 Sep

 

“You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person died for no reason.”-Earnest Hemingway

Even though autumn is the season of “change,” I don’t like the kind of unexpected change that I received today. I lost a “family member” and friend last night: my dog, Roxy. She was diagnosed with a tumor in her bladder a few months ago. No amount of words can express the pain I’m feeling. However, I am thankful that I have plenty of pictures that I took of Roxy to remind me of the love and happiness that she brought to my family.

 

 

Tuesday’s Tunes: Lily Kershaw, A Singer/Songwriter.

5 Jun

There are no words to describe the beauty of this song, so it’s all I’m posting today. Listen, listen again, and let the words fill your heart as I have done. Sometimes the heartbreaking, yet beautiful songs must simply be felt, fully and without hesitation.

How To Be Lost by Amanda Eyre Ward.

2 Jun

Since getting into my “pleasure reading mode” of summer, I’ve realized that most of the books that I’ve gathered by frequenting the bargain bins of my favorite used bookstores in Asheville are truly amazing reads! One of these truly amazing reads is How To Be Lost by Amanda Eyre Ward. It was such a wonderful read, so much so that I couldn’t put it down and ended up finishing it in one day! Here’s a synopsis of the book (according to Amazon.com):

To their neighbors in suburban Holt, New York, the Winters family has it all: a grand home, a trio of radiant daughters, and a sense that they are safe in their affluent corner of America. But when five-year-old Ellie disappears, the fault lines within the Winters family are exposed. Joseph, once a successful businessman, succumbs to his demons. Isabelle retreats into memories of her debutante days in Savannah, Georgia. And Ellie’s bereft sisters grow apart: Madeline reluctantly stays home, while Caroline runs away.

Fifteen years later, Caroline, now a New Orleans cocktail waitress, sees a photograph of a woman in People Magazine. Convinced that it is Ellie all grown up, Caroline embarks on a search for her missing sister, armed with Xerox copies of the photograph, an amateur detective guide, and a cooler of Dixie beer. As Caroline travels through the New Mexico desert, the mountains of Colorado, and the smoky underworld of Montana, she devotes herself to salvaging her broken family.

With dark humor and gorgeous prose, Amanda Eyre Ward brings us a spellbinding novel about the stories we are given, and the stories we embrace.

How To Be Lost is not the first novel I’ve read about a family member that goes missing. Other books in this category that I’ve read are Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah and The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf (both of which were absolutely amazing reads!). Since I apparently am drawn to novels that portray a missing child, How To Be Lost didn’t disappoint.

I was drawn to the character of Caroline because of her drive and determination to search for a sister that she believed to still be alive, even though fifteen years have passed. Even though Caroline’s determination stemmed from the fact that Ellie was her sister and finding her would mean having her family “put back together” in a sense, her drive to find a sister that the rest of her family believed to be dead already is something that I really admired. I think it remains me of the advice to never give up when it comes to something that we truly believe to be true, even if there is no one standing beside us that holds the same view. It reminds me of a quote that I read once:

Stand up for what you believe in, even if you’re standing alone.

I think the reminder of standing up for what we believe in, even if we’re standing alone is something that each one of us needs to hear from time to time, and How To Be Lost was just that reminder. That being said, I highly recommend this book, as well as Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah and The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf. They are all just SO amazing! Go read them!

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? 🙂

Saving Max by Antoinette van Heugten: More Than Just A Book Review.

16 May

A few days ago I finished my fourth pleasure reading of the summer, Saving Max by Antoinette van Heugten. This book was an amazing read, and I simply couldn’t put it down. Here is the synopsis according to Amazon,com:

Max Parkman—autistic and whip-smart, emotionally fragile and aggressive—is perfect in his mother’s eyes. Until he’s accused of murder.

Attorney Danielle Parkman knows her teenage son Max’s behavior has been getting worse—using drugs and lashing out. But she can’t accept the diagnosis she receives at a top-notch adolescent psychiatric facility that her son is deeply disturbed. Dangerous.

Until she finds Max, unconscious and bloodied, beside a patient who has been brutally stabbed to death.

Trapped in a world of doubt and fear, barred from contacting Max, Danielle clings to the belief that her son is innocent. But has she, too, lost touch with reality? Is her son really a killer?

With the justice system bearing down on them, Danielle steels herself to discover the truth, no matter what it is. She’ll do whatever it takes to find the killer and to save her son from being destroyed by a system that’s all too eager to convict him.

I connected most with the character of Danielle, Max’s mother. Even though there were certain times when I didn’t approve of some of her choices, ultimately she did what any good mother of a special needs child would do, she fought for him. For me, reading this book reminded me of all the people who have fought for me as I was growing up and throughout my life due to my Cerebral Palsy. Whether it was making sure that I was placed in the same classes as other kids my age in middle school or making sure I could get a single dorm room in college or be able to register for college classes early so I could make sure the classroom buildings weren’t too far apart in between back-to-back classes, I’ve always had people fighting for me. When I was growing up, and even now, that person has been my mom. It took me a long time to realize that her tough love was her way of fighting like hell for me to get the same opportunities as all the other kids my age. Nowadays, one of my previous physical therapists, Meredith, has acted as my biggest advocate in terms of getting a single room for college, etc. However, the strong realization over the past year is that I’m reaching an age where I have to be my own advocate, or at least figure out who the person is that I need to talk to in order to get a certain thing done, has been a little scary. Though I understand that it is because I’m getting older and I have to “take the reins” in a sense, I’ve always had others fighting for me. Though I know that they won’t go away simply because I start being my own advocate, when I was growing up, I was my own fighter in a different way. I fought to get up in the morning and not instantly start crying because of the pain that came so suddenly. I fought to try to keep a smile on my face because I knew that if I didn’t I would just break down. I fought to ignore all the stares, even when I would have liked to just scream at those kids that would walk by with their mouth gaping open, and who would turn around and look at me more even after their mothers had walked them past me already. I fought, every single day, and I still do. And I’ll fight to be my own advocate. It’s just been interesting to realize that I have to switch gears, while also realizing that I’m just fighting for what I have always deserved: the same opportunities that other kids my age have been given.

That being said, read this book. It’s amazing.

Finding Daddy Cox By Mike Cox: A Book Review.

6 May

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned Mike, one of my writing mentors that I met when interning at the Columbia Star newspaper in January of 2009. When I left my internship at the Star, Mike gave me 3 books as parting gifts, one of which was his own book he wrote in 2003, Finding Daddy Cox.

Finding Daddy Cox is the story of Mike’s grandfather, Cecil Cox, which includes all the lessons that he instilled in his children and grandchildren that are still evident in the Cox family today. I remember Mike telling me how he wrote this book for his family, and as a token of remembrance for the grandfather that he resembled, but who died when he was five years old. There are parts of the book that have still stuck with me, like Cecil’s conversation with a blind man where he describes every part of the sunset so that the blind man is able to enjoy it as well. I think that was one of my favorite parts of the book. Overall, Finding Daddy Cox is full of life lessons that you’d expect to hear from an old Southern family: discipline your children but show them you love them, the importance of hard work, how to deal with pain, loss, and fear, and the realization that one’s family is the cornerstone to all of life’s understandings. Even though Finding Daddy Cox was essentially a collection of stories that Mike had heard about his grandfather as he was growing up, Mike put his some of his own self into the stories as well since he had heard his whole life how much he and Cecil Cox were alike.

I think what was most interesting to me was reading a book that was written by someone I know. I could hear Mike’s voice through the words, and that was really cool for me. Though the book was stories of his grandfather, I could see how Mike used his own writing style in certain descriptions of things, though I’m sure he had plenty of help from the people in his family who were still around at the time who assisted him with the stories.

I definitely recommend this book. I mean, I guess it’s different for me because I am friends with Mike, and so I know him pretty well. However, Finding Daddy Cox was a great portrayal of an Old Southern family and how certain traditions and ways of upbringing can have such a long-lasting effect on the generations to come.