Did you know I first saw you tethered to an IV pole in the halls of Emanuel Hospital? Just like Josh you were in treatment for childhood cancer. You were 5 years old and so was Josh. In fact, your birthday is only 4 days after Josh’s. Both of you are millennium babies! Beautiful brown eyes, smooth brown skin, curly black hair with a round cherub face, your smile lit up the room. You were adorable.
Then you went to Camp Agape and so did we for two summers in a row! Your energy and giggles were infectious. I got to know your mom and dad and found out what special people they are. They adopted you when you were 3 years old from Guatemala. Your mom explained how she put food all around their house, easily within your reach when you first came home, so you could eat when you were hungry. You couldn’t speak English. You wanted to sleep in the day time and play at night. Slowly you became their little girl. You were healthy and happy, but your belly was distended. Your mom, who was a nurse, just knew it was worms so she took you to the doctor to get medicine. But she was wrong. It was Neuroblastoma…cancer…
You and Josh played a lot together at camp. You two were best buds. Sometimes you would hug him, hold his hand other times you pushed him away and wanted nothing to do with him! You always had a mind of your own. That first summer Josh had just gotten his tracheotomy and I was so sad. Your mom listened to me talk and cry. She was so caring and loving giving me good advice. She became my friend. Your dad always wore bright colorful tie dye shirts. We could always spot him from far away. He was an artist. Those two summers were great as you and Josh ran and played, creating beautiful artwork with your moms hovering over you making sure you both took your medicines or didn’t get too much sun. You and Josh loved campfire time singing those silly songs, getting up on stage and wiggling. Josh’s sisters fell in love with you and talked about you often when camp ended. What precious memories.
Time marched forward. You had your medical issues. Josh had his. Sometimes your mom and I would go to lunch just to catch up. Josh had lots of medical procedures, which seemed to consume us. We ran into you at clinic once just after your Disneyland trip. You were dressed up as a Disney princess and you were so cute! I forget just which princess it was, but you were thrilled to show everyone how beautiful you were. All the nurses, staff and doctors “ooed and awed” over you. It was fun. We partied with you at two different CCA (Children’s Cancer Association) events. One of those years you were a Hero Kid with your shining face displayed on the Wall of Courage. That first year you and Josh held live white doves in your hands and released them up into the great blue sky. It was a powerful and moving moment. The picture above captures part of that moment. The second year it was an Aladdin theme and you ran right up front with the belly dancers wiggling your hips, twirling and dancing just like a princess. Josh and your dad and I watched you for a long time. You made us smile. You were so free.
Then one day I found out the Neuroblastoma had again invaded your little body. I called your mom and we cried together. Then she asked me, no she begged me not to tell Josh about the cancer coming back. She told me to just love him and enjoy him and let him live a life full of love and laughter not a life full of worry about cancer and children dying. So I did...well I tried. I found out I’m not very good at keeping secrets, especially this kind of secret. One evening Josh began to cry wanting to know what I wasn’t telling him. We had a long discussion about you, about death, about heaven. It was only one of many discussions about life and death that we’ve had since then. Josh asked me to NEVER keep secrets from him again. He told me he wants to know because it’s better to know the truth than to worry about what might be. “And the truth will set you free.” So I don’t keep secrets from Josh anymore.
And as time went on your parents fought for you through research and doctor visits traveling all over the US, clinical trials, thousands of prayers and more research. They fought valiantly against insurance companies and financial problems and cancer. You courageously fought right alongside them. I kept Josh up to date on what was happening in your life. We prayed for you and your parents. We hoped above all hopes for a miraculous cure. Josh even had his classmates pray for you.
Then you had a fundraiser at Oaks Park Skating Rink with your friend, Chatten. It was good to see you. Good to roller skate and laugh. But you weren’t feeling well and we knew. We knew things weren’t good. Josh was sad when we left, because you were hurting. We knew you were dying. Eventually your parents made the decision to bring hospice into your home. And we waited while we read your updates. You had visitors come and read to you or take you on walks in your wheelchair. I asked Josh if he wanted to visit and he said no. It made him too sad. So we waited and we prayed and one evening you slipped away from this earth, quietly…peacefully. Our family all cried together and we hugged each other. We grieve for our loss of you. We grieve for the emptiness your parents now feel. We pray for your mom and dad, because there’s a hole in their lives, a Lesly sized hole. It’s a beautiful ache.
Dancing in heaven…sweet Lesly…