Monday, December 31, 2007

This is Tyler

He was one of my students last year. I grew to love him so, so much. Here we are at the zoo on our end of the year field trip:I elected to keep him with me the whole time partly because Ty has a tendancy to run and I wanted to be responsible for watching him, but mostly because he is a remarkable little guy that I really loved spending time with. This is us on the second to last day of school (please overlook the hugeosity of my 9th month of pregnancy):
This is Tyler's family: (image from http://www.desnews.com/)
I had the blessing of getting to know all of these people really well because they came in the school often. Tyler's mom, Liz, and I got to be friends through all the time we spent talking about her kids and what was best for them. She was a great mother.
Last fall when I learned that the brain tumors Liz had been battling since Tyler's infancy were back and inoperable I remember feeling physically sick for 3 days. I was devastated for her family. I couldn't stop thinking about Liz's kids. What would they do without their mother? I am a special education teacher and Tyler, though truly one of the most brilliant children I've ever met, has some challenges and special needs that I could not imagine anyone being able to really help him with other than his mother. Ty's dad is fantastic and wonderful, but he had the responsibility of providing physically for his family and I couldn't imagine how he could work full-time and be the primary care-giver in the home as well.
As the year progressed Liz responded well to the Chemo-- better than anyone had thought she would. Her sense of humor was unflinching-- she was always laughing and telling jokes throughout her pain and she seemed to be the emotional rock that held everything together. We had a conversation one day about her health (which she did not talk to me about very often at all) and she spoke about dying very noncholantly, as though she knew that it was not far off. She wasn't scared.
At the end of the year as I hugged all my students for the last time and their parents came to take them home I reminded everyone to keep in touch-- these little kids had become a huge part of my life and it hurt me to think about not knowing about all the new milestones they would reach, new things they would learn, new skills they would master. A few of the parents have kept in touch. Liz was the one that did the best.
She checked this blog often and would write me emails about my baby and give me advice on being a mom. She would tell me stories about the funny things Tyler was doing and take the time to write them out as if Tyler was speaking (which was difficult to do considering that he only speaks in vowels). These emails were precious to me and I always marvelled at Liz's thoughtfulness.
In the last email I sent her I asked her about her health. When she wrote back she told me a funny story about wishing that her kids would still take binkies sometimes, but didn't say anything about how she was doing. I had no reason to suspect that she was going downhill so fast.
On Sunday I got a phone call telling me the heartbreaking news that Liz had passed away the night before. The details of her passing were similar to how my husband's dad, Steve, died-- brain cancer also took him at a very young age.
But, like Steve, Liz lived longer than people had ever thought she would. She battled that cancer for over 6 years, and this past year she was told over and over that she wouldn't make it more than a few weeks, maybe a month or two. Steve lived for 2 years after the tumor was found and the doctors had only given him a few months. And those 2 years make up in large part the sum of my husband's memories of his father. I wonder how many memories Liz was able to create with her children this past year that the doctors said would never happen.
People like Liz and Steve are testaments to the power of human will. In a story that a local newspaper ran on Liz and her family it talks about Liz wanting one last Christmas with her family. Through her unwavering faith and determination she got that final Christmas. I hope so much that it was a happy one and that her family will treasure the memory of having her with them for that final celebration. I am grateful for people in my life that motivate me to live fuller, slow down, hug tighter, and cherish more. I hope Liz's story motivates you, too. You can read the full version here.

4 comments:

Matt & Stephanie Berglind said...

Liz!! This is Stephanie Rockwood! How the heck are you? I was looking on Roger and Mandy's blog and saw a link for yours and there you are with your adorable baby boy. It has been a long time! Where are you living and what are you up to? I would love to hear from you. You can check out our blog at berglinds.blogspot.com.

Rachel said...

Liz, this is so sad...I am so teary and feeling so grateful for all my blessings. What a remarkable woman and how blessed you are to have known her. The Lord truly puts angels in our lives to teach us and help us appreciate the small things.

Missed seeing you in UTah!! Hope you had a great Christmas.

Thistlerose said...

ls, thanks for sharing this.

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