Wednesday, January 4, 2012

a child will lead them....

When I was seventeen, the 13 yr old son of a family at our church was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. His name was Chris. He was the first child I had ever known who had cancer, or any other sort of terminal illness for that matter. I'm sure that there were plenty of families I knew who had lost a child in one way or another, but I was just too young to know that happened.

I didn't know Chris well, but I felt drawn to him. I wanted to be his friend, to love on him, to help him and his family somehow. I wanted to make him smile & offer a tiny glimmer of sunshine to his life. I didn't have the slightest clue how to go about that, though. I was terrified to approach his family because I didn't want to intrude on this difficult time of their life or appear like I was just trying to offer a pity friendship. Although I was scared to bug them, I finally called his house & hoped that one of his parents would answer. I don't remember which of them I talked to, but I asked if it would be OK for me to come pick him up & take him to Dairy Queen to get a burger. They were thrilled that I offered & readily agreed. Chris was still able to walk at that time, but was already bald & swollen & a little wobbly on his feet from the effects of the tumor, chemo and steroids. I wasn't sure if he felt self conscious going out in public since people automatically look & give you the pity stare when you're obviously going through chemo treatment. Chris didn't seem to mind, though. In fact, he laughed & smiled and entertained me through most of our lunch date. I was just hoping to brighten his day and he turned the tables on me! Looking back, I realize that Chris was probably feeling like a stud since he was only 13 and he was out on a 'date' with a 17 yr old girl -- ha ha!

Over the course of the next few months, Chris's condition rapidly declined and our time together was mostly spent in his bedroom, sitting on his hospital bed. We talked a lot. Sometimes he told me that he was dying & seemed focused on that. Other times, we talked about TV shows or books he was reading or anything else. When he reached the point that he was asleep most of the time, I would just sit with him so that his parents could take a break from counting his breaths & watching his monitors & listening to the IV pump beep. In the final moments of Chris's life, I was alone in his room with him and had to call his parents in to say "Something's wrong. I don't think he's breathing."

It was my first time to be with a person when they died. I was devastated. I knew that Chris was finally healed and that he was not suffering anymore, but the grief was almost more than I could bear. I stayed with the family for a little while after he passed away and then slipped out their driveway to cry for most of the rest of the night.

Being a part of Chris's life as a friend & prayer warrior forever changed my life. That experience has led me to today.

In 2003, a friend sent me a link to a caringbridge website for a little boy named Luke Ervin. Luke was a 3 yr old who had cancer. He was in his final months of life when I "met" him. His mother, Ivy, blogged about his condition daily and I prayed for him with every new blog post. July 31, 2003 Luke passed away. Ivy is still my friend, all these years later, even though we've never met face to face and both of our lives have gone in different directions since that time. The magic of the internet makes our friendship possible. We may not share family ties or locations, but we are bonded by the hours spent praying for her son.

Last year, a girlfriend forwarded me an email from a friend of hers. It was about a mom whose unborn son had been diagnosed with anencephaly. She knew I had prayed for another friend whose child had the same condition a couple of years ago and she felt led to share the info with me. I was able to get in touch & become friends with that amazing mom. Within days of meeting her (via email), a personal girlfriend from a town where we lived years ago was also given a grim prenatal diagnosis. We (separately) talked about these babies for a couple of months through emails & facebook messages. Both of these sweet babies are now in Heaven, but both women are still a part of my life.

Over the past 10 years, I've been sent somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 links to carepages and caringbridge sites & Praying for ___ Facebook pages of children with various terminal illnesses. I've had personal friends and blog friends who faced fatal prenatal diagnoses. I get phone calls & emails all the time about another child with cancer. I've prayed fervently for each one of them. Sometimes I know the family, sometimes I don't.

Someone asked me recently "How do you hear about all these kids?? It seems like you know a lot of people with sick & dying children." The truth is, I don't even know. People just always seem to send them my way.

Honestly, I wish I had never seen a little boy die before my eyes. I wish that no one would ever have to face tough decisions about their child's lifespan. I wish that no one ever had to place an order for a coffin the size of a throw pillow. I wish that no father had to hold up his sobbing wife as they walked back to their car at a cemetary. I wish that no mother had to sit in her child's room and pack up their belongings after his/her death. It's just not fair for parents to bury their children. But, sadly, it happens all the time.

Most of us are not scientists or doctors who can offer some sort of solution to these children's sufferings. But if I can offer prayers for these kids and their families, then by golly, I'm glad to do it!

It may seem morbid or weird to some, but I am in the brainstorming stages of creating a new ministry. I may do it all by myself or it may grow to many participants. I may create a website/blog for it or I may create a facebook page for it. I'm not really sure how it will look. It will be called Praying for the Kids (P4TK for short). It will be a hub for families & friends who know of a child with a terminal condition (or one who has become gravely ill) to come and ask for prayers, a place for compassion & love & support. I (we?) may never meet the families on the other end of these prayer requests, but it will be a place for families to go and know that someone cares and is lifting up their child. I hope that we will see miracles happen, but I know in many cases we will not.

Not on this side of Heaven anyway.

Today, a 3 year old little girl of a local couple named Haven was healed. It didn't happen the way I hoped. God chose to heal her by escorting her to Heaven this afternoon. She had 5000+ people praying for her because of her facebook page. Just a couple of hours before her death, her grandmother posted this picture on Facebook. That sweet little angel was praying!

Tonight, her family is grieving. Please keep them in your prayers.

And if you would like to join me in this new ministry endeavor, P4TK, please let me know. You can leave a comment here or email me (


Nikki said...

count me in :-)

cris russell said...

You have an amzing heart, Liz. Not really sure how I can help, but I know how to pray.

Amber said...

Count me in too!

Lesa said...

God bless you Liz! I would love to join you in this ministry!

Anonymous said...

Liz, reading your blog I feel exactly the same as you do. It seems like I am always hearing of children and families needing prayers because of illness. I feel extremely blessed to be asked each and every time, and fervently pray for each and every child. The power of prayer- even though it may not always end the way we originally hoped- is amazing. God has a plan for everyone even if we can't see it right away. I would be blessed if you would include me in your endevour! Please count me in!
Amy Pitner

Sassy Crafter said...

Count me in! Haven Grace Davis is continuing to be a blessing daily. Her Legacy lives on as we continue to pray for others and love others to Christ. This family is precious. I had the pivilege of being Haven's hair dresser! She was truly a doll and blessing to me. Thank you for doing this ministry. Rechel Moore