Tuesday, October 21, 2008

For MaryKay...

Sorry for my lack of entries. I have tried several times in the past few days to write about a party, and as much as I LOVE the stuff I'm trying to write about...I just can't do it. So here it is, totally personal, unrelated to anything a stranger probably cares to read about, but I don't care. If I don't say it, I won't be able to write anything else.

My friend MaryKay died on Saturday. I can't even write it without bursting into tears. It wasn't sudden, she has had an incredibly long 12 year battle with breast cancer. I actually met MK and her family 6 years ago when I was 23 and just starting out teaching. I couldn't get a full time gig and was teaching 2nd and 3rd grade reading and math half time. Eric and I decided I should look for another job. I wanted something that I enjoyed and that didn't make me "think" much. I figured I did that enough at my "real" job. So I grabbed our local paper and started reading the Want Ads to find something fun. I found a few that were interesting that I circled before coming to one for a part time nanny postition in a nearby town. I thought playing with kids sounded like the perfect job. Then I called and talked to MK. She was very blunt. She said that she had breast cancer...that she had for almost 6 years already and that it had spread to her brain. I remember her saying that she didn't want to be the only one responsible for making sure the kids were okay, even though she was sure she could. She said she couldn't risk doing it.

This wasn't quite what I had originally been looking for...a fun, no thinking kind of extra job. But I couldn't say no. Something inside was telling me I was perfect for this job and that God dropped it in my lap on purpose. I wasn't sure then whether that was for them or me, but it didn't matter. I set up an interview the next day and arrived at their door more than a bit nervous. I don't know why, but I wasn't expecting her to be the one to answer the door, or for her to be completely bald. She had just had brain surgery, so she was not only bald, but had a fresh 5 inch scar across the back of her head. After going in and chatting with MK, her husband Duff, and kids Anthony, 9, and Maddie, 7, for a while, MK told me that she hadn't worn a wig in years. She said that the only reason she would do that is to make other people feel less uncomfortable and she was kind of done with that whole thing. Now that's my kind of woman! They also told me that she had found out she had cancer when she was 30 and her kids were almost 2 and almost 4. They were the NICEST family.

We were all smiling by the end of that interview, which probably only lasted about 20 minutes. They said they would call the next day, that they had a few other people to interview, but I think we all knew it would be a good fit. You know how when really important things in your life happen you can remember what you were wearing? I know what I was wearing that day.

I only stayed with them for a year because I was offered a full time position at my school teaching 3rd grade in addition to being pregnant with my first baby. I won't go into too much more detail, because frankly I could write about that year forever. How much fun I had...how much I learned...how hard it was to see people suffering like that. But I'm not going to. Instead, I'm going to copy the letter I wrote MK last week. That pretty much sums it up:

Dear MaryKay,

I have to type this for fear that I may not be able to get it out otherwise...I hope it finds its way to you on time.

When I was at your house visiting last week I left feeling like I hadn’t really said what I wanted, knowing it may be the last time I saw you. I was struggling with how to say goodbye...and if that was even what either of us needed.

After some more thought I have decided that goodbye is not at all what I needed to say. I know I will see you again. Of that I am sure, my dear. I figured out that what I have been needing to tell you is thank you...for so many things.

First and foremost, for sharing your family with me. Six years ago I was clueless to who the Davidsons were...but boy am I glad I picked up that Shakopee paper and found your ad. The year I spent with you was one full of fun and sad times both, but spending so much time w
ith Maddie and Anthony was something that will always be so special to me. They are great kids...you’ve done a wonderful job with them.

Secondly...thank you for so totally changing my life. When I worked for you, I was 23...at the time I didn’t have kids, but how you were dealing with the cards you’d been given was an inspiration. I saw you on days you were pretty sick, but you always had a good attitude. You tried so hard to never let your illness get in the way of spending time or doing things with the kids. I always admired your strength and outlook on life. As I have become older and had my own children, you have no idea how that attitude and parenting has affected how I am with my own kids... Tate, Avery, and Beckett mean the world to me, and although I hope I have many many years to spend with them, I try not to take for granted one second. I try to show them the good things in life and laugh often. That is one thing I’ll always remember...your wonderful laugh. We laughed a lot the year I spent with you (usually at something Maddie had said...that girl, I tell ya).

I am now approaching 30 in a few months...the age you were when you found out you had cancer. Tate is 4 and Avery is 2, the same ages Anthony and Maddie were...so my heart breaks for you every time I think of it and what a long journey you’ve had. But then I remember that you always told me what a gift it was that you saw Anthony get on that bus, and Maddie, too. What a gift these “extra” 12 years have been, though painful to your body, so healing to your soul. Your children have grown to an age where you know they will remember who you are...and they’re going to be okay. You know that now. You did everything you could to make sure of that.

I am going to try not to make this any longer...you know I never had a lack of words, but I want to keep it short because I know you’re tired. Please just know how much I have loved knowing you and your family. Not a day goes by I don’t think of you...the kids picture still sits next to my bed. Thank you, MaryKay.

Love you all,

Yep, that's pretty much it. And now she's gone. She beat it so many times doctors stopped predicting, but we all knew it had to end some day. Although I haven't seen them as much as I would have liked in the last few years it was just inspiring and comforting knowing she was still here...and that the world still had SO MUCH HOPE. Even the last time I was at her house she was ready to go, to be done suffering, but said something about "If a miracle happens, she'd like to stay in the house they were living in for about 20 more years." :)

Why doesn't knowing someone is going to die make it any easier?

Okay...as if this wasn't long enough...if you want to read anything more about MK or donate anything to cancer research (It IS Breast Cancer Awareness Month!), visit her website:


because in MaryKay's own words...Cancer Sucks.Remember I said at the time I didn't know whether God helped me find that want ad for me or for them? Now I know...it was both. Thanks, MK.


goldenshoptalk said...

This just might be the most amazing thing I have ever read. I am in complete tears, but not all sad tears. You are so hopeful and positive and it reflects in your description of MK. I don't think any of us can even begin to understand what she was going through and for you to reach out and become almost a part of the family at such a time is so amazing. I truly believe that we meet people and have experiences in life for a reason and it is so clear as to why you met MK. I am sorry for your loss, as well as her family's. She sounded like such an amazing woman and most importantly a strong and important role model for her children. I definitely think we can and will all learn something from MK, thank you so much for sharing. xoxo and a great big *HUG*.

The Green Family said...

Oh my goodness! That was just absolutley beautiful! Coming from someone who knows what it is like to know someone is going to die, I still cannot even answer why it is not any easier knowing what you know! Probably about the time that you met this amazing woman, six years ago, I lost my mom to a 12 year battle with an illness herself. I was 22. I am so sorry to her children, it just breaks my heart, knowing the pain that you experience every year from losing your mom. I will pray for them to have peace and understanding during this time. The letter that you wrote to this woman, was PERFECT. You said what you needed to say and it was just beautiful. Even though, you know they are "better off" and not "suffering", this in no way makes the loss an easier, and I am not sure that it ever will, honestly. Well MK must have been an amzing woman, what a great story, maybe she and my mom will be friends in heaven! God Bless her family! Thanks so much for sharing...Shelley

P.S. if you ever have time, one night out of the blue I posted a blog in July about my mom and the experience of losing her..maybe it will give you a little insight to why it is not any easier to know someone will not live!!

Carter's mom said...

Jess, Big hugs to you!
My heart goes out to you, your friend, her family. I am really glad you shared her story it was inspiring, I will remember MK and the story you've shared.
Thanks for sharing your moment. :) Sara

Spare Time Designs (Tammy) said...

thanks for writing so open and honestly. Cancer sucks I fully agree. But the hope and inspiration is def. what shined thru your words. That was an amazing woman and I know that her kids will be so proud of her and carry great memories of her life.

teary eyed-