I know them only vaguely, they’re family friends whose faces I see at Thanksgiving and sometimes during the summer. He is tall and lean and has deep dimples and sculpted cheekbones, she is soft and blonde with sparkling eyes. He looks like he would be at home roping cattle, she looks like someone who can bake the hell out of a cake and tear up the karaoke floor afterwards.

They are warm and funny and quick to smile. It’s hard what to say is so inviting about them, exactly. JB described them as a couple of glowy people, and I know what he means. They glow.

When I first met them they had two daughters. Both of them with their father’s height, lanky as colts. Healthy kids hurtling towards the teen years. There was a routine checkup, some school sports thing, and all of a sudden one of those healthy, happy girls had leukemia. The progression was cruel. There was a blood drive in the town searching for a bone marrow match, but this is what happened: one Thanksgiving she was there, the next she was not.

I can’t claim to understand what happened to that family in any way, but now that I have children of my own I think about loss differently. It takes my breath away to imagine what they went through, what they still endure.

I saw them at the cabin last weekend. For a while they relaxed on the lawn, talking with family and friends, and I watched them from behind my sunglasses. It’s hard not to: they are a pleasant sight to see. He was sitting in a chair while she stood leaning against him from behind, her hand on his shoulder. His hand absently stole down and caressed her leg as they talked. It was a small moment that told an entire story of love and devotion.

Down at the river, their daughter—still tall, now a bona-fide beauty—floated in a raft next to her friend. They turned lazy circles in the water, their paint-chipped toes winking in the sun.

It makes you think about what you have. What it’s possible to lose. It makes you think about this brutal, beautiful life that gives and takes, and what it means to touch the person you love.

JB shook hands with him later. “How’re you doing, man?” he asked.

“You won’t catch me complaining,” said the man who has every right to spend the rest of his days doing just that. When he smiles, his eyes crinkle at the edges.

Comments

84 Responses to “Glow”

  1. Shanna on July 8th, 2010 5:11 am

    Beautifully written, crisp and clear and painful.

  2. Robyn on July 8th, 2010 5:42 am

    I have read your blog since before Riley was born, but never commented until now.

    My pregnancy hormones may be in full swing, but I think it’s just that this is one of the most beautiful pieces of writing that I have ever read.

  3. warcrygirl on July 8th, 2010 5:44 am

    My neighbor lost her oldest son (of three sons) a few years ago to an inoperable brain tumor. He was diagnosed with cancer at age 4 and pretty much battled it his entire life. He was 14 when he died. His mom still has a battery operated candle in his bedroom window; I’m willing to bet his room is still exactly as it was when he died. She has never complained or blamed God or anything of the sort; she is the strongest woman I’ve ever met.

  4. bessie.viola on July 8th, 2010 6:18 am

    Beautiful… I’m just aching now. Wish I’d read this with my girl next to me to hold tight.

  5. E on July 8th, 2010 7:21 am

    Thank you so much for that. I truly needed to read that today.

  6. jennifer on July 8th, 2010 7:23 am

    beautifully written.

  7. Liana (Suburban Mom) on July 8th, 2010 8:01 am

    Oh wow. Beautiful description of a beautiful family. And I read this last night, and then went home and hugged my two girls EXTRA tight. I couldn’t even begin to imagine having to go through a scenario like that.

  8. Sarah on July 8th, 2010 10:16 am

    Wonderfully written. They sound like a wonderful couple to have survived such a quick and brutal tragedy. Brought a tear to my eye.

  9. Madeleine on July 8th, 2010 11:44 am

    Thank you. Always helpful to remember how blessed I am when I find myself thinking I’m having a “tough” day.

  10. Sharon on July 8th, 2010 1:12 pm

    I can not imagine the loss of a child. Just thinking about it makes we want to cry. These people are survivors and are focused on the positive. I wish that strength for all in their situation. Their story reminds us not to take life for granted.

  11. Jane on July 8th, 2010 4:14 pm

    Linda, I have been reading your blog for… well for a good few redesigns (perhaps around 7 years) and this is one of my favourite entries.

    Yes you make me laugh – like, all the flippin’ time.

    This kinda makes me want to cry though. And smile too. It’s not easy to evoke that kind of response in me, so please know that your writing is something very special.

  12. Jane on July 8th, 2010 4:15 pm

    Furthermore, “paint-chipped toes winking in the sun” – you’re killing me! Fantastic painting of the picture, I can see it all vividly.

  13. Val on July 8th, 2010 8:06 pm

    Thanks for this. It made me drop everything and go squeeze my little boy. I need to do that more often.

  14. Jess on July 9th, 2010 7:50 am

    Wow…beautiful….just beautiful. I hope you share this with them

  15. Amy M. on July 9th, 2010 8:13 am

    Okay, I need a tissue now… and a hug from my kids! Thanks for the gentle reminder that I REALLY have nothing to complain about & to let our loved ones know we love them every day, even the tough ones.

  16. Valarie on July 9th, 2010 10:13 am

    That was….. beautiful. I am sitting here at my kitchen table crying and thinking about all that I have to be greatful for.

    Thank you for this heart wrenching yet gentle post.

    You are a truly gifted writer Linda.

  17. elz on July 9th, 2010 10:47 am

    Amazing story of love and devotion. One of my kids is currently a Mystery Diagnosis and I’m trying not to think of all that it could be. I’m just not strong enough to handle a really scary diagnosis.

  18. Amy Q on July 9th, 2010 4:19 pm

    beautiful post. just this week, our friend’s son who is 16 was in a mountain bike accident that left him paralyzed, so these thoughts are on my mind right now too. you never know.

  19. Carrie on July 9th, 2010 6:24 pm

    Thank you. That was beautiful.

  20. M.Bailey on July 9th, 2010 7:20 pm

    What a lovely post! Thank you for sharing and for making me cry – and reminding me that life is so very precious.

  21. Kim on July 9th, 2010 7:49 pm

    Brilliant.

    Thanks for reminding me to stop for a moment today.

  22. Melissa on July 10th, 2010 6:43 am

    Beautiful. Thank you for sharing that.

  23. Maria on July 10th, 2010 4:06 pm

    Breathtaking, Linda. You’re a master at this, you know. You truly are.

  24. kalisa on July 10th, 2010 8:37 pm

    For 9 years, I worked at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital with childhood cancer patients & their families. I asked a mom once, “How do you do it? How do you go on?” She said, “You don’t have a choice. You have to.” I just don’t know where that kind of strength comes from.

  25. Kimalim on July 11th, 2010 9:35 pm

    Epic. as usual.

  26. Donna on July 12th, 2010 8:04 am

    This post brought tears to my eyes. I too know friends who have lost a child. I am in awe of anyone who is able to navigate through the grief. Your description is both poignant and beautiful.

  27. .303 Bookworm on July 13th, 2010 7:37 pm

    Some friends of mine have just recently lost their three year old son after battling cancer since he was 6mths old.

    She blogged about it daily – writing things down is one of the ways she deals with life and also, it kept those of us around the country or on the other side of the world, involved.

    He said, at the memorial service, that he still considers himself lucky. Lucky for the love of a good woman, wonderful children, great friends and luckly to have had the time they had with their son, and to have him in their hearts forever.

    Yep, heartwrenching, not to be wished on anyone and yet… to come thru such devastation with that grace and strength? Heartwarming too.

  28. Tracy on July 14th, 2010 12:34 pm

    you’re such an amazing writer

  29. Ellen on July 25th, 2010 1:24 pm

    I see that several people have said it already but I’m a lurker (have been ever since I lost my baby when you were pregnant with Dylan).

    I think this my be my favorite blog post ever. Anywhere. It’s certainly up there.

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