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.

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Shanna
11 years ago

Beautifully written, crisp and clear and painful.

Robyn
11 years ago

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.

warcrygirl
11 years ago

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.

bessie.viola
11 years ago

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

E
E
11 years ago

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

jennifer
jennifer
11 years ago

beautifully written.

Liana (Suburban Mom)
11 years ago

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.

Sarah
11 years ago

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

Madeleine
Madeleine
11 years ago

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

Sharon
Sharon
11 years ago

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.

Jane
11 years ago

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.

Jane
11 years ago

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

Val
Val
11 years ago

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

Jess
Jess
11 years ago

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

Amy M.
Amy M.
11 years ago

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.

Valarie
Valarie
11 years ago

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.

elz
elz
11 years ago

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.

Amy Q
Amy Q
11 years ago

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.

Carrie
Carrie
11 years ago

Thank you. That was beautiful.

M.Bailey
11 years ago

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

Kim
Kim
11 years ago

Brilliant.

Thanks for reminding me to stop for a moment today.

Melissa
Melissa
11 years ago

Beautiful. Thank you for sharing that.

Maria
11 years ago

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

kalisa
11 years ago

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.

Kimalim
Kimalim
11 years ago

Epic. as usual.

Donna
Donna
11 years ago

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.

.303 Bookworm
.303 Bookworm
11 years ago

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.

Tracy
Tracy
11 years ago

you’re such an amazing writer

Ellen
Ellen
11 years ago

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.

Eleni
7 years ago

Gujarat te have fakt guajratio nu hovu joie.khao to guajrati nu khavdavo to guajratine lado to gujarat mate ane maro to gujarat mate.sau guajrati ek thai chalo gujarat ne fari banaviye keshubhai patel na sath sahkar sathe

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