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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Eric's Mommy
Eric's Mommy
12 years ago

Beautiful post Linda. I say that about most of your posts though. This one really touched me. I cannot even imagine losing a child.

DeenutsDana
12 years ago

Beautifully written. It has me in tears.

Jennifer
Jennifer
12 years ago

Beautiful

Erika Peterson
12 years ago

I can’t wait until you write a book. You are such an amazing writer!

Jennie
Jennie
12 years ago

I think I learned more about life in this one post than I have in as long as I can remember.

Erika
Erika
12 years ago

I love reading these type of stories. I know all too well how their situation could have ended differently.

Stacy
Stacy
12 years ago

Nicely said. And, good reminder too; I don’t have anything to complain about.

MLH
MLH
12 years ago

Heartwrenching.

Kathy
Kathy
12 years ago

Linda, have been reading everything you write for about a year now but have never commented. Today, I have to. Thank you for this reminder – your words are so powerful.

LauraC
12 years ago

Write your book already!
I would buy it.
This post demonstrates what you were put on this earth to do. Beautiful. Compelling.

Kim
Kim
12 years ago

Dear God. Thank you for sharing that.

Saskia
12 years ago

We should all strive to glow. And, if “they” told you how heart-wrenching the thought of losing a child is before you ever reproduced, I swear that would be the greatest birth control of all. But I guess you get through it somehow…

kelby
kelby
12 years ago

Thank you for sharing that. As a parent to a child born with transient leukemia and currently with “regular” leukemia symptoms… You enjoy the sunsets more and the birds and the way spaghetti tastes and smiles from your child. It reminds you that life has no guarantees and you should appreciate everything in the moment. Beautiful post… It captures the feeling perfectly.

Veronica
Veronica
12 years ago

LauraC said it all. You are compelling. You are GIFTED. Thank you for this post.

Colleen
12 years ago

Wow. I needed a little perspective today. Thank you for that.

Sande
Sande
12 years ago

I work with a woman like that. She lost her baby when he she was 5 months pg with him a year ago. She had to endure L & D just to bury her son. Never once did I see her feeling sorry for herself or let anyone feel sorry for her. She never complained or said “Why me?” She accepted it and moved on. I don’t know how she does it. She is pg again and everything is going really well. I am so happy for her. People like that just amaze me.

Shawna
Shawna
12 years ago

It became so hard to read about the death of a child after I had mine. I cannot, no, I don’t want to, imagine what this family went through.

I am so glad these two are still glowy and loving at the end of your post. They are definitely better people than I.

beach
beach
12 years ago

Absolutely heartbreaking beautiful writing.I have a lump in my throat.

CharChar
CharChar
12 years ago

Thank you. A reminder of a love that we want, and a loss that we don’t. And the fact that some loves bring us through it all.

JCF
JCF
12 years ago

It is hard to imagine how someone who has lost a child can even get up in the morning. I certainly can’t fathom it. But both my in laws and my parents have lost children, and somehow they’re still up and walking every day and enjoying life. Somehow.

Pete
Pete
12 years ago

Good post!

Pieces of a Sometimes Extraordinary Life

Such a beautiful post…You know, in the past I’d look at these kinds of tragedies and feel vaguely sad while (here’s an unflattering admission) part of me was thinking…well, at least they have each other, and other children, and the possibility of still more…

I read three blogs written by people who’ve lost a little one, and I’ve cried over their losses but secretly felt like they had it better than me. (I’ve had multiple miscarriages, only just adopted a baby.) I used to be so stupid. Maybe, though, it’s impossible to understand what it is to love a child until you’re raising your own…

Victoria
12 years ago

Heartbreaking and hopeful

marilyn
12 years ago

Have a lump the size of Montana in my throat right now. This was so beautiful and striking; you’ve captured something really important here.

Barbara
Barbara
12 years ago

Awesome post. There is always someone worse off than us. Stories like this make all my worries/problems seem petty in comparison.

Angella
12 years ago

This was so beautiful that you made me cry. :)

adequatemom
12 years ago

What a beautiful post. I needed to see this today. You have such a way with words, Linda – truly evocative. Well done.

Amy
Amy
12 years ago

I hope that I will never have to experience anything like that….but if I do, I hope that I can do it with the grace that you described in these people.

Have you read Lift by Kelly Corrigan? She’s a writer from Oakland, CA. I think you would enjoy it. Your post reminded me a lot of how she spoke of her nephew.

Kristen
12 years ago

As a Social Worker who works with parents who have sick and dying children, I am amazed by your innate empathy and ability to put it into words. BEAUTIFUL!

Andrea
12 years ago

Beautifully captured…so heartbreaking.

Erin W
12 years ago

This is beautiful.

Stevie
12 years ago

9 years ago today, I lost one of my very best friends to cancer. We were both 20 years old at the time. I still keep in touch with her parents and her brother, who now live in California, and though they have lost the most precious thing in the world, they still are the most positive, strong, upbeat people I’ve ever known. I can’t imagine they’ll ever get over the loss, but they have been dealing with it these past 9 years with an amazing grace. It sounds like the family in this post were woven from the same type of cloth.

Beautiful post.

VeryBloggy
12 years ago

I know what you mean, now that I have my son the thought of anything bad happening to any child anywhere in the world can be enough to make me a pile of crying mush on the floor if I’m not careful. Rips your heart out. How do people survive that kind of loss? I hope I never have to find out.

Richard
Richard
12 years ago

This is really beautifully written. Best I have ever read on your blog. Compelled me to comment for the first time. You seem like a truly wonderful person with a terrifc family. I enjoy all that you choose to share of yourself–from the funny to the heartwrenching. All the best.

Rachel
Rachel
12 years ago

Heartbreaking.

It’s a lot easier than it used to be to be a marrow donor. I signed up through the mail not long ago. Four cheek swabs in a pre-paid envelope and you’re done. If you’re matched to a recipient, they often don’t even need to go into a bone for marrow. The National Marrow Donor Registry is here: http://www.marrow.org/

shriek house
12 years ago

Damn. DAMN.

Kimba
Kimba
12 years ago

Thank YOU!!!! I needed that today!

Kristen
Kristen
12 years ago

Beautifully written Linda. You had me in tears.
If that guy doesn’t complain, then I sure as shit shouldn’t. You’ve given me something to strive for.

Jen
Jen
12 years ago

What a beautiful and loving tribute. Thank you for sharing the strength and love of these people with us, reminding us of what is possible.

Niki P
Niki P
12 years ago

The hands on the shoulder, the touch on the leg- I see these things all the time and they mean more than words can ever express. This is beautifully written and tells what is important in life. Thank you Linda.

not important
not important
12 years ago

This struck something right at the core of me and reminded me of something I’d forgotten. Thank you. Clarity comes in the strangest forms sometimes.

I have always loved reading your stories and seeing your pictures because Linda, you and JB glow like summer sunshine.

a teacher
a teacher
12 years ago

Having just lost a student at my school due to a(nother) Baltimore shooting, this is a fitting post. This student glowed. He loved everyone.

Dana
12 years ago

wow.

Ann
Ann
12 years ago

So perfectly put. Your post portrays how my realization, feelings about and worry of death/loss have changed since I had my baby boy and also lost two of my grandparents this year. To be young and reckless and have that ignorance of being so far removed from the cruel realities……just the feelings of it one more time….

Ine Oroh
Ine Oroh
12 years ago

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

‘You won’t catch me complaining’ … I need to say that to my self more often now.

zdoodlebub
12 years ago

I saw someone already said this, but what a beautiful tribute. Thanks for shining a light on their example. Thanks for being the kind of person who notices stuff like that. Thanks.

kami
kami
12 years ago

Things like this remind me of….you don’t know how strong you are until you have no choice. They sound like a beautiful, strong, and amazing family. Loved the post.

lisa
lisa
12 years ago

Great post. You have such a way with words.

GingerB
12 years ago

I have a child with a metabolic disorder and mild cerebral palsy. I go through much of my days not remembering the risk of her death if she doesn’t eat, then sometimes it hits me full force and stops me in my tracks. I struggle all the time with helping her be as strong as she can be and yet not making a big deal of her challenges and it is really, really hard. I don’t know if I could glow if the worst happened. I really don’t. But thank you for giving me this to think about. I am glad you shared this story.

Amber
Amber
12 years ago

well written. and I get it. I watched my niece die at 16 (cancer). And now I watch her mom (my sister), and her dad, and her brother try to keep living.