September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Our grandson Sully died at age fifteen months after a thirteen month battle against leukemia. Sully is on my heart and mind daily. Like Sully the children I see weekly at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital are brave fighters in a battle they did not choose. Their parents’ lives have been turned inside out. Whether at St. Jude or other children’s hospitals across North America and the world, thousands of children are fighting for their lives. Our experience during Sully’s short life, the experience of these children and their families, filled my heart and mind when I recently read the following passage in J. R. R. Tokien’s The Silmarillion.
“Among the tales of sorrow and of ruin that come down to us from the darkness of those days there are yet some in which amid weeping there is joy and under the shadow of death light that endures.”
“Amid weeping there is joy and under the shadow of death light that endures.” Children battling cancer are amazingly brave. In the midst of the weeping brought on by their pain and weakness, children still find reason to smile, to laugh, to hope in the joy of life. The shadow of death hovers over cancer patients, and this shadow is so much darker when the patients are children. In the faces and words of the children, in their fight for life, in their strong hold onto life, they bring light in the midst of the dark shadow.
Joy in the midst of weeping, under the shadow of death an enduring light, joy and light, the gifts of hope. Hope, there is always hope. Hope that there will be no vomiting tomorrow. Hope that more Legos will be received this afternoon. Hope that a favorite nurse will be on duty. Hope that Dad will be able to take off and fly to Memphis for time with his daughter at St. Jude. Hope for being sent home today. Hope that the chemo will not be as sickening this round. Hope for a trip to Bass Pro in the Pyramid and a ride on the elevator. Hope for a day without tears and heartache. Hope for a smile. Hope for a favorite ice cream or candy. Hope for clear scans and cancer free blood work. Hope for a bone marrow match. Hope for the autograph of a favorite singer or athlete. Hope of another day. Hope that your child’s short life and brave fight will provide information to help other children. Hope of healing. Hope of survival. Hope for small things. Hope for life changing things. Hope, the giver of joy and light.
Sorrow and darkness filled our lives during Sully’s illness and death. Our hearts wept daily. The shadow of death grew so dark. And at times the sorrow, the weeping, the darkness, flood back into our hearts. Yet in the midst of it all there is joy and a light that endures. The joy and light Sully gave. The joy and light Sully continues to give. His life, his heart, his smile, his courage and perseverance, etched on our hearts. In the midst of sorrow, darkness, weeping, and the seeming hopelessness of death there is the joy and light given by hope. For us the hope above all hope is the assurance of life eternal in Jesus Christ. The hope of resurrection and life for Sully, for us, in Jesus Christ. The hope of the love of God which did not and has not deserted Sully or us.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead… In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials…you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:3, 6, 8).
The following links provide important facts about childhood cancer.