Thursday, June 12, 2008

Can't Turn Away

Something happened when I had children, when I took on the responsibility of protecting little ones. My view of other children changed; my protectiveness extended to them as well. I used to look at other children and think about what fatherhood would be like, a detached curiosity. Now I look at them, especially those in danger or in pain, and where I once would have felt deeply for them, now I actually want to reach out and protect them. Even when I hear terrible stories about children from across the world, my reaction is physical, like a punch in the gut, which I never felt before having children.

This blog is pretty much a collection of silly stories, look-at-my-cute-kids pictures, and random parenting thoughts/essays. I'm grateful that my blog is that light-hearted because I have healthy children to write about. Recently I came across a dad whose blog hit me like a punch in the gut, because he writes about his daughter, who has leukemia. I tried to be objective and removed as I read about her, but this picture drew me in:

This is Serenity, a two year old girl who was recently diagnosed with leukemia. Her father has written about her struggle with the disease and the treatment from the first doctor visit to now. I came in on day 17, a low point for the father in this early part of her treatment. Earlier in the post is a picture of Serenity on the hospital bed, being a trooper, but by the picture above, she had clearly used up her patience and courage for the day. You can hear what dad is saying to her because it would be what you would say to her if you could. Since seeing that post, I haven't been able to turn away from this father's story. Serenity's dad set up a web page where visitors can sign a guest book and leave messages or donate money. This is what I wrote to him on his guest book:

Kids should not feel such pain, and we, their protectors, should not be powerless to stop it.

Following Serenity's story reminded me of a photojournalism essay that I came across last year about a Sacramento mother and her son, who fought a losing battle with cancer. The essay, which you can view here, tells the story better than words can. It is moving, uplifting, and heartbreaking - all at the same time. Each of the pictures has a caption, but I would suggest turning the captions on the second time through. I would warn you that viewing it could be an emotional experience, but if you were averse to that you probably wouldn't have read this far, anyway.

Hits you like a punch in the gut, doesn't it?

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to Serenity and her family. I'm on day 10 of the blog and am riveted. She's just a few months older than Colleen and shares the same last name. It makes me so sad to think about helpless kids getting sick.
-Tom

Lane J said...

Even though I do not have children of my own yet, I have about 100 kids. I use to work with children as a sports instructor...I recently have moved away and each day I feel as if 100 parts of me are missing. They were my kids and each still holds a special place in my heart...My heart goes out to all who have lost children or whose children are sick!

KBO said...

I saw the photo-essay that the second photo is from. I bawled my eyes out right at my computer. I think it won a Pulitzer.

Joel Bittle said...

I'm right with you, Tom. Give my best to Allison and Colleen, whom I'm sure has gotten some extra hugs today. Send some pictures!

Welcome, Lane and KBO. Good luck in Arizona, Lane. KBO, that was my reaction, too.

Darcy said...

Joel,
I read this post and the accompanying links earlier and I keep trying to put into words what it meant in my head and heart. My son was born with birth defect and was in the NICU for a month before we were able to bring him home. I have always been a sucker for stories about kids, but something changed in me even more after my son was born. I "can't turn away" as you put it, from stories and lives that have had so much more suffering than my son did in his first month of life.
I think once you have experienced the love of being a parent, you can't turn away from another parent or child's suffering.
I also like to think that God allows us to take on the burden and suffering of others to make their load a little easier and lighter, whether we know them or not. I find that when I read the stories like the ones that you posted that I pray as I read, for the child, their parents, their family.
Great post!
darcy
http://ittybittyblog.wordpress.com

Darcy said...

Joel,
I read this post and the accompanying links earlier and I keep trying to put into words what it meant in my head and heart. My son was born with birth defect and was in the NICU for a month before we were able to bring him home. I have always been a sucker for stories about kids, but something changed in me even more after my son was born. I "can't turn away" as you put it, from stories and lives that have had so much more suffering than my son did in his first month of life.
I think once you have experienced the love of being a parent, you can't turn away from another parent or child's suffering.
I also like to think that God allows us to take on the burden and suffering of others to make their load a little easier and lighter, whether we know them or not. I find that when I read the stories like the ones that you posted that I pray as I read, for the child, their parents, their family.
Great post!
darcy
http://ittybittyblog.wordpress.com

Dana said...

I bawled when I saw the photo of that little girl and am afraid to click on the link. My heart is too tied to kids. Kudos to their parents for displaying such strength. I am not nearly as strong as I think when I see what they must endure.

Melody said...

I am not a parent myself, but I have to agree with Dana - I am scared to click on that link. Scared because it is too hard to think about what other people are going through with their children while at the same time thinking about how blessed our family has been so far. Know what, though? I am disappointed in myself for knowing that I can't handle that.

Gregg said...

I think it was Dana that posted the link on twitter or her blog to the photo series your second picture is part of.

I bawled when I read it.

Everytime I see something like that, I feel bad that I get mad at my kids for comparatively minor things.

I haven't read the first blog you mentioned, but I will. It's rough, but someday I think they'll soak in and put my own "problems" in perspective.

I'm also thankful that I have the ability and circumstances to write the goofy things I write, just like you mentioned.

I can't imagine what these parents go through!