I believe that it takes a village when a child dies….
Almost seven months from the day she was diagnosed, eight year old Ellie died of a diffused pontine glioma. What transpired during those seven months was truly remarkable. This is a story about the powerful impact of kindness as we reach out to others.
Young people aren’t supposed to die. It is out of the normal realm of nature. Death is never easy. The death of a child is like no other experience. All of a sudden your family becomes part of a club that no one wants to belong.
But it was rather different with Ellie. Ellie’s spirit transcended most everyone she met and she left us with a sense of convergence and purpose that many of us lacked.
And so the story goes…..
After Ellie was diagnosed with the terminal inoperable brain stem tumor, we asked for prayers. Continually, bosses, priests, friends, neighbors, staff members, medical professionals, co-workers, teachers, students and strangers kept appearing with acts of kindness. They came with presents and cards. They came with food and prayers. They came with money, toys, love and support. These acts of kindness held us up.
Employees with The Lucas County Sheriff’s Office, The Toledo Police Department, The Toledo Fire Department, The Toledo Mud Hens Organization and Owens Corning Corporation came with 400 stuffed animals of all sizes and shapes donated by the students at St. Patrick’s of Heatherdowns School, Toledo, Ohio. Ellie and our family were surrounded with profound and pervasive kindness.
A rosary service was held for Ellie and secretly we hoped that twenty-five people would attend to pray with us. With only two days notice, over seven hundred people filled the church, all with rosaries and strong faith in hand.
A thousand people attended the funeral at Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral. From behind the altar, over a hundred children sang to Ellie in Heaven. At the cemetery, they lined her grave with fresh flowers so that she would have a lovely place to rest. No one directed her little school friends; these were just pure and natural gestures of kindness.
When we thought we could not live one more minute, one more moment, one more day, one more week, one more year, someone presented one more kind and self-less act of kindness that held us up and kept us living.
This is not to imply that the death of a child is any celestial dance. It certainly is not. But as her mother, I do believe that we stand today to face another day without Ellie because of those acts of kindness, the many prayers and the gift of grace.
I believe that Ellie is an angel and that today she is in Heaven. I believe that she looks over and guides our son Moe. I believe because we opened our lives to so many people, hundreds of children and adults had a powerful and beautiful experience of death.
I believe that organizations like Make-A-Wish and Give Kids the World in Orlando, Florida are God’s gifts to terminally ill children and that the people who work with them are blessed and really do make a difference.
So when you think that your act of kindness, no matter how large or small, doesn’t really matter, I am here to tell you that it does, immensely. It may be life saving.
I believe that because of our village, we can stand today, hoping to make a difference in someone else’s life.