In which our Heroine reflects on Another (for once).
One of the most puzzling things about humanity is the way that we can know so little of someone and yet can often be apprised of their greatest tragedies. Oddly enough, these situations are not based on malicious gossip concerning, oh…the paparazzi, but on moments of heartfelt empathy. I often grew tired of having my health problems frequently aired out in conversation like so many pieces of hanging laundry, but the results were always good enough to merit being such a public figure. Unfortunately, yesterday I learned what I assume will be a certain young mother’s greatest grief. Having only heard her name a few times, you can imagine how little I cared about her life before yesterday. I don’t know what color her hair is, what books interest her, or what kind of shoe she prefers. And yet, I know an intimate detail. It is unsettling—and not just because of the nature of the detail.
A woman named Amber who lives only a few miles away from me, but who attends a different LDS ward (church group) has a ten month old that has been diagnosed with cancer of the kidney. Tests are still pending on whether the cancer extends to Kidney No. 2 or whether it is contained in only the first organ, which I understand is already ravaged with cancer. The tragedy intensifies. Her sister is in my ward and lost a child to a brain tumor only a few years ago.
From my own experiences, I know that awful difficulties like this may often lead to good things—or at least not to the brutal horror that we immediately assume will happen in all its horrific Hollywood glory. But I admit that my first feelings on hearing of Amber and her little one was an overwhelming certainty that this is not fair. I discover that I can on the one hand be grateful for my own brief experiences of learning, while on the other turn physically sick when thinking of another just at the beginning of their own trial—and one that I count myself fortunate to never have had as it involves a small child and the likely broken heart of a young mother.
The reason this knowledge seems so intimate is probably because my mind begins to conjure up situations resulting from this event. I see a sterile doctor’s office complete with paper-covered bed and sterilizer pump bottle next to the sink. I see a woman’s face, startlingly like her sister’s as tears roll out of red-rimmed eyes. And then there is the baby (girl or boy?) who cries every time he/she wets their diaper. The horror of finding blood when she changes the child. The new sense of loss and too-much nostalgia as she rocks her baby to sleep. The uncertainty. The waiting. The insomnia. The inability to do mundane tasks or watch a useless TV show. There is also the circling of this young mother in the arms of her own mother. The disposable casserole dish of lasagna from a neighbor. The brilliant violet of the bow on that vase of flowers. The feeling of comfort that comes after everyone she knows—and even some she doesn’t—have prayed and fasted together on a Sunday. Because if there is one thing that I do know, it is that the worst of times can be soothed by the balm of empathetic prayer and thoughts of good will.