The tutor who runs the class is an animated lady, and offers her service for free. She is an artist as well as writer—like me. Robust and nicely dressed with styled grey hair, she stood the whole time, papers in hand, giving us quick projects and tidbits of information. Occasionally, someone would read what they had wrote.
At one point the group was asked to write about a conversation in life that occurred where something was said, and in hindsight, we see we could have spoke differently. What would we have said?
My friend and I, together on a couch, thought a moment and began writing, not looking at each other. After our ten minutes were concluded, I had written about a time 17 years ago I can hardly forget. Here it is:
Naomi sat next to me as I drove home with her from her doctor's appointment. “Oh Dad, “she blurted out, “I am afraid. Sometimes during class I have the thought that I am going to die!”
Fear flooded my normally intrepid mind. I was 47 years old. “But darling, everyone have thoughts like that sometimes.”
I knew her case was not like everyone else. Naomi had bone cancer that started in her hip. It had metastasized to her lungs, and the doctors shook their heads when they determined the extent of the disease. In fact, they had given her little chance of survival. I could not bear the thought of my 18 year old dying. “Look Naomi, if even one person has survived, then you will too! When those thoughts come, just let them go.” I was grasping for words while reacting to my own fear, unable to process losing her.
It has been fifteen years since Naomi died, and almost up until the day she died, I was unable to visualize or consider her death. Early on, she had come to peace with it and embraced her fate with tenderness and love.
I can see now how I might have reacted differently as she shared her fear with me. When she had told me her frightening thoughts, I could have asked what she thought of death. I might have confessed that I too was afraid. The father that she depended upon for strength, was weak at the knees in the face of our formidable enemy. We needed each other and a greater power to pull us through. How could I tell her, and admit my perplexity and weakness?
I imagine she might have said, “Oh well, we will get through this together. God is with us no matter what!” In fact, later, during a time in her hospital room when I had been pacing the floor, she stopped me and said, “Dad, keep your chin up and take deep breaths!” She was always the cheerleader.
The day in the car when she had confided in me, I had tried being the cheerleader, summoning faith for victory, but truth could have set both of us free.
Naomi wrote continuously in her diaries from the time she was 12. She died at the age of nineteen. Here are two entries from the time of her illness:
Hardship is something that will make us stronger. I don't know if I have complete evidence of this, but I think that in every situation there is good in it.
Show up and be lovingly present, no matter what it looks like out there or inside yourself. Always speak the truth of your heart.
I wrote a book about Naomi and I. It is called A Heart Traced In Sand