It’s 2:30 A.M. in Kampala, Uganda. I am wide awake. Much of that has to do with the fact that it’s 4:30 P.M. in Phoenix, Arizona, but the other part is that my mind won’t shut down. Yesterday we visited Bless a Child Foundation, the home that cares for kids with cancer. Each child has a story and most are fighting for their life. We all know someone with cancer or someone who had cancer. I have a painful memory of watching my mom pass away from pancreatic cancer. She spent her last week in the hospital. The team of doctors and nurses made every effort to save her life. In the end, my mom decided she was ready and joined her Maker. I remember the days and weeks that followed wondering if we did everything we could to save her and if she thought we fought hard enough for her. I know we did, but I remember searching for comfort and peace.
Tonight, I’m struggling with that similar feeling. I’m thinking about the parents of those kids with cancer. None of them can afford treatment, most have left other children behind who are also vulnerable to the consequences of extreme poverty, and each face uncertainty of what tomorrow brings. I’m restless thinking about the sacrifice they made to travel long distances only to learn that they CAN’T do everything possible to save their child. They don’t have the means, the cancer has spread, the hospital has ran out of chemotherapy, the wait for surgery is too long, there are not enough doctors, there isn’t a specialist to treat their type of cancer... What does that feel like? Although my mom’s death was an extremely sad time, I also have much joy thinking about the outpouring of love we received not only from family and friends but also from people I barely knew and some I had never met. I loved the letters and social media messages we received from her former students and the staff from her oncology team, the pictures and stories from her teaching colleagues, and the meals that kept on coming from neighbors and baseball team families. I knew my mom was loved, and I felt loved too. I also knew that when I returned home to Phoenix that my dad was going to be okay. He had a community surrounding him that was going to be fierce in their protection of him and would continue to provide endless compassion.
Bless a Child Foundation isn’t responsible for curing children with cancer. They are responsible for providing hope when there is despair, comfort when there is grief, dignity when there is shame, and love when there is nothing else. As the morning approaches, my heart is full of gratitude. I’m grateful to know and work with Bless a Child Foundation, to have the privilege to hear each and every story, and to know and see love where much is needed.