The Forever Bucket List

Farrell Ink’s Cleveland office is officially closed, to reopen next week in Jefferson, Ohio, about an hour’s drive away.

Empty office

Goodbye chair. Goodbye stair. Goodbye house. Goodbye mouse. Also, I work from home.

Anticipating the move, I printed The Cleveland Bucket List, targeting ten items to complete by the end of 2014. I edited the list to combine my Cleveland destinations with my personalized agenda of goodbyes, for example meeting fellow members of the Literacy Learning Network Steering Committee for lunch at Town Hall with Mitchell’s Ice Cream afterwards.

The Cleveland Bucket List: 100 things every Clevelander must do before they die (or move, which is really the same thing).

Top of my list was “Spend time with Rebecca Meyers and her family.” Last summer, on vacation at the Jersey Shore, Becca was diagnosed with agressive brain cancer.

Kids in the kitchen

Becca’s bucket list and mine were not the same, in content or in purpose.

Moving means I am still able to return to Cleveland for a tour of the Great Lakes Brewing Company, or to provide training for The Literacy Cooperative.

But not Becca. She loved purple. She got her wishes to go to Disney World and Cedar Point this spring. Her birthday party this past Sunday–a combined party with her best friend Ruthie–involved a face painter, balloon man, and donut truck. She managed to blow out all her candles, and smile as she left for her third trip on the Rocket Car, but it was obviously taxing. She ended the three-hour party practically asleep on a blanket in the shade, and that is where we said goodbye.

BeccaBlowingCandles

It would be our final goodbye to sparkly, snarky, and now sleepy Becca. Tuesday, an MRI confirmed all of our worst fears from her uncharacteristic lethargy: the tumor had grown, and she had days or weeks to live. Last evening, on her sixth birthday, she breathed her last.

St Ignatius encouraged us “not [to] fix our desires on health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short one. For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in God.”

At a glance, this seems callous. How could I stop myself from desiring for Becca to have health instead of sickness, a long life instead of a short one? I desire this for her until it hurts, but St Ignatius is right about one thing: that’s a futile way to pray. And though I believe it is beautiful and just and holy to try to find treatments and cures for childhood cancer, fixating on a single personal positive outcome against the impersonal (and quite frankly, unfair) march of the Universe would be like fist fighting the waves of the ocean, because everything we could possibly try is useless.

Fixating on the desire for health and long life can hurt people who have no hope of achieving it. I thought of Becca today in sadness when I saw a mini-grocery cart with the label “customer-in-training.” Children are more than just future adults, and sometimes we forget to value the many gifts someone can share in six years. Six years can be a really long time, even if it’s a short life.

With or without cancer, Becca lived her short life in Love, which is another way to say God. And that is our Prayer for Becca: to be expressions of Love as best we can. We can always improve at loving others. And I confess that knowing Becca and the Meyers, seeing the Team Becca community gather around them to provide all the support and care we limited humans can supply, has truly called forth a deeper response of Love in me. Life is limited for all of us, but Becca and her family are proof that we can choose to use our time to bring joy and hope to others, while refusing to turn away from their pain, even when caring for others in pain can wound us in invisible ways that may never fully heal.

So let us dance in princess dresses, paint our faces, and run barefoot, knowing that our lives are as frail and fleeting as the grass beneath our feet. Heart aching, I celebrate you, Becca. Tears streaming down my face, I’ll sing “Let It Go” again. For the fifth time today. And in that goodbye, I also give thanks to God for all the Clevelanders who have enriched my life just by being, and to whom I may never say goodbye in the flesh. Thank you.

Becca Climbs to the Top of the Playset

Photos of Becca by Bustafeltz Designs 

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