Friday, July 10, 2009


These lyrics have been running through my head for the past several days. The words come to mind when I first wake up in the morning ... and then I find myself humming the tune as I go about my day.
I imagine they first came to mind with all of the recent coverage of the death of Michael Jackson, who gets credit for the song.

But that isn't what has kept them there.

I had the great fortune this past weekend of spending some time with a very special person. She is my husband's cousin and has had the great misfortune of having her body invaded by a very persistent cancer. But you wouldn't know it to look at her as she tickled and played with Danica. And to sit and visit with her, you would never know just how serious her prognosis may be.


Her name is Heide. She is only in her late 30s, has a very funny, loving and supportive husband, and two adorable little girls under the age of 7. She also has a twin sister and a brother, mother and father who I'm sure would go to the ends of the earth for her.

Because Heide lives in California and the extended family has only gotten together a handful of times since I became part of the family, I hadn't really ever spent more than a few minutes here and there talking to Heide before this weekend. We knew about her health condition, thanks to frequent communication through the family lines. But at our distance, it didn't seem very real ... and we, or at least I, didn't really know what to expect when we first arrived at the family farm in North Dakota last weekend.

It seems far too real now.

As it turns out, I really like Heide. She's warm and friendly and open and positive, everything I wish I was more of. She just radiates a quality that makes you want to be around her as much as possible. After more than a year of battling this most recent bout of cancer, I'm sure she has had many highs and lows and moments of anger, frustration and sadness. I'm sure she has had a least a few "why me?" moments.

But all I could see as I sat and visited with her this weekend was a woman with amazing STRENGTH.

She talked about her family. She laughed about her girls, two very adorable little dark-haired, dark-skinned sweethearts who alternated between running and playing with their cousins (including kissing a frog or two) and crawling into their mom's lap for a few snuggles. She openly answered questions about her treatment and how her family is handling it. She explained how a careful regiment of naps helps her continue to be an active part of her family's life, which is very important to her. She even joked around with her husband and brother-in-law by taking off her wig, placing it on her husband's head, and allowing several photos of her with her other "follicly-challenged" family members.

She made me really, really wish there was a way to give her back the "normal" life the rest of us are leading.

And now, sitting back at home in Montana, I find myself thinking about her a lot ... and humming that song. I also found my way to the Website her family started back when her cancer was first diagnosed, which they use to update friends and relatives on her status, as well as raise funds for this expensive interruption into their lives.

What I found there was incredibly inspirational. I'm not referring to the updates posted there occasionally, sometimes by Heide and other times by her husband or other family members, though it is wonderful to see the support of this wife, mother, daughter, and friend that comes through in those writings. The thing that touched me the most was the message from Heide. Read it for yourself and you will understand what I mean. It's such an amazingly positive and hopeful way to look at a situation that initially seems nothing but horrible and unfair.

Thanks for reminding me to appreciate what really matters, Heide, and for letting me into your life, even if just for a weekend. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family, and I really hope for many more opportunities to visit with you at future family gatherings.

Many {hugs} to you...

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