A Prayer Answered
A personal note from CSP’s group editor
HACKENSACK, N.J. -- "It's 2:00 in the morning. We are at Hackensack University Medical Center in northern Jersey and are grieving beyond tears and words. Our younger son, Daniel, hasn't been feeling well for a couple of days, complaining of back pain and shortness of breath.
Two hours ago, what we thought was perhaps a virus or something tied to the heat and humidity was something much worse. Our little boy has cancer."
Nearly three years ago, I shared with you on this very website that our younger son, Daniel, then 10-years old, was ill, very ill.
I was signing off for a while, taking a short-term leave as we tended to our son’s care. In my reflection, I wrote the following, “For whatever reason, we have been hit with a challenge we never sought. But with God's help and the strength of friends and family and a terrific medical team, we fully expect Daniel to celebrate his Bar-Mitzvah in three years and hopefully to marry and raise a family.”
You--our incredible convenience industry--have been a pillar of extraordinary support and friendship. So many of you have prayed for Daniel’s recovery, made contributions to a charity we embraced called Tackle Kids Cancer, and checked in with me regularly to see how our young man was doing.
After nearly three years of treatment, two-dozen spinal taps, hundreds of injections, countless rounds of chemo and blood transfusions and a pharmacy of pills, Daniel has completed treatment.
This past weekend, we celebrated both his Bar-Mitzvah and this miraculous milestone. Daniel is 13 and he is now cancer-free. Thank God.
Many have asked about our journey and dealing with adversity. I don’t have a magic potion. But I’ve come to appreciate many things:
- Community: There is a saying that God does not give a challenge a person cannot overcome. I don’t agree.
Along our road, we saw children die and families devastated. I will never forget the tear-drenched vigil outside the hospital room, where a young man in his early 20s, who just a couple years earlier was his team’s star quarterback, passed away. I will never forget the adorable 2-year-old girl with sparkling blue eyes who succumbed to her illness. I will never forget the young grandmother clutching her rosary beads as her infant grandchild was diagnosed with a form of cancer likely to be fatal.
I will also not forget the incredible friendship we forged with the indefatigable single mother whose son was undergoing the same protocol as Daniel. I will not forget the beautiful young woman in her early 20s who would hum gospel melodies just before undergoing yet another chemo treatment.
Most of all, I will not forget the incredible community of people young and old who befriended Daniel and provided both physical and emotional support when my wife, Leslie, and I were spent.
- Openness: There is no “right way” in how to respond to a child’s illness. For Leslie and me, we embraced the notion of growth – how can we grow as people, as a family and in our faith. We chose to be open with family, friends, our local community and beyond. We publicly supported and continue to support programs – from camps to medical research – that benefit children with cancer.
In sharing our story, we have made new friends and embraced the truth that all of us are God’s children.
- To receive is to give: My wife and I are givers. We intuitively look to help those who feel abandoned or need help. The idea of accepting help from others was very difficult for me at first. Perhaps subconsciously, I felt that accepting help suggested weakness on my part. I’m not sure. In relatively short time, though, I found the opposite to be true. I found strength in accepting my own limitations, and gratitude in allowing others to prepare meals for us, to give Leslie and me a reprieve for a night, to “spoil” Daniel with some gifts and fun.
- The medical team: We have been blessed with a truly dedicated team of doctors, nurses, child-life specialists and hospital volunteers who not only focus on the clinical, but the emotional needs of their patients. They are wonderful caregivers.
At Daniel’s Bar-Mitzvah, I concluded my speech with the following words:
“Having a strong sense of self, a purpose in life and appreciating the gift that God has given us is incredibly important. But it is not enough.
“Look around at all the faces here today, Daniel – as well as those who are not present. They are our community.
“My blessing to you is to embrace a world that starts with you but stretches far beyond, to a world that needs your energy, your spirt, your compassion. A world that needs Daniel Reuven Morrison.”