“Grandma, will you look at my college application essay to see if I need to tweak or correct any sentences? My granddaughter asked when she called from Florida a few weeks ago.
“Of course, honey, I am happy to.”
I use the word ‘happy’ because it becomes a surprisingly joyous moment when a seventeen-year-old requests advice or help.
Once I received her emailed copy, I slowly read the draft. Her words took my breath away and transported me back to an October when Avery began first grade.
Her first essay sentence, “It is hard to imagine at the age of six how an event will change your entire life.”
It changed us all, but it must be horrifying for a child who does not understand why her mother is sick, why her hair falls on the floor, and what is causing tears.
None of us want our children to suffer; they need to worry only about their friends, play, and learning. At the time, the only hurt I could manage to handle for my granddaughter was a skinned knee.
But this little girl grew beyond her years when she had to learn prematurely about breast cancer and watch the illness her mother endured with despair. To see a piece of her childhood disappear so quickly only added to our sorrow.
She tells the story in her essay of how she understood early the world wasn’t all about her and the importance of faith, friends, and family. “It seems like I was in a fog for an entire year.” Avery writes.
The ‘fog’ is a perfect way to describe those months. One just moves through suffering and heartache, putting one foot in front of the other to make your way through the storm clouds. If you can get to the next day, you might make it to the sun where others live and where children laugh.
We all made it to the sun.
My daughter basks in delight today on a beach in Florida, where she still resides. My granddaughter is finishing her senior year, cheering for her football team, and is only concerned about what school she will attend next fall.
However, October 2011 is never far away. When I see a woman wearing a scarf or wig, I return to that year and travel to a time when a little girl was six and afraid. We all return to October twelve years ago with each yearly exam and pray for the doctors to again tell my daughter, “You’re still just fine!”
The friends who aided and prayed for us will always have our hearts. My granddaughter still remembers the countless gifts her family received and mentions them in the essay, along with details I don’t recall.
In the future, this college-bound teen will one day tell her six-year-old child about the first-grade teacher who watched over her and encouraged her throughout a painful year. But more importantly, she will explain with pride how her mother had the courage of a lion, fought a battle, and won.
Some folks take a long time to grow up; others never do. They may not appreciate victory, their health, or their children’s innocent joy. How many of us really learn that the world isn’t all about us?
Avery will go to college somewhere, but higher education doesn’t teach what she already knows. She laughs a little louder, appreciates more, and loves deeply because she understands how quickly life can change and how prayers work.
Please pause and give when you pass by the pink ribbons this month. There are children whose mother’s health is in danger today and will face a brutal year. October is a reminder to help not only those who are battling breast cancer but the innocent child who cries.
Without your donations for research, Avery’s mom would not be here to watch her beautiful daughter graduate from high school this spring.
“Grandma, why do you always use pink golf balls when you play?” she questioned recently.
My answer was, “They remind me to be thankful.” And without a word, she smiled.
Colleges today rely on test scores and GPAs to decide whether they want an applicant to attend their school. But test scores don’t tell anyone the story of one’s wisdom. They don’t reveal the journey of a child who bravely walked through the fog.
Few will ever read my granddaughter’s essay, but I know she has already graduated with honors to maturity.
Her last sentence, “As I head to college, I look back and know who I am today and what I will become in the future, are partly due to the lessons I learned when I was only six years old.”