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I've been thinking about … broken hearts.

I get requests and suggestions from time to time about topics for this every other Thursday spot. I will be writing about Ellsworth Cemetery and the topic of domestic violence soon but today my heart is just not in it.

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Wednesday morning, at about 2 a.m., a young woman lost her 4 1/2-year battle with cancer. She was the daughter of a colleague of mine, a wife, a mother of three children, still in school, a beloved sister, aunt, cousin and, no doubt, a true and faithful friend. She was a hard worker holding down various jobs over the years to help support her family. She made beautiful soaps which I loved to give as gifts; they are so pretty. She was a woman of character. That's what I hope her children will remember.

Most of all, in the past four years she proved herself a courageous fighter, enduring rounds of chemotherapy and radiation that made her sick and sapped her strength and energy but she still tried to maintain some sense of normalcy for her children. And with the help of her husband, mother, father, siblings and some very good friends, she did.

There was no doubt; hundreds of trips up and down the road for treatments and even when the doctors wanted to stop treatment she insisted on moving forward. She endured brain surgery to remove a tumor. She submitted herself to holistic treatment and volunteered to be part of two cancer studies, hoping one of them would help her. At the end, she was too sick to continue and had to drop out of the studies. It was not until this past week when pneumonia set in, that she was admitted to Dove House here in Westminster.

I visited Tuesday night and I'm glad I did. She was surrounded by family who took turns keeping her forehead cool, rubbing her arm and quietly talking and encouraging her, a perfect example of easing a loved one from one existence to the next.

I lost a child at birth and returned home empty-handed and had to explain to three little boys why there was no baby brother. It was awful. But children shouldn't lose parents when they still really need them. My Joe was 17 when his mother died. He still talks about her as if it was yesterday. Some things you never get over. The children in this situation have the benefit of a loving extended family that will stand by them. I hope they will allow it to happen.

We all would like to think that things happen in a natural order. Not always. Seventy-year-olds should not have to say goodbye to their 40-year-old children. I remember when my cousin Bob died, his mother, my Aunt Ruth, wandered around saying, "This is not right, this is not right." She was right.

This tragic death is not right either and obviously has raked up some old feelings of grief in my own life. I can't fix it but I can be there when needed, to give a hug, sing a song, prepare a meal or maybe just to listen when someone is ready to talk. That, after all, is what friends are for.

Audrey Cimino is executive director of the Community Foundation of Carroll County. She writes from Westminster.

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