Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Caroline's Surprise

Carmen and I go waaaay back, to graduate school in English at the University of San Diego from 1989 to 1991. Those two years were very busy years of graduate seminars on nature and American literature with Dr. Williams, on the works of Chaucer with Sister Betsy (Dr. Elizabeth Walsh), on "modern" (early 20th century) literature with Dr. Thurber, on Milton's Paradise Lost with Dr. Dempsey, and on gender and satire with Dr. Caywood, among others. We weathered late night seminars, all-day study sessions preparing for our comprehensive exams, proofreading Sister Betsy's book together, and the death of Dr. Joanne Dempsey over Thanksgiving weekend from a heart attack brought on by her severe diabetes; she was only 44.

Keith and I attended Carmen and Jeff's beautiful wedding in a lovely Catholic Church. As couples, we became even closer friends with dinner parties at each others' homes and later sharing with each other the joys and difficulties of parenthood. While Keith and I started our family, Carmen continued her education, receiving her doctorate at a SoCal University of California campus. While I taught at Point Loma for several years as an adjunct, she won a tenure-track position at a junior college in our county. We rejoiced when they had their first daughter, Caroline, born the same year as our third child, and soon the kids were seeing each other at birthday parties as well as the occasional dinner at each others' homes. Several years after the birth of our fourth and final child, C&J welcomed Jane to their family. And when we had to give away our dachshund, part of our family for ten years, because of out youngest child's severe allergies, Carmen and Jeff offered to take him.

Then a couple of years ago, we received the news that Caroline had been diagnosed with leukemia at age 7. We joined them in prayer for her complete recovery, and the women of Lake Murray sewed and the entire church tied knots and prayed over a special prayer quilt for Caroline. I kept our Sunday School class up-to-date on Caroline's progress as we prayed for her and several other cancer patients each Sunday morning. Caroline was doing well, and the end of her treatment was in sight this spring.

On March 10, Carmen and Jeff received the news they has been dreading: Caroline's leukemia was back. Since then, she has spent over a month in the hospital, fighting fevers and receiving intense chemotherapy. She is scheduled for a bone marrow transplant next month at City of Hope in Los Angeles, if all goes well physically and if a perfectly matching donor can be located as her younger sister is not a match. It's a privilege to pray for Caroline and for her family, and their faith in God is a testament to the Lord's grace and steadfast help in times of trouble, and their church, parochial school, and priest have been such wonderful support for them. Seeing the Body of Christ loving each other through hard times is a blessing that continues to encourage and challenge us.

But during all of these hospital stays and long days at home, Caroline has been busy. Her dream is to become a writer and illustrator, and she has written and illustrated over 25 books starring a horse named Fred. She draws Fred constantly and relates his many adventures in her books. I haven't seen the books (but would like to!), but Keith had a wonderful idea to cheer Caroline: make a small stained glass window of Fred that Caroline can hang in her hospital rooms. The window is approximately 12" by 14" and can be hung on any window with two very strong suction cups that can easily support the 2.5 pounds of the window (each cup supports 2.5 pounds, and it hangs on two cups). Keith thought the window would bring Caroline joy in seeing Fred each day she's in the hospital, plus she can bring him to City of Hope next month as well. We think Fred turned out well, even if the above photo isn't of the best quality.

So enjoy Fred, Caroline! And I'd love to see a Fred book sometime, too, if that's okay with you. Keep on, dear -- we're praying for you!

If you're intersted in reading Carmen's journal on Caroline's progress, you may click here.

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