Life is constantly challenging us to determine its meaning? Why are we placed on this Earth? What can we add to make the world a better place? Are we receiving enough love? Are we giving enough love? What does our future hold? What can we do to influence this future?
I am sure you can think of dozens of additional questions that people ask themselves daily. In general, life goes on. We often live in a reactionary mode. Many of our senior citizens look back on their lives with many regrets. Some rare, senior citizens do feel a sense of fulfillment in their lives, but it is this author’s opinion that this sense of fulfillment is indeed a rare commodity. Most of us will live out our 80-plus years and will continue to ask life’s questions until the day we die.
But, what is the meaning of life for a child that dies young? This is the story of a child who never got to experience adulthood and the answers to her life’s meaning.
Cathy entered the world in 1959. She was born into a middle class family in Illinois. Her father owned a small country grocery store. Her mother worked in the store as well. Cathy was her parents’ answer to the prayer they had that their third child would be a girl. Cathy had two older brothers that were three and four years older than her.
Cathy grew up in the shadow of her older brothers. She was loved and gave love. The family was close. Cathy was the type of person that never complained and was a joy to be with. She played with her brothers as she got older. When she was scared at night, her younger brother and Cathy switched beds and Cathy would sleep in her brothers’ room with her older brother.
The parents did not have any more children and life continued. The brothers went off to school and Cathy followed a few years later in their path. All three children were strong academically and did well in school. The brothers went through grade school, junior high, and finally high school. Cathy was a few years behind them in school, but continued to follow the path created by her older brothers.
Cathy was very close to her mother. They were best friends. She was also close to her older brother. If she needed someone to take her to a concert, the older brother would volunteer to take her (though she always clapped contrary to the beat of the music and embarrassed the older brother).
The older brothers went off to college. Cathy started her senior year of high school. She was on the yearbook committee and involved in school. She took her ACTs in her junior year and scored very high. She was sought after by many colleges and in fact was accepted to start college the following August, despite the fact that in October of her senior year she was diagnosed with acute leukemia.
Previous to October, Cathy was a very healthy child. But, in October, she was given an early death notice. In the 70s, acute leukemia was incurable. Her brothers were going to college down in Southern Illinois (five hours away). They were told of her condition, but stayed in school. The older brother cried in the dormitory showers that fateful day in October for the first time since he was ten years old.
My sister died in May of the following year. It devastated my mother for years. One can never know the pain that a mother feels, until they have children of their own. The rest of the family of course was devastated as well. I, as the older brother, went on in life to get three college degrees and now have a family of my own.
I would now like to revisit the original question posed above. What is the meaning of life? What meaning could the death of a 17-year old girl possibly have? She never had the chance to really experience life.
There are no simple answers to life’s questions. But, I personally have come to some very biased opinions in this case. Cathy was a beautiful person that brought meaning into my life. She brought by far more pleasure into the world than pain. She made the world a better place.
Cathy did not make any great discoveries. The reality is that she will be largely forgotten as time progresses. But, people like Cathy are what makes the world a better place. Did she regret her short life as she neared the month of May? I hope not, because I will always be grateful to God for giving me the short time I had to spend with this beautiful person.
May 15, 2000