Steven and Sean on the Polar Bear Cam
Steven and Sean on the Polar Bear Cam

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Fear That Says Its Prayers

Steven and the other Children's Challenge Award winners

Every year, the Optimist Club in our area recognizes elementary school children in our area in the areas of Arts, Community Service, Courage, Fellowship, Humanities, and Science.

Steven received the Fellowship award in second grade after his second grade teacher nominated him. I wrote about it here, a few months before he was diagnosed.

That award meant a great deal to him, and the timing of that award made it a significant event in our lives.

I have a hard time describing what it feels like to remember those last few months preceding Steven's diagnosis, it's really difficult for me to look at photos from that period of time. Steven with that all that luxurious thick hair. His First Communion, we bought him his first suit, he loved it.

When he got that Optimist Club award, he was so proud and excited, he wanted to wear his new suit.

Steven and his teacher Mrs. Sansom

Right after we found out about the monster in his brain, unexpectedly and unbidden the memory of that award came to mind-- a $200 savings bond, redeemable on his 18th birthday, far in the future.

Looking into the future filled me with grief and terror.

A couple of months ago, I found the call for nominations for this year's Optimist Club awards among the pile of papers that come home from school with the kids.

Just looking at the sheet of paper brought back a flood of emotions for me, thoughts of how profoundly our lives have changed in the last three years.

The paper sat on my desk for over a month, I'd think of it every so often. I thought of nominating him myself, in the category of courage.

I felt a little uncomfortable nominating my own son. I'm his mother, and like every parent, I'm biased toward my own child.

And he'd already received his award. I didn't like the idea of him displacing another deserving child in that category.

But I remembered how happy it made him before, and I thought of his struggles and the struggles of so many children that face incredible challenges in their lives.

And I thought of how that, next to Steven, nobody really knows the depth of what he's been through more than I do.

So, on the last day that it was possible to submit a nomination I nominated him. I was so late in turning it in that I drove to the post office where the P.O. box was that it was delivered to, and stood in line to speak with an employee there who promised to put the letter directly into the P.O. box instead of sending it downtown first.

Steven and Sean

Steven was one of those chosen and I had to give a little speech yesterday in front of school district administrators and teachers. I wish Doug had been here to give it, public speaking is not my strong suit and since Steven's diagnosis I don't seem to be able to speak of either of my children in front of a group without tears, and yesterday was no exception.

The Courage award was given to Steven and another girl who has taken on responsibilities beyond her years after the death of her mother.

The Fellowship award this year was given to the sister of a little boy in a neighboring school who has osteosarcoma that has recently recurred.

I remember shortly after Steven's diagnosis, I was speaking to him about courage. I told him that I felt that for someone to really be courageous, there must be some personal choice of action involved.

Steven's situation was thrust upon him, he's an ordinary boy facing some extraordinary circumstances. Tragedy visits both good and bad people, merely being thrust into a difficult situation doesn't make someone courageous.

But fittingly for this award, I believe that it is Steven's optimism and faith in the face of such profound fear that makes him courageous. In the words of Dorothy Bernard, fear is courage that has said its prayers.

For Steven and all the brave children, this one's for you.

- Kathleen

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