I wrote something a little while ago and wanted to share it with all of you. It concerns my beautiful step-daughter Kim, her love of art, and her courageous battle with oral cancer.
This is a story of a beautiful woman, a love of art and its ability to bring peace and comfort in a dire time of need. It is a story of love, courage, and peace. It is not a story with a happy ending. But, it is a beautiful story in that a love of art was able to bring peace and comfort to a mother, a daughter, a step-daughter, a wife, a sister, a daughter-in-law, a sister-in-law, an aunt, a granddaughter, a niece, a cousin and a friend who was dying of oral cancer at the age of 34. This is the story of my beautiful, beautiful step-daughter, Kim.
Kim was a beautiful, beautiful woman with an enormous amount of natural artistic talent. She was an artist who had developed a love of art and drawing as a very young child and who discovered that she had a natural ability for it. Her love of art was cultivated during her youth and her skills were honed all throughout school. When she graduated from high school she decided that she wanted to study art in college and applied to and was accepted by an art school.
However, getting married and starting a family sidetracked her college studies and she spent many years just raising her family. When she told us that she was pregnant with our 4Th grandchild we were thrilled. However, early on in her pregnancy she started to develop complications with her pregnancy and was told she would probably need complete bed rest for the baby to develop to full term. Well, full term was not meant to be and our grandson was born premature at 31 weeks. He would be in the intensive care unit for many, many weeks.
A couple of weeks before our grandson was born Kim had contractions and she ended up biting the back of her tongue. After he was born the cut in the back of her tongue just wouldn't heal so she was sent to a dental specialist who took a biopsy of the area. The news was devastating and the worst she could hear. She had oral cancer and the prognosis was bleak at best as it had already progressed to a Stage 4.
We were all devastated, none more so than Kim, as she was not in any of the groups that were at risk for this type of cancer and it was relatively rare. She was only 34 years old and was given a death sentence of, with treatment, at the most 3 years.
How do you tell someone who is 34 years old with 4 children, one a newborn in the intensive care unit, such devastating news? Kim handled the news with as much courage, strength, and fortitude as anyone I have ever known. At times she amazed me as she was more concerned with the impact her condition had on her family, her Father, her Mother, and the rest of the family than on herself.
We all rallied around Kim and set about trying to help where ever we could. We wanted to make sure that Kim was supported 24 hours a day as she needed pain medicine, help with her feeding tube, immediate chemotherapy and radiation treatment, and was quickly becoming unable to handle the day to day tasks of such a large family, let alone a newborn.
Kim underwent her treatment and the fatigue level was paramount. She didn't have a lot of strength and needed something that she could do when she was at home to take her mind off of the reality of her situation. She didn't want to just be sitting around so we talked about it and she thought of arts & crafts. Something she could do that she was really, really good at and that she loved that wouldn't zap her strength.
So, we scoured the craft stores and art stores and found some wonderful projects like sun catchers, watercolor kits, huge posters that you could color with acrylic pencils, picture crystallizing kits, and chocolate candy making kits.
Kim was a meticulous artist and everything had to be just right. For the Easter holiday we spent days melting and coloring chocolate so she could make Easter candy for the kids. We used toothpicks and Kim painstakingly spend hours on end apply tiny little bits of colored chocolate to her chocolate Easter eggs. They had be just right and once she was done they were works of art. When I watched her at times she seemed lost in what she was doing and for that I was grateful.
At other times Kim, her Mom, and I would sit at the dining room table coloring the two large posters that Kim absolutely loved. Again, she was meticulous so everything had to be just right. Kim was a huge Disney fan so one of the posters was filled with all the Disney characters she loved and the other was a huge vase of flowers. Hour after hour we would sit and just color. There was no talking at this point as that was no longer possible for Kim so we got her a typing pad so she could type out what she wanted to say. Sometimes she would tell me what section of the poster she wanted me to do. I always paid attention. If I didn't I'd find her finger pointing at the section she wanted me to do and the look she'd give her kids when they stepped out of line.
At other times Kim would be sleeping or undergoing treatment. Always when she was awake and had some strength she would want to work on her art projects. So we did. On sunny days we sometimes spent time on her front porch painting the sun catchers or the watercolors. Like all artists she always wanted everything done just so. And, the results were always remarkable.
We ended up burying our beautiful, beautiful Kim nine months to the day after our fourth grandson was born. She died peacefully in her sleep one night and for that we were grateful. There was absolutely no sign of trauma on her face - she just looked like an angel.
Several weeks after her funeral her Father told me he was so grateful that we had found the art projects for Kim to do. He said that at times when he watched her she seemed lost in her art and even for one brief moment on one day he could actually hear her humming. She was so completely absorbed in her art that the grim reality of her situation was completely removed for the briefest period of time. She was coloring and humming. Lost in her art like she was as a child. But, for that one period of time I am so grateful. Her love of art gave her peace and comfort even if it was ever so brief.
We framed all of the works of art that Kim worked on including the two huge posters and have them scattered throughout all our houses to serve as a tribute to our beautiful, beautiful Kim. They are reminders of a beautiful woman with a love of art who had the strength, courage, and fortitude to face a situation that most of us could barely imagine.
She faced it with more dignity and strength than any of us could and I promised her we would never forget her. Her story would be told as an example of beauty, love, dignity, strength,courage, and fortitude in the face of a dire prognosis. It is Kim's story and it is a story of love, courage, and peace. It is the story of a mother, a daughter, a step-daughter, a wife, a sister, a daughter-in-law, a sister-in-law, an aunt, a granddaughter, a niece, a cousin and a friend. It is my tribute to Kim for Memorial Day.
Copyright © 2007 - All Rights Reserved - Written By Linda Walsh