After a two-year, hard-fought battle against Acute Myeloid Leukemia, Stevie’s little heart stopped early Friday evening. She was such an incredibly spunky little girl, whose sass was evident not only in her relationships with family, friends, nurses and doctors, but also as strength and tenacity in fighting hard against her cancer for so long. Yet in the very end, Stevie at long last ceased her struggle and ended her four years of this life in sweet peace.
I longed to sing over her a blessing, yet my voice and words failed me. Stevie comes to me in bright snapshots of joy. She was a little girl whose bright spirit made me want to come down close so I could see into those shining, laughing, mischievous eyes. The sweet smallness of her voice made you want to lean in and hear anything and everything she had to tell you. Yes, Stevie, show me again how your tongue can reach all the way up to your nose. And off they’d go, she and Allistaire racing down the hall, glee in their eyes.
Other snapshots cut like a hot blade. There was her pole. Just standing there outside her door. Empty. Devoid of lines. No longer attached to her. Strange how strange and out-of-place it looked standing there alone and empty, abandoned. I hadn’t realized until that moment how the IV pole of a child with cancer is almost like some bizarre extension of themselves. They are rarely without it. They are unable to do the simplest tasks without it. That pole must accompany them to the bathroom, to the bed, to brush teeth, to go for a walk. And there it was like a bashful naked girl standing all alone, out-of-place, making no sense at all standing out in the hall with nothing to do.
The double stroller slammed my heart when I caught sight of it in the corner of my eye. Oh, oh. A stroller for Stevie and Finlee, a stroller meant for two. I knew the car seat would sit staring back empty in the rearview mirror. Stevie’s absence its own presence. When I walked out of their room at Ron Don I happened to see Stevie’s bath toys. The little wind up mermaid, identical to the one Allistaire has. The clip-on Disney princess dresses just like those Allistaire plays with.
Keshia and Michael had to wake up today for the first time in nearly five years without Stevie, without her right there where she has been for so long. How can you care for a child every minute of every day for years and then just wake up without them? To care for a child with cancer is an attention to detail that defies description. All your motherly senses are on constant high alert. You attend to your child with an unwavering intensity, always taking in every single nuance. Nothing escapes your notice and you mull these bits and threads of information, tiny nubs of data, over and over in your mind, examining from every angle, breathless that you might miss something and that ragged toothed beast will find its way in and tear at your child’s flesh.
The days behind have been long, long, long and wearying, tear filled and have flown so fast, not nearly enough, and joy that just makes you hope for more time to know, to love, to delight looking into those eyes. The road ahead is long, long, long. From this point forward, every day will dawn without Stevie and all of Keshia and Michael’s life will be oriented to some degree along this line, this dividing line of with Stevie and without Stevie. No words will ever, ever undo the death of Stevie. No words can erode this loss or dampen the pain. But may we each, who have loved Stevie, never cease speaking her name, recalling with joy our memories of her. May we grab those snapshots and hug them round, not shying away from them because of the pain, but allowing the deep hollowing wound to bear witness to how great a bounty it has been for the world to have held Stevie in it. May we be faithful friends to Keshia and Michael and may Finlee’s childhood be filled with stories of her big sister whose life overlapped with hers for only a few mere weeks.
Thank you compassionate-hearted folk, you who know Stevie and Keshia and Michael and those who have never met them, all who look in on this sorrow and say, we love you and we stand by you as you mourn. We mourn with you, heavy grief that we live in a world where Stevie no longer dwells, grief that children die of cancer, of just so much brokenness.
Keshia and Michael, and little Finlee, are back at Ronald McDonald house as they wrap up their time here in Seattle and sort out what’s next. For those who have signed up for meals, thank you so much for your generosity of time and resource. If you have signed up for bringing dinner, it would still be a great help for Keshia and Michael to have dinner delivered (details below). However, they will not be needing lunches given their need for flexibility to be out and about during the day. Financial assistance is still a great way to show love and support as they make travel and housing arrangements in the days ahead. From this point forward, please direct your giving to their “www.YouCaring.com Stevie Strong,” site.
Blessings on your sweet head Stevie. And from Allistaire, who loves you truly, a blow kiss…
Please deliver dinners to Ronald McDonald House A (5130 40th Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98105), under the name “Stevie Rasmussen.” It’s helpful if you let the front desk folk know that the delivery is food and request that it be refrigerated. The house staff will leave a message on their room phone to inform them of the delivery.