It’s not often that I find myself at a loss for words.
I’m a writer, after all; words are my lifeblood. Normally they course through me like the tides, rising and falling with the gravitational forces of joy and anger, shifting and rotating between life’s surges of calm and confusion. They are my inspiration, my consolation, my therapy, my livelihood.
But every time I read Parker’s blog, and struggle to compose even a brief response, my vocabulary ebbs away from me.
In the sacred space of that online journal, his father’s poignant reflection agonizingly articulates a parental pain that few of us will ever know: the anguish of navigating his precious child’s terminal brain cancer.
The posts flow with ripples of optimism and crushing waves of despair; the simple bliss of sharing a nap together as a family or gathering shells on the beach, contrasted by an uncontrollable rage against the monster of disease.
The emotions are all there; raw, omnipresent, wound tightly around his words — the enlightenment, the fury, the grief, the exhaustion. The hope. The hopelessness.
The words manifest in fleeting snapshots, developing for readers as microscopic peeks into a family that has been forced to abandon its trusted ship for an ultra-precarious lifeboat. For brief interludes, the words transport us, allowing us to almost feel what it would be like to be a passenger on that vessel, to be left tossing and turning amid a tumultuous sea — praying that somehow, some way, someone will come to our rescue.
It feels like drowning.
Every word shatters my heart — and saturates it with gratitude. In equal measure, at the same time.
Each post leaves me staring at my screen through hot tears, longing to manufacture some magical phrase capable of blanketing Parker’s family in comfort, yearning for some words that will wrap them up in peace.
But there are none.
And it occurs to me that even the most gifted writer, the most talented wordsmith, would fall glaringly short of that objective.
Because there just is no language to ease a pain of that magnitude.
My words are similarly absent when my daughter asks me, almost daily, about her friend.
“Parker doesn’t look sick. He must be better now!” Aubrey tells me excitedly as we are driving home from dropping off dinner to his family. I glance at her in my rear view mirror, grateful that she cannot see the sorrow in my eyes from her booster in the back seat, where she waits expectantly for a confirmation I cannot provide.
“Will Parker always be sick?” she inquires another day.
“Will Parker ever come back to school?”
“Is Parker better yet?”
The questions keep coming, at times feeling like a firing squad of innocence and hope. Yet the answers — just like the words — continue to elude me.
The words do not evade Parker’s father. “This is so painful that writing helps what otherwise would just sit in my head,” he shares with me about the new experience of blogging. The other motivation behind this admittedly private family’s decision to detail pieces of their journey is even more heartbreaking. “We feel like the world is losing a gift, and deserves to hear about it,” Parker’s dad acknowledges. “I have changed so much as a human going through this.”
And I want to let him know, it has changed me, too!
I suspect it has forever changed a lot of people.
Parker’s plight has bonded together friends and neighbors, community members and classmates, acquaintances and complete strangers, cementing them into a coalition of action. We fundraise. We bring meals. We pray. We don bracelets and T-shirts. We hope. We hug. We research. We read. We write. We cry.
Collectively, we have become one.
Maybe we don’t have words, but we have willpower. Perhaps we can’t raise spirits, but we can certainly raise money. Tragically, we cannot offer a cure, but we can offer our commitment. We are unequipped to fully understand … and yet it is impossible not to empathize.
And so in the midst of one family’s pain and struggle, in the wake of one little boy’s strength and courage, in the absence of antidotes yet the surplus of hope, we cannot help but be transformed.
Perhaps we are a little kinder than we were two months ago, a little more patient. Maybe we complain a little less and appreciate a bit more. Hopefully we count our blessings more frequently, hug our babies more tightly. Maybe even revel in a new awareness about what really matters in life.
I know, without question, that I do.
Let us never forget that the world is losing an incredible gift. I feel like we owe it to Parker, and his family, not to miss the opportunity to embrace that gift — every day, in our own way, in our own lives.