In January of 2014, about one month after we received news of Eli’s first relapse, I received a letter and picture that was marvelously moving. I was so touched by the gesture, and at the implications of the gesture, that, frankly, it was intimidating to write about it, even though I so badly wanted to share. I have thought about it at almost every post since, but just could never find the right words. When I would start to write, any words I chose to share about it seemed weak and inadequate. I kept putting it off, thinking that the muse who used to visit me in the dark hours at Target House in Memphis would find me again. But, I can’t wait on her any longer.
There is a rural village in the south African country of Zimbabwe where, for the last three years, villagers have beat down a path to a clean water well bearing the sign “Eli’s Well.” Yes, that’s our Eli. Someone donated the funds in honor of Eli to Partners 4 Africa for the well to be placed in this community which previously had no access to clean water.
We live in the richest nation, under the healthiest of conditions, yet out of my control was protecting my child from disease. So, I was overwhelmed with appreciation at the thought of all these children, whose only obstacle from disease to health could be clean water, receiving access in honor of Eli. I thought about all the moms carrying buckets along that path, talking about going to Eli’s Well for water for their families. To further the impact, I learned that in 2016, a church was established next to the well and was thriving. So, not only does this village have access to water for their physical health thanks to this donor because he or she was touched by Eli, but the presence of this well that draws the community to that spot gave rise to a spiritual well from which the villagers may draw eternal life-giving water.
John records a scene during Jesus’s ministry where Jesus rested at a well, looking to satisfy his physical need for water after a long journey, but also took advantage of an opportunity to offer spiritual water to a woman who was at the well to draw water for her family. It comforts my heart to think of “Eli’s Well” providing for and meeting the same physical and spiritual needs of the people in this village, and saving children from avoidable disease. I am thankful and in awe every single day for the good that God fashions from this evil. We will never know the reach, but are confident that Eli will take souls with him to Heaven, even from generations to come. My prayer for all of my kids is the same - that they go to Heaven, and take souls with them. So, I am thankful that God has heard this prayer.
Precious friends, this is now the saddest post I will ever write. Eli’s body is telling us that he is done. What I am most proud of over the last almost six years is that we did not let a doctor tell us when Eli was done, we let Eli tell us when he was done. A doctor told us he was done in December 2013. A doctor told us he was done in February of 2015. A doctor told us he was done in August of 2015. A doctor told us he was done in February of 2016. A doctor even told us he was done in May of this year. We have not let anybody tell us how we should travel Eli’s road, but Eli. Today, Eli’s body told us that he was done.
He has been active on the front lines for as many years as is considered survivorship for those who are cancer-free. He has endured horrors, lived nightmares, and been brutally robbed of the expectation of life. He has been an example of courage, patience, endurance and cooperation for so many of all ages, and walks. He has changed lives, broadened perspectives, and taught appreciation. He has lead others to Christ, and back to Christ. His contribution to research that will one day lead to a cure for other children is immeasurable. There is not a mother of a life-saving surgeon, a poverty-solving genius, a crime-fighting hero, or a peace-founding world leader that could be prouder than this mom is of her little guy and his contribution to the world during his short life. He accomplished more, touched more, experienced more in 12 years than most of us will in 99. I am humbly honored to have been allowed to be the mom of this individual crafted with purpose by our Creator, and privileged to have witnessed the entirety of his life on earth.
Eli has basically stopped swallowing, or it has gotten scary for him to try. This means that he can not take the oral chemo, but it obviously wasn’t doing anything. We have not heard from Atlanta, but even if they have some kind of miracle plan, Eli would not be well enough to travel, so it would have to be something that he could do from the clinic, and I’m not sure they would agree to it. He has lost the use of his right side, and even though he has periods of alertness, he is uncommunicative for the most part.
We’ve had some meals delivered, which is really nice, but it’s not necessary. We’ve had offers to help with the kids, or clean the house, do laundry, but we are just kind of hunkered down, circling the wagons, don’t really need anything particularly, and sometimes it’s just easier to let that stuff go than arrange for it be done. Vic is working from home as much as he can, so he is here for the most part, and with the girls older now (unlike when we started this journey), they can be big helps. It is a busy time of year with the kids getting ready to start school, wrapping up summer activities, so we are just getting through minimally with all of that. And with my heart and soul poured into our foundation, I am desperate to keep our biggest fundraiser, Superhero Fun Day, from falling victim to this evil, so I sit with Eli and do what I can to help it be a success from his bedside. So, we are just putting our heads down, dealing with what’s in front of us, doing the things we have to do, and getting through this. What we’ve always done.
We’ve been together a long time on this site, and I would never be able to express what it has meant for me to have this blog to run to knowing you are here. Please, pray now for his comfort, for swiftness, and for peace for all of us as we hold his hand through Valley of the Shadow.