We had to say goodbye to a friend today. And it was hard. Somehow, saying goodbye is always hard.
Nine-year-old Faith Marie Hartzell of Litchfield lost her earthly battle this week after fighting not one, but two rounds of cancer. And although we know Faith is in a better place with no suffering, it's still hard not to see her smiling face. Or at least pictures of it.
|Grace is wearing her "Fight with Faith" shirt at the candlelight vigil this week.|
You see, I only actually met Faith in person a handful of times. But it was my honor and privilege to get to share her story over and over again with our readers in the newspaper. Writing this week's front page story about her death was one of the hardest things I've ever written.
But in getting to know Faith, I also got to meet one of the strongest women I've ever met in my life, her mom, Stacy.
Stacy was friends with another friend of mine, who put me in touch with her when I needed information about Faith's benefits or fun things she got to do, like throwing out a first pitch at a St. Louis Cardinals game. In fact, for a long time, I've never actually met Stacy, only have contacted her through Facebook and text messages. But somehow, we've always had a special connection.
Grace was only a baby when Faith was first diagnosed with cancer in 2011, with no signs of her INAD diagnosis. Throughout Faith's battles with cancer, her mom kept all her supporters up-to-date through a Facebook page, called "Keeping the Faith." You should check it out sometime. The things this little girl and her mother have endured are heart-wrenching, but yet they always found a way to remain positive and "keep the Faith," a true inspiration to thousands following their story all over the country.
When we found out about Grace's diagnosis and its grim prognosis, we gradually told a few close friends and family members. And Kyle kept asking me if I had told Stacy and her husband, Eric. Eric has also been one of Grace's best buds, as they used to share breakfast together when Kyle would bring her to the Litchfield Police Department to pick up the weekly news.
I couldn't bring myself to tell them. Somehow, of everyone that we told, I just couldn't bring myself to add to what they were already going through each and every day.
The day Kyle's column came out in the paper, Stacy was one of the very first people to text me, and this is what it said. "With tears streaming down my face, I want you to know I am here if you ever need an ear! She is the most beautiful little girl, and if anyone can defy the odds, she can! We will pray for her and your beautiful family! And we will be keeping the Faith!"
I couldn't help by cry when I read her text. Here was someone with so much already on her plate, and such an inspiration to me as a mom, offering to help me with anything. But that's just the way she is.
In the past few weeks, we would text just a little about news items for the paper, like where to send cards to Faith or how she was doing. And Stacy always offered to help me if there was anything I needed. Even today, when we went through the line at visitation, I gave her a hug, and she smiled at me, and said, "if there's ever anything you need, we are here to help."
I'm sad that Grace and Faith never had the chance to meet in person. I know Grace would have loved Faith's brightly colored hair or would have loved listening to music with her. And Faith would have loved Grace's smile and laughter.
They never got to meet, but I am blessed to have the chance to have met Stacy, someone I consider a true friend, and an inspiration. Someone who knows how to keep the Faith, even in the darkest times. Faith's earthly battle may be done, but she will forever live on in the hearts of an entire community she inspired with love.
|Stacy sent me this photo one day where she is wearing purple bracelets for Faith and Grace.|
And just remember, we are ALWAYS and FOREVER "Keeping the Faith on this Grace-Filled Journey."