Friday, February 20, 2009

Happy Birthday Gloria too!!

Today is also the birthday of a dearly departed friend of mine, Gloria Strauss. I've talked about her before, and I will again...and again. Gloria would have turned 13 today. Instead of candles, unfortunately there are only memories.

Gloria died in September, 2007 which quite honestly seems like science fiction to me. She is alive in so many ways; her joy, her compassion, her flair, her faith, her strut down the beach...all these defined a kid the likes of which I had never met before.

When I would visit her in the hospital, before I could even get, "How are you feeling today?" out of my mouth, she would ask about me, my family, and what was going on in MY life. I wasn't trapped in a hospital bed though, attached to countless machines, in intense pain, unable to move and breathing with the help of an oxygen mask.

I will never whine again.

Gloria made you feel special because of her genuine caring and love for you. If the world at large could do the same, just think of what an amazing place we would live in. Gloria, in her brief stay here, made a difference and changed the world for the better.

I went to visit her one day about a week before she passed away. The normal commotion that surround her room was absent. It's almost impossible with 6 siblings and tons of other loving family and friends not to have a little chaos during a time such as that but at that particular moment there was none. One of her nurses, like myself, was a volunteer at Camp Goodtimes which is where I met Gloria. She said that I was welcome to just go in an sit with her, even though she was pretty wiped out from the morphine drip. I went into the room and just sat with her for a half an hour. I felt crippled by my inability to help her suffering. I knew that she had so much unfinished business to tend to in this life but that opportunity was being taken away by neuroblastoma. The thought that she was not going to survive this struggle to go on, get better, grow up and live a long happy life was so strikingly tragic to me. As my eyes grew heavier, hers started to flicker. Her pain was accelerating and I asked if she needed her "happy button" (the morphine drip), she nodded to which I helped her hand find it. I then I asked her if she needed a drink and I proceeded to hold a cup of water so that the straw poked through the opening in her oxygen mask so she could get more fluids. She soon drifted back to sleep. After a few minutes, when it was apparent that she was comfortable again, I slipped out of the room and said goodbye to the nurses. I returned again a few days later to visit and take the family photo that I shared earlier in this blog.

Since that time, I keep thinking about my friend Lysen, the oncology nurse, and the other nurses and docs at Children's Hospital, whose priviledge it is to help children like Gloria every single day. There is always someone there who not only looks at a patient clinically but most specially, with caring and compassionate eyes. That love is unconditional and priceless. I'm comforted knowing that Gloria, and the other kids who have suffered through similar situations, have had absolutely the best care possible.

How can you thank someone enough for that kind of gift?


  1. This is beautiful, Paul.
    I want you to know that when I was on the boat going to Seattle yesterday, a pod of orcas went by the stern (near Blakely Rock). Maybe that was a gift for Gloria's birthday. I pray that she is having a wonderful time in heaven!

  2. Your gift of beautiful photography blessed this family so much...Your presence and playful banter always bring smiles, and you still ARE such a blessing to this family, and to the whole community. We can keep Gloria's spirt alive, in everything that we do. Like Doug says, "Be more GLORIA-like!"