Naomi was our second child, our fist daughter, and the last baby to be born with a doctor present. She was born in 1996, a year that proved to be turbulent. Even at an early age, we learned from her. I stand by my belief that parents don’t really know a lot about children until they have more than one. Naomi was different than her older brother. As an infant, she cried less. But as she grew a little older, she became more high maintenance.
|Naomi at one|
While Harrison was an easygoing baby who would sleep anywhere and play quietly by himself and not cry in the church nursery, Naomi desired attention and stimulation. She was not happy unless things were her way. When we tried to introduce her to baby food she refused it. Then she shrieked and thrust her hand at Prajna’s plate, opening and closing her fist. So Naomi didn’t eat baby food and went right to what the rest of us were eating.
Naomi had a will like a hurricane. She may not have always known what she wanted, but when she experienced what she didn’t want, she let the world know. If anyone thinks putting a two year-old in a snowsuit should be easy, they should try restraining the Tasmanian Devil and putting him in a burlap sack. (And you’re not allowed to hurt him.)
|first steps and she heads for the door|
Naomi carried this fighting spirit into her illness. She was diagnosed with cancer when she was three and a half. Neuroblastoma starts in the adrenal gland and can quickly spread. It was stage IV by the time it was discovered. Doctors were not hopeful and once gave me the option of stopping treatment.
|in the bone marrow transplant ward|
|second relapse, her last picture with hair|
She was cheerful and boisterous at the hospitals. She wore pink rubber boots, sang loudly and loved interacting with people. The staff enjoyed her, most of the time at least. One day when it was time to access her portacath with a needle stick, Naomi decided that it wouldn’t happen. It took me and four nurses to hold her down and get the needle in. I’m sure the nurses were frustrated, I was. But at the same time, I was proud of her. This was the girl who had an uncompromising attitude. Perhaps other patients would not have made it that far.
Outside of the hospital and life of cancer, Naomi loved dance. She performed in a recital and had a ballet costume. She played with her siblings and wasn’t the least bit shy about being bald most of the time.
|proud of her radiation markings|
|holding her baby brother, Jamie|
But late in 2002 the cancer was not being beaten back anymore. The blood transfusions she needed were not from the chemo wiping out her blood cells, but from the cancer that was taking over every part of her. She died at home in our arms.
Today would have been her 18th birthday. Sometimes I wonder what she would be like now. She had blonde hair, but it may have darkened. Would she still like to dance? Would she love to read like most of her siblings do now? Would she still be something of a drama queen? I can look at my kids now, Nathaniel, who’s 10 has the personality closest to what she was like. But like I said, every child is different.
And nobody fought like she did. I wonder if God equipped her with that ferocity, knowing that she would need it. But more than that fighting spirit, Naomi was very loving. She cared so much for everyone, family, strangers, the hospital staff. Her only fear from dying was that she knew we would miss her. She wasn’t afraid.
One could say what a special girl she was. Of course I would agree. She touched many lives. But I have to say this: Naomi wasn’t that unique. Anyone can be as loving as she was. If she could sing and dance in an oncology ward, if she could face pain and suffering with marked audacity, then why can’t anyone? She found joy in everything, infectious, courageous joy and it still resonates today as we remember her and every day in every life she touched.
I miss her a lot. But am so happy to have had her in my life.
|1st birthday getting her doll|
|Naomi turns two|
|celebrating her 4th birthday at the Roland McDonald House in Los Angeles|
|Naomi's sixth birthday|