Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Taryn Michal

This is a speech I wrote and gave at school this week. The topic was Self-Introduction: Describe an Obstacle You Have Overcome. ~Erica

This is our daughter, Taryn Michal.

When she was 6 months old she was diagnosed with AML- Leukemia. On October 24, 1992 my whole world turned upside down and changed forever. Over the next 18 months, I learned a lot about myself, about God, and about being a good parent.

I learned that I can do all things through God, who gives me strength. Friends and family surrounded us but there came a moment when I could make it or I could break. Because of my faith in God I knew I could call on him, I learned to take it moment by moment and rely on Him to carry me through the tough spots. I learned that strength isn’t something you can train for or store up or save for later- It is provided at the moment you need it; for exactly as long as you need it. I am not as strong today as I was on any one day of that journey.

I learned that my husband really is my best friend. He was in school and working and caring for Nathan, our 3 year old down here while I was in Seattle with Taryn. Physically we were apart but we could communicate and I think it was because he wasn’t with me, bearing the brunt of my anger and fear, that he was able to support me by listening; and because he wasn’t getting reports from the doctors, I had to face my fear and my what if’s so that I could articulate the situation to him. He was far enough removed from the situation that he could react calmly and talk me down from my emotional “freak out.”

I learned to celebrate Everydays. Taryn should have died the day she was diagnosed- she had had a stroke and seizures from the leukemia in her brain. I really believe that God gifted us with an additional 18 months. The night we sat in the ER I grieved the loss of every milestone even as I held her and rocked her. I had another 500 days to make memories with her. I learned that memories sometimes have to be purposefully made and the mundane things are important and should be remembered. Taryn crawled, walked, cut teeth, grew, and matured even as her little body fought the disease.

I learned to have fun. That seems like it should be instinctive but when faced with a catastrophic situation the body wants to close in on itself to protect itself from further hurts. There was a mom who was about 6 months ahead of us on the journey who modeled fun to me. Her little boy had no chance of survival from his very rare form of cancer. But she made every single day of his life special and she shared her Joy with the other mom’s on the floor. One night she brought in the strangest flavors of ice cream she could find for us to try; another night she snuck in Lethal Weapon for us to watch in the playroom (it was Rated R so against the rules but the nurses turned a blind eye since all the kids were tucked up in bed).

I learned to trust my mommy instincts. I knew something was wrong from the day she was born- she had enlarged lymph nodes and was sick all the time; not just sniffly nose in cold season type sick but needing antibiotics and chest x-rays type sick. But the flip side of that is that now, when I have healthy kids, I know that they won’t die if they pick up some germs. That’s not to say I don’t ever worry, but I can pray about it and turn it over to God and usually let Him deal with it (after I give them ibuprofen and a Gatorade).

I learned that God is with me at all times- because He cares for me. This is the most important lesson I learned. This means that He cares about who I am, He cares for those I love, He cares about what worries me, He cares about my hopes and dreams. I learned that I could talk to Him about anything, I could rage at Him and He’d never hang up on me or stop being my friend. In the dark hours just before dawn I can still rely on His promise that He will never leave me or forsake me.

Taryn died May 3, 1994.

Since then we’ve added Rush, Arin, Isaac, Jonah, and because God likes to keep things fun, #6 was a little girl who is now 8 going on 20. Nathan is 21, married, and deployed to Kandahar Air Base in Afghanistan. Do I worry about him? Yes, he has orders to only tell his mom about the boring bits. Do I fret? No, I know that he belongs to God and God cares about him more than I do.


  1. Such a sad circumstance, and you have shared such grace through your words. Our children, as precious gifts, do belong to God. How lucky we are to have the seasons we are presented with; every day matters. Thanks for the reminder to embrace the simple moments.
    Blessings, Sheri

  2. This is a beautiful story. I am so glad that you shared it. My best to your beautiful family, those present and those not far from your heart.

  3. Being a "new" mom of a one-year old, this story really made my heart ache. Thanks for sharing it and being so honest. Gotta go kiss my baby now!

  4. I am sorry you guys had to go through that. You are an amazing mother...such an encouragement to others.