The family that lives at the head of the valley, a couple of clicks below where Cable Creek emerges from the ring of mountains, lost their seven-year-old daughter, Anna, to liver cancer last June. We did not know this at the time (we'd met the mother once a few years back) and, I suspect, only a few other families in the valley knew what is often the most private of losses - the death of a child.
My grandfather's younger brother, Everett, died as a child in the 1880s. The family had a large and heavy framed photograph of Everett, with his name and "In Memorium" in gilt script under his photo - so faded by the time I saw it as a child that I don't know now whether it was taken while he lived or just after he died. My grandfather hung it in the living room for everyone to see, just as it had been hung in his parents' parlor. When my grandparents' own child, James, died in 1921 at age 10 of blood poisoning from a blister on his heel, the family was too poor to commemorate his death. And it's possible that memorializing a child's death had become less common. I heard my grandparents speak of James only once. They both wept, remembering. I had friends in the 1970s who lost a two-year-old daughter to liver disease some ten years earlier, and they discreetly kept a small photo of her in their bedroom. They spoke of her only the one time I saw her photo. It was just too painful, they admitted.
Anna's life, from the time of her diagnosis, is commemorated at a Caring Bridge site on the Internet. www.caringbridge.org/visit/annaschindler . Her mother says, "It is a realtime look into our journey with this nasty, nasty disease." It is an appropriate way to remember a loved one in this brave, new cyberworld. And the family has done more. Her mother again: " Our experience with Anna, the hospital, and seeing first hand childhood cancer, has driven us to start a foundation in Anna's name. www.annaschindlerfoundation.org We will keep trudging along with God's help and try to help others. We consider it passing on the love, prayers and supports we were shown."