If I’m being totally honest, this picture makes my stomach hurt just a little bit. It’s not that it isn’t a freaking adorable picture of my niece, because it most certainly is! It’s just that this picture was taken 2 years ago on Labor Day weekend and this sweetie was in the midst of her cancer treatments. Under that cute little pink hat is a very bald little head and those sweet swollen cheeks are from her endless steroid treatments. She ran around and played a lot that weekend but her legs ached and she tired quickly.
In spite of all of that, my phone is full of pictures from that day. Sometimes when I snapped the pictures I have of Lily, I often wondered if we would want to look back at them. I worried that they would transport us back to a time of pain and fear when we saw them in the future and judging from the ache in my tummy, it does do that. But you see that big glorious smile? That’s why I took the picture and countless others during her journey. Because along the painful road that Lily and all of us were on, there were also incredible, beautiful moments of pure joy.
I look forward to the days when this blog is all about the build-out. Then I will be able to tell you about the walls going up, the play structure being installed, the colors being painted and finally I will tell you about the extraordinary day when we will throw open the doors and let all of the childhood warriors in to play! More than anything, I can’t wait to share my stories of all the giggles and smiles and great big joyous belly laughs from all the littles running around Lily’s Pad.
But for now, my blogs are my time to reflect upon my purpose and to inform whoever takes a moment to read them of why we are doing what we are doing. Somehow my niece could find joy sitting in a boat in the backyard of my parents cabin with only us grown-ups to entertain her. That’s because kids are amazing. They have the best resilience and the most success at turning the other cheek. They put us all to shame with their ability to make lemonade out of lemons. But they deserve so much more as they go through these things beyond their control, beyond ours.
You and I probably don’t have the cure in our pocket for childhood cancer or juvenile arthritis (if you do – you’re my new best friend). But what we do have is the power to provide play and joy and laughter. We can join together and create this space and make the journey a little better for these kids. And I’ll give you this piece of advice…go ahead and take the pictures that make your stomach hurt a little. As long as you can look at them and see the joy through the pain, they are moments worth remembering.
– Written by Dawn Garza, Director of Operations at Lily’s Pad and devoted keeper of the flame of joy