“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly;
what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince
For more than 8 years, I volunteered for the Make-A-Wish Foundation (MAW), an organization that grants the wishes of seriously ill children.
One visit brought me to Amber, an 8-year old terminally ill with a fast-growing cancer. She had been born disabled along with severe craniofacial abnormalities. She was small for her age, her misshapen head covered with a few straggly wisps of hair. Her feeding tube and 2 catheters didn’t slow her down; she attached, emptied and re-adjusted them in record time.
As with all the MAW children I met, her eyes held an innate wisdom far beyond her years. Her wish was to go on a shopping spree at a huge mall about 3 hours from her house.
On an icy morning in the middle of winter, another MAW volunteer and I picked up Amber and her family in a limousine. Upon our arrival at the mall, representatives met us and whisked Amber into the main entrance on a red carpet. Since she tired out easily, they had a wheelchair waiting, but she never did sit in it.
For 5 hours, her ear-to-ear smile never left her face. She was beautiful. She bought gifts for her family, a TV, a VCR, portable CD player, CDs, stuffed animals, Disney videos, a bicycle, hand-held computer games, clothes, toys…everything she wanted. Her favorite item was a camcorder, which she held against her chest, close to her huge heart, all the way home.
Her plans were to film her family so that during the month of quarantine following her upcoming bone marrow transplant, she could watch home videos. Her parents told me she watched them over and over in the hospital, including some of her riding her new bike in the snow before the transplant. Amber often fell asleep in the hospital wearing the headphones of her CD player, even though the powerful chemotherapy had caused her to lose all the hearing in one ear, and 90% in the other.
A few months later, on my birthday, Amber succumbed to the cancer.
At her viewing, while I kneeled at her coffin, I noticed the angel pin I had bought her when we first met, twinkling on the lapel of her blouse. Seeing that, my heart broke. Suddenly, I remembered Amber’s blinding smile on her shopping spree, when she was so very beautiful, happy, smiling, at peace.
The eyes of the heart saw no disfigurement, only the shining beauty of her soul.
Rest well, dear Amber. Sing loudly, smile brightly, and dance to the music that rings in your healthy ears.
And know that you are the prettiest little girl that I’ve ever been blessed to meet…inside and out.