Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Multiplying Talents

When I recently learned my youngest sister was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, I wondered what in the world I could do to help her so far away in Guatemala. One of our WiDo authors, David Kalish, helped me out. I immediately thought of him because in his book The Opposite of Everything, a semi-autobiographical novel, the main character gets a cancer diagnosis. Since Dave has been through it, I asked him his thoughts.

He wrote back to me: "I'm so sorry to hear about your sister, and I understand how you must feel being in Guatemala while she's in Minnesota, that you want to be there for her in whatever way you can. Although email communication has limits, it's also a way for you to use your strength as a writer, to be honest and strong for her in the way that only writers can be. And, of course, ask her how she wants you to support her, let her know that your heart is wide open for anything she needs and wants from you."

This was exactly what I needed to hear. When my mom had her stroke, I didn't email her during the last months of her life, stupidly not even thinking about it. I didn't want to make the same mistake with my sister. So I've been emailing regularly and although she's been too ill right now to respond, I was told that yes, "she reads your emails and loves them."

I asked one of my sons to use his particular talents to make a video clip of my sister. His clip so perfectly captures her as a young girl, with the child-like spirit she has kept fresh throughout her life.

And I have learned that regardless of how insignificant one might think a talent is, when it's used to bless  others, a talent becomes very large indeed.






21 comments:

  1. Very touching post Karen. My sister died last year and towards the end of her life I kept sending her a 'message in a bottle'... knowing she was too ill to respond but wanting to reach out with a hand to hold. The video was a lovely idea and I'm sure you will find many words of comfort for her xx

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  2. This post reaches out and takes you back to childhood. Background music is wonderful. Your Son did a beautiful job splicing this together to create such a nice memory. Thinking of you Karen and sending you my best.

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  3. You are clearly present for your sister and she will feel that no matter how much distance is between you. The video is so sweet - her being her child self! Sending good thoughts to you and you sister.

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  4. Having a loved one go through cancer is so sad and difficult, especially when distance separates you. E'mails are a wonderful way of sharing your thoughts and feelings but so is the old fashion snail mail. When two of my dear friends were very ill with cancer, I wrote a special letter to them once a week, which was maybe a poem, or a funny story about an adventure we had. She loved them and shared them with her family and I was told later how much they meant to them all.

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  5. I am saddened to hear about your sister, but what a wonderful idea. I lost my aunt several years ago. She was misdiagnosed and when the cancer was found it was too late. The hospital kept her in a medical induced coma until she passed. I still miss her still today and I wished I had those moments back.

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  6. It's so much proximity that matters when someone needs us to be there for them, it's the meaning behind the efforts. You can feel incredibly close to someone who is thousands of miles away, much like I suspect your sister does to you right now when she reads those emails.

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  7. I so sorry to hear about your sister's diagnoses. It's an awful feeling to not live close enough to our loved ones in times of trouble. Email may seem to be a poor substitute, but it IS a real connection, and I know reading your messages must mean the world to her. Even if you can't hold her hand, at least your hearts can connect.

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  8. Karen, I am so sorry about your sister. Keith is right, you are close to people even tho they are far away in miles.And you are so right about talents used wisely.

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  9. With several sisters of my own I can guess how hard it is not to be with her in body but the soul can transcend many places. "Be" with her each day when you pray or meditate. Talk to her as if she is in the room. She will feel your love however far away. Consider making an old fashioned audio tape/CD/ or maybe a SKYPE visit? Now, I'm going to reach out to my sisters and tell them how much I love THEM.

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  10. Sorry to hear that, Karen! Those were wise words. We all have a talent and God wants us to use it to bless others. Keep sending those emails.

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  11. I watched the clip on Facebook a few times. What a lovely loving face she has. The cat in it knew it also.
    No matter where or who or why, we all need to feel loved. This is what I would focus on for your sister. I know you love her. As she suffers, she may wonder at times how or where she failed for this to happen. Constant reassurance that G-d calls those he loves to such tasks may help her. No need to say it explicitly, just find many ways to convey it.
    May she triumph.

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  12. I felt equally helpless when my brother had cancer. He's not one for talking about stuff, but that never stopped me ringing. He could be gruff or grumpy or ridiculously optimistic - everything was fine.

    It's what sisters do. Hang in there!

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  13. Thank you all for your encouraging words and your prayers for my sister.

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  14. I am sorry to hear about your sister. Siblings are a piece of us and I'm sure hearing from you means so much.

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  15. I'm so sorry to hear about your sister, Karen. My thoughts are with you.

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  16. I'm so sorry about your sister. I'll pray for her and for you and your family. And I think it's great that you're writing to her, because loving words really do make people feel better.

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  17. Prayers and best wishes to you and your beautiful sister. Loved the video.

    Sarah Allen
    (From Sarah, with Joy)

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  18. I'm so sorry to hear about your sister Karen. The video is lovely. You are in my prayers. <3

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  19. So sorry to hear about your sister. Keeping you and your family in my thoughts and prayers. Your post is very inspiring and the video is priceless.

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  20. Dear Karen .. what a beautiful way of letting us know about your sister, and also how you are able to help her through this period ... that's wonderful to know she's appreciative of your emails - even though you are so far away.

    I loved the video - also a clever idea to get your son to use his talents ... lovely to see and I'm sure all the family will be pleased to have this clip of a life so happily starting out without a care in the world ..

    My thoughts to you all, and particularly your sister and her family - hugs Hilary

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  21. Dear Karen, your sister and her family and you are in my prayers. Peace.

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