Angels Don't Bite their Nails
It hit Julie like a sledge-hammer when her elder sister eventually lost a long-fought battle against cancer; a fight that had been raging since they were both teenagers. Searching for answers in the two years following her death, she enrolled in an organisation providing support to children undergoing chemotherapy, called, ‘Chemo Angels’. As such, members take on the commitment of sending small gifts on a regular basis to a child to whom they are assigned; colouring books, crayons and pencils, soft toys, etc.
Julie was put in touch with Emily, an eight year old suffering from a particularly rare form of leukaemia, and it began with a weekly parcel, and maybe the odd short story she had written herself...being an avid writer. After a few months, however, she felt compelled to do more, and with official approval, she contacted the child’s parents for permission to visit her occasionally, either at home or in the hospital. Consequently Julie grew to become an invaluable part of their lives...providing both psychological and practical support for Emily’s mother, and forming a strong emotional bond, a true friendship between herself and the child.
So, late this afternoon, I get a text message from my daughter, Julie. Normally, she drops by for a cuppa and a chat after school finishes, where she teaches Psychology; checking up on the ‘wrinklies’ she calls it. Anyway, this week she can’t make it; needs must she dons her ‘angel’s wings’. Duty had called for this particular middle-aged, ‘Chemo Angel’.
Coping with a seriously ill child, and managing everyday life, puts a strain on the strongest of us, and Julie is always on hand if a crisis occurs. Even if, as of this occasion, it meant leaving the hairdresser, mid-tint, and driving from Bedford to Milton Keynes Hospital in the rush-hour with dreadlocks of the silver foil kind!
Emily has a four year old brother, Ben, and sometimes, whilst her mother is visiting her in hospital, Julie looks after Ben. Likewise, on occasions when Emily is allowed home for a few days, she will take both of them to the park, whilst their mother has a few precious hours to herself.
Julie freely admits, a few years ago she would never have dreamt of being able to do something so emotionally draining and demanding, but amazingly, through her sister, she has found an inner strength, and hopefully, made some kind of sense out of her own personal loss.
And never more so than one afternoon when she had taken the children for a walk and the heavens opened. Ben immediately began splashing in the puddles. Emily was green with envy, as she could only look on from her pushchair. Julie covered her with an extra blanket and pulled the hood and rain-shield up.
“I do wish you wouldn’t!” Emily loudly protested. I’d forgotten what it feels like...the rain on my face.”
And so, Julie granted her wish, for a minute or two, at least; on the condition it remained their little secret. As a special thank you, on her next visit, Emily promised she would paint Julie’s nails in a colour of her choice, embellished by tiny, crimson hearts. Meaning Julie had to break a lifelong habit; for as Emily astutely put it, “Angels wouldn’t dream of biting their nails!”
Emily wants to be a beautician...when she grows up. And, please God, she will.