Today is the 24th birthday of a very special young lady named Brittany, or B for short.
I became friends with B’s parents back in college. I had the honor of standing as a bridesmaid in their wedding, of attending a shower celebrating the highly anticipated arrival of their first and only child, and of visiting that sweet baby in the NICU. Born 2 months premature, she was so small. But, her eyes. Even as a baby, her dark, beautiful eyes seemed to see through me — beyond my flesh and bone, down into my soul.
She enjoyed activities that most kids do — family vacations to the beach, fishing, and playing her favorite online video game with her parents and friends.
Brittany, or B, has often been described as being an Old Soul — a caring and compassionate girl who was wise beyond her years and always thinking of others. She had a disarming calm about her that instantly put a person at ease, was clever, and saw things in this world with those endless eyes that many of us miss.
In junior high, she would ask her mother for extra money so she could eat breakfast at school. But, she was actually using the money to buy lunch for a friend who couldn’t afford it. When she found out a neighbor’s daughter wasn’t being treated right at home, she asked her parents if they could take the girl into their own home. She lovingly helped friends through physical and emotional struggles by offering a listening ear, a strong shoulder, and a sincere heart. Unsurprisingly, she wanted to become a psychologist.She was internally motivated to be the best she could be and, in turn, she was able to have a positive effect on those she interacted with. She wanted the world to be at peace—for us all to coexist in peace.
A few years ago, on an unassuming October Sunday, Brittany had seemed fine all day, but her mother noticed that she didn’t have much of an appetite at dinner. By evening, B had developed a fever and sore throat. Her parents gave her Tylenol, planning to make a doctor’s appointment for her the next day if she wasn’t feeling better.
The next day, she was fever-free, but her parents decided to make the appointment anyway in case she had Strep.
Her appointment was for the next morning at 8:30 am.
That night, she pointed out a bruise on her thigh to her mother. Brittany couldn’t recall how she’d gotten it. Her mom, thinking Brittany was anemic, went to the store for iron pills and freezer cups.
Brittany and her mom spent the rest of the evening laughing, joking, and talking in B’s room. Neither of them knew that it was the last night they would spend together. Brittany never made it to her appointment. She had passed away during the night, and it would be 3 long, torturous months before her parents would learn what had stolen their 17-year-old daughter from them.
Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia (APL), a rare and fast-moving blood cancer, had secretly and silently taken her life in a matter of days. An oncologist assured her parents that her passing was swift, and that she had felt no pain, but their mother and father hearts were broken in unfathomable grief.
Today, on her birthday, we remember Brittany—delightful, intelligent, witty, beautiful Brittany. We miss her. We remember her joy and light. We wonder at the woman she would have become.
As a teenaged girl, she had cared for others and put her compassion into action on a daily basis. Although she planned on a future in service to others, she hadn’t waited until she grew up to start changing the world around her. She took opportunities as they came—always touching lives for the better and demonstrating the art of B-ing—leaving each of us who knew her better than she found us.
Cancer can’t change who Brittany was, or diminish the love she left behind. Her love is her legacy, and her spirit calls to us, even now, to B more than we have been.
B more present. B more aware. B more kind. B more loving. B more generous.
To B her legacy.