The sidekick and I attempted to go to bed about an hour ago. He successfully fell asleep within a matter of minutes. I, on the other hand, tossed and turned and eventually decided to blog until I'm sleepy.
So, this may be one of those brain-emptying posts.
I have a job with the American Cancer Society. It's challenging, and I love it. I love that my comfort zone gets stretched every single day. If you've never been a part of a Relay For Life, you should try it once. No matter how close you are to the cause of fighting cancer, you'll be touched, and you'll have fun. And you'll raise money that does measurable good.
I haven't told many people this story... As I grew up I certainly had people in my life affected by cancer, but no one so close as to really get me too emotional about it. That is, until I met Elder Jeremy Pritchett.
Elder Pritchett was one of my first district leaders on my mission. He was of average height, less than average build, glasses, from a small town in Idaho. Kind of on the geeky side. In fact, he reminded me of George McFly on Back to the Future. Loved techno music... I don't remember what conversation led me to learn that, but it was among the things I learned about him that stuck. Also, he was sincere about his desire to do what is right.
Elder Pritchett and I got along very well in a kid-brother-older-sister kind of way. I would watch him try and exercise his authority over a few elders who were naturally significantly more outgoing than he is, with varying success. He would listen to my frustrations about my own companionship, and he would try and offer suggestions. He didn't really know what to do with the other sisters in our district (There were 6 of us, and consequently Elder Pritchett was sometimes referred to as Relief Society President.)
Near the end of his time as my district leader, Elder Pritchett started to suffer from some really bad headaches... so bad that on occasion he'd be missing from meetings he was supposed to be leading. A couple weeks later he got transferred to a different area. I remember the last time I saw him we were exchanging information so that we could stay in touch post-mission. He looked pretty weak, but was cheerful while we were talking.
Then, about two weeks later, we were informed that Elder Pritchett had fallen off his bike mid-ride because he lost feeling in one side. They took him in to the hospital, and there is where they found his brain tumor.
They sent him home to operate. We had been told that the operation was successful, and that he was home recovering. I wrote him a letter of encouragement (and joking around to cheer him up), and a few weeks later he responded with a letter. Telling me his spirits were up, but that he just wouldn't be able to do things the same as he used to.
A couple months later I wrote him another letter. Then, at our next zone conference, President announced that Elder Pritchett had passed away a month or so ago. I was in a more remote part of the mission now and we didn't get mission updates as often or as clearly, so when Elder Pritchett's parents had received my letter, they called to make sure that everyone was clearly informed.
I felt like I had been sucker-punched. I especially felt miserably for his parents, having to receive a letter for a son they had just lost while in the midst of their grieving process. They actually ended up writing me a letter thanking me for my friendship and support, but it didn't make me feel much better about the pain I must have caused them.
Also, it didn't compute in my head for a long time that someone so young could die of cancer. Cancer was something older people dealt with. Elder Pritchett wasn't doing anything bad... in fact, he was doing something really good by serving a mission. He certainly didn't deserve to have his life end so quickly.
This experience has never left me. Elder Pritchett and I were only friends for a few months, but he is the reason that I feel so good about where I work. The more research is done, the more cancers become a treatable condition and not a death sentence. The more fundraising I help make possible, the more research gets funded. And, the more people get to spend a night remembering their own Elder Pritchetts.
There. That's my shameless plug about Relay For Life. And now I'm tired, so this post has served its purpose. Goodnight. :)