“Grace…Karma…Life Force. Call it what you will, but there is a spiritual force in this world. It keeps the sun rising, the tides rolling, and our hearts beating. It is what helps us get out of bed each day. It gives us purpose. It gives us a sense of community. It allows us to heal when our hearts have been wounded.” p. 79
How in the world does a mother whose daughter died from cancer get to the point where she can say that? I could not imagine any mother being able to say that after going through the extremely tragic experience of losing a child to cancer. Then I read Rachel Reynolds’s book, Four Seasons for Charlotte: A Parent’s Year with Pediatric Cancer and found out. It is an honest and heart felt story about the journey she took with her husband Roger, as they watched, loved and lived through their 3 yr old daughter Charlotte’s precious and short life with the aggressive cancer, PNET: Primitive Neuroectodermal Tumor.
I want to thank Rachel for writing this book. As a chaplain, her story opened up my heart and mind to the experience that parents and children encounter as they go through this horrific experience. Four Seasons for Charlotte gave me the chance to see and feel their pain, struggles, and hope. You hear it all from Rachel, from the day of the diagnosis, through the year after Charlotte’s death. It is a beautiful tribute to a sweet and precious princess who has touched my heart in so many ways. From a professional standpoint, Four Seasons for Charlotte helped me to become a better chaplain and friend to those I know going through a similar journey.
What is wonderfully remarkable about this book is that Rachel doesn’t hold back. For anyone who is walking with those in the midst of fighting pediatric cancer, Rachel uses this book to tell you what to do or say to help and what NOT to do or say to help. You will be amazed as to what parents hear from those who were trying to help but it just didn’t come across as gently as they meant. Bless Rachel for having such grace to understand their efforts, while at the same time telling others about it so these words aren’t spoken again. You will also read her thoughts on opportunities in which to reach out to families, so you can carry some of their burden.
For parents who are going through what Rachel and Roger are going through, there is hope. Rachel gives that hope through her story and seeing the outcome of what is to come. You will encounter “The Network” of people who will embrace your journey, will surround you in words, actions and love, and will be there for the laundry and lawn mowing. You will also read the honest and emotional conversations and see the reality of what happens to the couple and parents of this child. The only other person who will know exactly what you are going through is your spouse, and God bless Rachel and Roger for sharing their story and showing how it is possible to live through this emotional and heartbreaking journey.
There is something beautiful to enjoy from Four Seasons for Charlotte. I got to meet Charlotte through her mother’s heart. What a precious child who was full of spirit, laughter and joy. Charlotte taught me a few things about life and enjoying the moments. I do photography as a hobby and when I encounter butterflies, I think of Charlotte and imagine the most beautiful pink and purple butterfly that made an everlasting impression on me. Described by Rachel as free spirited, curious and strong willed, brown-eyed girl; Charlotte loved reading, snowmen, and playing…oh, and princesses. Even though her life was short, Charlotte fully lived. She lived with remarkable spirit and joy. What a gift.
So Rachel, thank you for writing Four Seasons for Charlotte. On behalf of chaplains, friends, and families…anyone in the network of someone’s life with pediatric cancer, thank you for sharing your story and allowing others to walk with you during this time of grief. Yes, Charlotte touched countless lives, but so have you. I don’t think you could have picked a better way to share Charlotte’s spirit and legacy than how you did through this book. You have helped people in more ways than you can imagine. And I pray that as much as this book has and will help others, I pray that it has helped you in healing, hope and purpose.
Roger and Rachel are doing so much to continue Charlotte’s legacy by helping other families. They started the CJ’s Thumbs Up Foundation to provide financial help for families with children who are dealing with chronic and life threatening illnesses. If you would like to learn more about the work that Rachel and Roger are doing and how you can help as well, visit their website, www.cjstuf.org.