On April 17, I was surprised to receive a phone call from one of our librarians. Miss Beth, as we call her, has been the assistant to our head children’s librarian, Heather Everett, since we moved here two years ago. She called to say that Miss Heather had resigned because her cancer had returned. She was terminal. The doctors couldn’t say how long she would live, but it didn’t seem as though it could be very much longer. She had moved from our town to Oklahoma City to be with her parents.
I was devastated. I knew Miss Heather had health concerns. She lacked the use of the right side of her body and of her neck. But, she drove a car, had several college degrees, and a cheerful personality. I had assumed her disabilities were from a birth defect. I never imagined it was from an inoperable cancerous tumor on her spine that she had had since childhood.
It was very hard to tell Lauren and Mitchell this terrible news. They had both worked with her as library volunteers over the summers since we came here. In fact, the first thing we did after unpacking was get our new library cards; it’s one of our favorite places to go.
On May 25, Miss Beth was kind enough to text us that Miss Heather had died that day. I was thankful that we were surrounded by our family in North Carolina when we heard this news. It helped lessen the pain. But I still can’t pass by her desk without thinking of her, and missing her.
I’m glad my children had the honor of knowing Miss Heather, and of working with her. I was glad to hear through a mutual friend that Heather genuinely liked my children, and that they had had a good testimony while they were under her supervision. My children never let Miss Heather’s disabilities hinder their friendship with her, and Heather didn’t either.
I learned several things from this event in our lives, some of which I knew, but needed the reminder:
Don’t take friends for granted. I had no idea the day I discussed books and asthma and twelve-year-old boys with Heather at the library that it would be my last conversation with her. I wish I had said something more important, something about the Lord.
Children can be witnesses, too. I was comforted to hear that Mitchell had invited Heather to church and discussed church with her.
There are no excuses. Scott Hamilton said, “The only disability in life is a bad attitude.” I believe that. No matter what challenges we are facing, we can choose to get up, keep going, and keep helping others if we want to. Heather never let her illness stop her from living her life and from being joyful in the process. It took death to stop her from living. So many people are kept from life by far less, myself included.
Mitchell had this photo of Miss Heather on his camera. It is from last summer, 2014.
Miss Heather’s parking spot at our library.
It just isn’t the same without her.