Wednesday, August 19, 2009
The Life She Lived--Anne Creager
I first met Anne about five years ago, I think, at a writer's conference. She was there in her capacity as a teacher, I was there as a writer, and Julie Wright and I ended up sitting with her and a bunch of other strangers. As we ate, we talked and she asked us about our books, we asked her about her teaching and family and eventually it came out that she was a writer--though she said she hadn't done much with it. This was her last year teaching though and she was so excited to be home with her two daughters and get some writing done. She'd sold an article to The Freind so far, and blew that off even though Julie and I were both wanting to get an article in a church magazine.
Some time after the conference, she contacted me about a writing group I had recently begun with some gals in my area. She didn't live to far away and began attending--often with her darling little girls in tow. My first impressins of Anne were that she was smart, sweet, didn't like to inconvenience anyone, and was excited and anxious about being able to put more time into her writing. I'm not sure when I noticed the scar on her upper arm for the first time, but I remember being curious as to the story behind it. It was mostly hidden by the sleeves of her t-shirts, but it looked as though whatever it had once been had been painful. However, even I have manners sometimes so I didn't ask.
Eventually, she told me about the scar--Melanoma she'd had removed a few years earlier. Yikes. I'd never met anyone that had actually had skin cancer. And she was so young--she'd have been in her early 20's when they'd found it. Her husband was a dentist, so it had taken place during his schooling, and not to long before her first daughter was born. She didn't make a big deal about it, and so neither did I but it put a bit more focus on her and the way she lived her life. She'd faced demons most of us won't face, and she was refined by it. No wonder she had such evenness and compassion.
As our friendship continued she had another little girl, asked how she could still write when she had so much 'mothering' to do, wondered if she should wait until her girls were older, worried she was wasting her time. Most writers have these same thoughts and one of the best parts of a writing group is the support and solutions we can give to one another.
Last February after a ski or bike trip with her husband (I'm afraid I can't remember which) she had a pain in her chest; what she thought was a pulled muscle. But it didn't go away. I won't forget the e-mail where she told us (the writing group) what happened, she said it was a blessing that her husband had become so incredibly sick that they'd had to take him to an emergency doctor's appointment. While there she casually mentioned the pulled muscle in her chest that didn't seem to be healing. I don't know what test the doctor ran but within a week or so they discovered a tumor the size of a football growing in her chest. Apparently when Melanoma comes back, it doesn't go away. But Anne was determined to get every minute out of this life that she could get.
What came next was months of traveling to Denver for treatments, surgeries, cyberknife--anything and everything she could get to help keep the cancer at bay. And yet it continued to grow. It wrapped around her heart, it snuck up on her thyroid, and as of last month it had attached to her liver. She fought it, and yet that's not all she did. She also took trips with her kids, did photo shoots for family and friends (including me) and continued to be a mother and wife to her family. She lost her hair and it came in black and curly instead of straight and auburn. She lost weight and gained weight--and lamented the toll the medication took on her skin. Every time she sent an update she thanked God for her blessings and pointed out the miracles happening in her life. And she wrote.
She'd been working on a book when she was diagnosed, and she finished it and began shopping agents. She had an article published in the New Era a few months ago. She began a project about growing up for girls, admitting that one of the reasons was that she knew she might not be there to tell them what she wanted her daughters to know. She began recording childhood memories--beautifully written childhood memories. She wasn't able to come to group very often, but when she did she'd read us these moments from her life and we would realize how much we didn't know about her. I'll never forget the Boot of Stew story or the one that had us all bawling where she talked about the experience of braiding her hair into three braids before cutting them off before chemo took her hair from her. She wanted a braid for each of her girls--so they would remember Mama's copper braids. Sometimes she worried that she shouldn't be spending so much time writing, and yet Ward (her husband) said "But it's what you love." And it was what she loved. She loved to write, and amid the horrific changes in her future she didn't want to lose any of those life memories. The picture included in this blog was taken at the 2009 LDStorymakers Conference. She'd always wanted to come, and finally did even though she had to leave early as she wasn't feeling well.
I saw Anne for the last time at writer's group about a month ago--her hair was gone again and she laughed as she said that she hated that her youngest daughter would only remember her bald, since she'd only been about two when Anne lost her hair the first time. She read us an article she'd written for the Ensign about preparing for death. We all cried through it. She said she'd finished writing all the letters to her daughters that would be given to them as they passed milestones she would not see. They'd moved to a home near her husband's parents, and she said how much fun it was, how glad she was to be able to be there with her family. Treatments had run out, she wasn't feeling well but was still looking into her options. I can't remember if I hugged her goodbye that day. I sure hope I did.
Last week she posted this to her blog:
I have no doubt that if it is Heavenly Father's will, I will be healed. But even if I'm not, I have to admit that I feel at peace. The last month has been fraught with panic and frantic anguish, but now I feel differently. I trust Him. I look forward to asking WHY all of this had to happen. I'm not going to ask it now, because I know that He can see the whole picture and I know that whatever His will is, things will be okay. My girls will be okay because they have Ward. I know that Ward will be okay because he has them. And we all have each other--FOREVER--and that's what really matters.
Today, this was posted in her behalf:
We wanted to let you know that Anne is in the hospital and has taken a turn for the worse. She is not expected to live much longer ...
I love Anne. And I will miss her. Though I was not part of her inner circle of friends and family, I was blessed to know her, to hear her words, and watch this final journey she has made. I am strengthened for the strength she has shown, and yet my heart is simply full of sorrow for the things she is leaving behind. She has a beautiful life HERE and I want her to stay in it. I don't understand why she's being called away, it's not fair. But she has accepted the path her life has taken, and I have no doubt that many loving arms will embrace her on the other side just as many arms here will ache.
Thank you, Anne, for your example, for your friendship, for your beautiful smile and your realistic view of life and love and family. I am greatly blessed to have known you and am glad that through the words you took the time to write, you will live on for generations to come.
May you and your family feel peace--you have earned it.