Monday, April 11, 2011

Notes Left Behind by Brooke and Keith Desserich


Wise beyond her years, six-year-old Elena Desserich never stopped teaching those around her to appreciate the miracle of everyday living, even as she battled a rare form of brain cancer.

Notes Left Behind tells a story of humility and inspiration. Through personal and candid journal entries they wrote as a remembrance for Elena's younger sister, Brooke and Keith Desserich share their emotional journey as a family, along with the private notes Elena hid around the house for them to discover after she was gone. Heartbreaking, moving, and inspiring, Elena's notes show us how, even during the darkest moments of life, it is possible to find hope and encouragement though selfless love.

My thoughts:
This book sucked me in from the beginning and I had a really hard time putting it down.  While at times it was hard to read about the struggles these parents went through while making difficult decisions for their daughters medical care, it also showed the joy they were able to find in the moments they had with both of their girls.  The whole family came off the page in these journal entries and became real.  Even knowing the eventual outcome I kept rooting for them to beat the odds and find the treatment that would work.

Elena was a little girl who loved all things pink, reading books and going to kindergarten.  She had a joy for life and loved her family.  The brain cancer she developed was a tumor that took things away from her like her ability to speak, walk, see and use her right hand.  Her family spent time with specialists and flew to far away hospitals to get her the care that was deemed best for this cancer.  They tried their best to grant her wishes as well.  Elena's whole extended family went to Disney World with her, she swam with dolphins and went to the top of the Eiffel Tower at her local amusement park. 

It was inspiring to see how much time these two parents put into spending with their children.  It can be so easy to get caught up in the pull of all the little things in life like laundry and dishes and getting sucked into mindless TV, but what if your time is even more limited than you realize?  It makes me wonder if I will regret not reading one more bedtime story or taking five more minutes at the park.  What about the time I spent reading a book or on the computer when I could have been spending time with my children, will I regret it later on?  There needs to be a balance and when you know the number of tomorrows available to you has a much sooner expiration date than you would like that balance can tip more to one side than the other. 

Part of what made this story hard was seeing Elena improve and seem to be getting better only to have the next MRI show that the tumor was getting worse.  It was wonderful that she was granted some more time when she was functioning and able to enjoy life, but it made it almost harder to see her then lose all that progress again not once but multiple times.

Elena's story is a reminder to live life to the fullest.  We never know how long we have and loved ones mean so much more than anything else.

Product Details

Pub. Date: October 2010
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Format: Paperback , 250pp
ISBN-13: 9780061886409
ISBN: 0061886408

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