What a dying child taught me about the superpower of bearing witness

Making meaning out of the hardest things

Jane Park

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Author’s photo: holding Molly’s hand, June 13, 2021.

This summer, I teamed up with eight women (most of whom I’d never met before) to help give an extraordinary thirteen-year-old girl as extraordinary a death as we could muster with all our creativity, love, and alpha-female energy.

I didn’t know the full extent of what I was signing up for when I answered my friend Sarah’s frantic call just over a year ago. An MRI requested by Molly’s optometrist, meant to confirm that her blurry vision was caused by too much pandemic screen time, had instead revealed a tumor in her brain. Grasping for a way to be helpful, I googled “pediatric brain cancer” and showed Sarah that survivability was higher for kids with glioblastoma than adults. A meaningless comparison rendered even more irrelevant because that wasn’t what Molly had anyway. My zero years of medical training had shockingly led me to the wrong internet diagnosis.

The real-life doctors at Seattle Children’s Hospital told Sarah that Molly had DIPG, or diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma. In the first hours, we couldn’t process the rest of the words that came attached to her diagnosis: “rare,” “only a few hundred children a year,” and “no established cure.”

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Jane Park

Entrepreneur + Essayist. CEO of sustainable gifting company: https://tokki.com/. Speaker, writer: https://www.seejanewonder.com. Addicted to making meaning.