When little Elena was diagnosed with the rare and terminal form of pediatric brain cancer in 2006, her parents were told she had just 135 days to live. The distraught couple vowed to make each moment special for Elena and her sister Gracie, then four.
"We wanted to protect her so we never told her she might not make it," said Mr Desserich. "We didn't want to focus on the cancer, we wanted to focus on being a family and doing all the things that Elena wanted to do."
Mr and Mrs Desserich were worried Gracie might grow up and not remember Elena, so they began to write a journal about their kind little girl who loved books and art. "She was a wonderful little girl," said Mr Desserich. "She loved books, they were her passion. She said she wanted to grow up to be a teacher and a mother. She loved to nurture people and she was always so bright."
While the Desserichs were forming their own tribute, Elena was secretly writing notes and tucking them away in nooks and crannies in her house and the houses of relatives.
"She was a child who was wise beyond her years," said Mr Desserich. "I hate to think she knew she was dying but I think she did. I think the notes were her way of telling us that everything would be OK. It feels like a hug from her every time we find one."
Despite a month of radiation therapy, Elena's condition deteriorated rapidly. She lost the ability to speak and gradually became paralyzed. But the brave child would not be silenced. She continued to hide the love notes and drawings for her mother, father, sister, grandparents and her favorite dog Sally, who belonged to her auntie.
Some read simply "I love you" or have pictures of hearts and flowers. Many are addressed for Gracie and one reads "I love you Gracie, Go Go."
"We don't ever want to find the last note," said Mr Desserich. "I hope we keep on finding them for years to come." In fact, both parents have saved one unopened note from Elena which they carry with them in their briefcases.
"It's our way of saving the last note," said Mrs Desserich.
Sacrifice goes way beyond our life -- it is the lifeline some people need long after we are gone. If we don't leave it then they lose it. When we sacrifice we mimic the great sacrifice Jesus made for us.
The Bible was a letter left which speaks of someone dying for us -- letting his life be rough and deprived and oppressed and hurt and then spiritually punished for the sins of all of us. Jesus volunteered to be destroyed so that none of us would have to. And you know what the last note he left us says? I imagine it this way.
"You have heard and seen that death is the end. It is not. I have been there. Hold on and don't give up. I gave myself to make a way for you to live forever. I have arraigned it all. Don't worry about your stuff, you won't need it -- just get here. And if you want you can bring a friend." Hey you wanna go? If so then time to give up yourself for a new life. Take the dangerous plunge of sacrifice and life filled with it. But let's let Jesus speak his own final note.
John 14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
(From a sermon by Jay Russell, I Sacrifice So That I Can Grow, 12/28/2010)
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