More personally, a wonderful Special Love family, Sharon and Lee Johnsen, lost all three of their children to different causes in a 15 year span. I can't even imagine their pain, along with the pain radiating from Parkland. Sharon and Lee have been married for over 43 years and had three children; Kyle, born in 1983; Chad, born in 1986; and Rachel, born in 1989. They were like every other family in the country until the day Chad was diagnosed with cancer in 1992, and all hell broke loose as one can imagine.
Chad battled three times with CML (2X) and AML and died in his battle in 1998 at Georgetown University Hospital. Sharon and I met on the Peds floor at Georgetown when Chad was fighting his most courageous battle(s) that summer of 1998. It was a sobering day for all of us on the floor at that time because we know how relentless the cancer can be. It was really hard for Sharon and Lee, but they still had two children to raise and care for and life went on, albeit a bit gingerly.
And then the unthinkable happened, Rachel, 18 at the time in 2007, was coming home from her girlfriends' house and lost control of her car and hit a telephone poll, killing her instantly. How do you cope with the pain I asked Sharon then and now? She said her strong and unwavering faith in God has helped keep her sane, along with her parents (at that time) and her husband Lee, giving her their unwavering support of love and friendship though those very tough days following Rachel's passing.
Four years later, in April of 2011, the "impossible" happened. Their eldest son Kyle died from sleep apnea/heart disease in the middle of the night. I think there are no adjectives left to describe the pain this family endured. I can't even imagine....but can I just say... devastated?! But as we know, life continues to go on, and frankly, they had to too.
For Sharon, who needs to keep busy, "retired" from 35 of teaching 1st and 2nd graders, but was called back to continue substitute teaching at her same school, and she is thankful to be back in the classroom. Lee is retired from being a tradesmen, and they truly lean on each other for support because, let's face it, some "dark' days sneak into their world every now and again.
But what is truly inspiring about Sharon (and Lee) is they decided to "give back" and help others! Sharon became a Special Love BRASS counselor (Brothers and Sisters of Cancer kids) after Kyle passed, and takes care of the 7-8 year old campers for a week at Camp Maria every July. She has found solace and strong emotional ties to the many folks who knew all three of her children while growing up and volunteering with the SL camps, and is a huge inspiration to the kids and to all who know her. Her smiles and laughs are infectious, and one would think someone who lost all their children would be sad and bitter, but that's not Sharon (or Lee). They take life head on, thinking of the many happy memories shared with her children, and happy to have close relationships with their nieces and nephews, and their children's friends who still come around all these years later! They are thankful for each and every day, and I say that is truly something from this fiercely loving couple!
BSoleille! The bright side of seeing a triple rainbow...that's Kyle, Chad and Rachel Johnsen saying "hello!"
|Johnsen Kids; Kyle, Rachel and Chad|
|Sharon and Lee|
|Sharon at Camp with Laura Ritenour and camper|
|The Special Love Gala Gang!|