When Katie found out in July that the cancer had returned, in the form of an inoperable tumor, she did something very powerful. A day or two after she got the news, at age 12, she started to write her will...on notebook paper, in pencil. She thought this through by herself. She included her favorite possessions, her money, clothing, books, etc. She was quite specific.
She said that she regretted not being able to leave David something big, like a professional baseball team (I told her that since no one in the family has that kind of money, no one would dream that she would do such a thing anyway). This was after watching the movie, "Little Big League," in case any of you know about it.
One of the most interesting things about her will is how she divided her money. She had a little savings account, where Christmas and birthday money was deposited over the years. In her will, she left half of the money to charity: the Goodwill, to be exact.
We have often donated outgrown clothing to the Goodwill collection site near our town. She and David have been with me on these trips. I don't recall ever discussing this beyond, "We need to make a stop here..." and dropping the items off. But something about it stayed with her. She knew about other charities, because we have decided as a family which charities to support, and have discussed what they do with the money that we give.
The trip to the bank to empty her account was not pleasant for me. The teller was lovely and kind when I told her what I was there to do. She asked how old Katie was, how she died, and and got tearful when I answered her questions; it was awkward. I am a helper; I felt the urge to comfort her. I told myself, "It is not your job to comfort this lady for the death of your daughter." So I stood quietly on my side of the desk, as graciously as possible under the circumstances, and waited as she counted out the money. Then I thanked her, and took it home.
I contacted the Goodwill in Seattle, and after a phone call and a bit of correspondence, I wrote the check, according to Katie's last will: $642.00 to Goodwill. It is a lovely thing, that a 12-year old who has just learned that she is dying, would think to donate half of her money to charity. I love basking in that thought, and admiring Katie for doing it--except that she is my daughter, and I would rather have her here, alive. So actually writing the check and the accompanying note was very, very difficult to do. It felt final. It is a final act, one that I am carrying out for my beloved daughter, because it was her "last will," and she is not alive to do it herself. These acts of closure feel kind of cruel.
But what a gal! She took what power she had, and used it positively. You go, girl!
P.S.: The photo is of Katie in the ICU in October, 2006, shortly after her diagnosis, during her first round of chemo. She called this her "gun show."