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Covering life, death and the courage to carry on with a heavy heart

March 22, 2001

Covering life, death and the courage to carry on with a heavy heart



I love what I do.

I love talking with people and getting to know them. I often am amazed by the things people are willing to share.

I love telling their stories. Some stories are easier to tell than others. I've recently had some hard ones.

They are hard because they deal with the big stuff - little kids who are sick, families dealing with the horror of cancer and the horrors of its treatment. People facing death with hope and grace and humor. People living - really living - life, treasuring their families, their friends. Appreciating every minute.

Dolores Noe was one of these people. I met her in January. She was in a group of women who had come together because of their serious illnesses. Their friendship, their love and support helped to sustain them. They wanted to let people know how important it was.

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I instantly felt close to Dolores. She greeted me from a hospital bed in her Hagerstown living room. Her handshake was strong as she thanked me for coming, brushing away a tear, apologizing for being so emotional.

I told her she was talking to the world's biggest crybaby. I told her what my now 11-year-old niece, Holly Colaguori, said when she was little: "Crying is important!"

Dolores Murphy Noe shared a definition of "luck of the Irish:" "If you're lucky enough to be Irish, you're lucky enough."

I feel lucky - I feel honored - to have had the chance to meet her and her brave friends. And although I knew she had metastatic breast cancer, although she had talked to me about planning her memorial service, I was shocked and very, very sad when I saw her obituary.

How do I maintain the proper professional journalistic distance?

I probably don't. I agree with Holly - crying is important.

And I cried again recently.

I wrote a story about two local kids with leukemia - Ethan Morningstar, who is 4, and Kacie Fath.

Kacie, who was 6, died the night before my story was published. A beautiful little girl, adorable in her knitted cap and yarn braids instead of her own long golden hair, she curled up in her mom's lap while we talked. She showed me the "port" in her chest, the access point for her chemotherapy. She got her dog, Ranger, to do tricks for me.

Although I knew she had leukemia, I was shocked and very, very sad when I learned of her death.

I went to the "Blues Jam"concert that Hagerstown resident Jeff Britton organized to benefit Kacie and Ethan's families last Sunday at Hagerstown Community College.

Some of the area's best blues bands came together to donate their time and their talents. But it was more than a fund-raiser.

The blue-and-white banner above the stage was a reminder that two little kids had leukemia. But the music - despite the genre - was a celebration. Pete Lancaster and 2Blue Ensemble sang the Rev. Gary Davis' "Death Don't Have No Mercy."

The Blue Comets did their jump, swing and blues tunes with Evan Price and his violin aerobics. I just know that Duffy Kane has some electronic connection to his wailing guitar.

I cried as my foot tapped to the music.

Yes, these stories are hard, but I think they are important. Cancer or any serious illness can happen to any of us at any time. For me, these stories are not about dying. They are about living.

Dolores Noe and her friends learned what's important: "Family, friends, telling them how much you love them. Living every day - even if it's raining. And saying 'thank you,' just 'thank you,' " she told me.

I say thank you to those who are willing to share. I learn a lot from these hard stories. I hope our readers do, too.

So what if I cry easily?

It's important.

Kate Coleman is a Staff Writer for Lifestyle. Send e-mail to her at katec@herald-mail.com.

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