A Walk from the Heart

By Elizabeth Daghfal


You’d think it’d get easier.” “She turned 16.”

Two hooks. Reading those, you’d probably have an idea of where I’m going. Most likely, you’d be wrong.

The first was a caption from my web page, a cry from my heart, thinking of my mother who died eighteen years ago. An incredible woman, even in the midst of debilitating chemo, she regularly made dinner for someone else who was sick in the tiny slot of time when Mom didn’t feel horrible herself. She wasn’t perfect, but she seemed pretty close. Kind, patient, creative, smart…. Scientist, teacher, loving wife and mother, she raised four children, living an example of servant leadership and humility while pointing to God as her source of strength and love. College, my freshman year, she was diagnosed: Breast cancer. My senior year, Valentine’s Day, her battle ended. I know without a doubt she’s with Jesus, but I still miss her here. After eighteen years, you’d think it’d get easier.

It doesn’t.

Now, mother of five myself, I wonder. Will they one day deal with this same pain? Which brings me to my second hook. Big changes for my oldest daughter. Driver’s license. ACT. College tours. AP tests. College registration. Leaving home.

“Just yesterday,” I held her for the first time, repeating over and over, “Hi, my precious.” Just yesterday, I called my husband because “She flipped over!” Just yesterday, people stopped me in store aisles: “Hold on to every moment.” “Years go so fast.” “Don’t blink….”

If you’re a young parent, you’ve heard it, too. Older parent? You know the truth of it.

Because as hard and interminable as those early years can be—hundreds of diapers, long nights/early mornings, craving naps (for both you and your child),—one day you turn around, and your tiny pixie’s not grabbing you around the calves. You’re staring up at her. Handing her car keys, watching her drive off, praying she remembers the way, sees every car, every stop sign, that everyone sees her, and that the bad guys don’t.

Everyone talks about the tumultuous teen years. We’ve had our share of instances. But no one mentions the mature moments—when you want to cry because you see your little girl all grown-up, kind-hearted, making right choices, choosing the hard but admirable path.

Last March, was one of them. Her request: “Mom, let’s do the 3-day / 60-mile breast cancer walk. In honor of your mom!”

She was confident we could raise the $4600. $2300 each. She created banners, flyers, labels, business cards…Called and visited local companies…Through her high school’s National Honors Society and orchestra, we sold ice cream bars, baked cupcakes, held a “Go Pink” Concert, sold Mother’s Day carnations, and sat at school all summer with a “Chips and Popsicles” Sale. Together, we wrote emails and letters and baked and sold over 90 gourmet mini-cheesecakes in white boxes with pink ribbons.
And we walked. From city to city. From state to state. And all over our city itself—on sidewalks, on shoulders, in ditches. Practicing, preparing, building callouses,…and then, the “real” 60 miles.

Through it all, we laughed. Argued. Cried. Sweated. We stayed up late, at times ’til yesterday met tomorrow. Sometimes I carried her. Sometimes she carried me.

But most of the time, I just stared at her in awe. Usually when she wasn’t watching. Amazed at the years that have flown by. Amazed at the young woman she has become. And I just wanted to call my mom. As I’ve wanted to do for all the events—big and small—of my children’s lives. Will I be there when they’re bringing up their little ones? To share their joys and sorrows? To remind them, “Hold on to these moments. They’ll be gone in a flash.”

I have no idea. 1 in 8 women are diagnosed with breast cancer. 30 every 90 minutes. It’s definitely not the only cancer. But as I wrote on that web page, we start somewhere. No doubt: Children grow up too fast. Life ends too early. I’m blessed to have had this precious time with my daughter, building memories, and remembering a very special woman whose life touched so many.

Two hooks to begin? Two closures to end.

Elizabeth Daghfal is a freelance writer and columnist in Kenosha, Wisconsin where she lives with her husband David and five children.

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