Monday, March 12, 2012

the Marissa Parks I knew

Its my birthday!!! Now, normally I would probably be depressed right now cause I'm getting "old". But today, I am celebrating getting old, and kind of happy about it! I love birthdays, and everything that they involve! I love dressing up, spending time with friends and family, being a princess for a day, taking lots of photos, cake, everything.
--Marissa, blogging about her 24th birthday on February 18, 2011

This is Marissa Parks, and you left a message on blog. I am very sorry to hear about your mom, and the pain that most come along with that. I have been diagnosed GBM, and I appreciate all the information you passed along. I shared the information with my dad, and I think we will look into that program. I am flying to Houston in April to see what clinical trials that can possibly provide as well. Like you stated, my parents are doing most of the research because I can't stand to read it about it. I know the facts and what the doctors told. I googled it once, and I decided that was it for me, and have just decided to take it one day at a time.
--from Marissa's very first email to me on February 23, 2011

I have the best friends!!! #thankful
--Marissa's final message on Twitter, 8:43AM, January 13, 2012

Marissa Parks died this past weekend. I don't know the details, but at a guess, her death was due to complications related to her brain cancer, glioblastoma multiforme. Only a few weeks earlier, in February, Marissa had celebrated her 25th birthday. That same month, she had undergone a surgical procedure and had come out still walking, talking, and smiling-- all with difficulty, true, but Marissa seemed far from defeated. The news of her death, which I discovered only yesterday (Saturday, March 11) from an update on Marissa's blog,* came as a shock. I had no illusions that she was on her way to recovery-- GBM has no cure-- but I had somehow gotten it into my head that Marissa had more time.

I never had the chance to meet Marissa face-to-face. What I know of her comes from (1) a few emails and Twitter DMs (direct messages) that she and I exchanged early in her fight with GBM, (2) whatever updates I saw on Marissa's blog, and (3) several extended conversations with her father, Brad Parks. My picture of Marissa is that of a strong-willed, energetic, often stubborn young woman who, once she learned her diagnosis, had no room in her heart for self-pity. She was determined to keep living her life in a spirit of unrepentant joy. In her few emails to me, she showed she also had a great, perhaps even wicked, sense of humor. Like any headstrong young woman, she occasionally locked horns with her parents, but at the bottom of it all was love, the foundation for everything.

Although I never met Marissa, I know that she loved and was loved. I know she had amassed quite a number of friends. I know how powerful her parents' feelings of love for her were-- and are. It pains me to think of Marissa's parents now: losing a child is a parent's worst nightmare. I can only hope they realize that, as hurt as they may feel, they did everything in their power for their daughter; nothing more could have been expected of them, especially in the face of a disease this relentless. Marissa herself did everything in her power to live a good and full life. What more can be asked of any of us? Life is a gift: merely waiting to die is not an option. Marissa took her gift seriously.

A close friend and I were recently discussing the unfairness of the fact that the world moves on after someone dies. My friend had just lost his Korean mother-in-law, whom he had loved dearly. It doesn't seem fair that billions of people are untouched by the death of someone we love; in our heart of hearts, we'd like the whole world to grieve with us, and to stay grieving. This isn't what happens, though; the world just keeps turning. I would never counsel the recently bereaved simply to let go of their grief and "move on." That would be callous. But if I were to give any counsel, it would be this: take heart in the fact that the world is always moving, because it means we're all participants in a great story, and that story never ends. We all continue in some way-- whether as an inspiring memory or as an actively guiding force, I don't know. But we go on, carried forward in space and time, in memory and action. Our echoes remain.

Requiescat in pace, Marissa.

*In recent months, blogging duties had fallen to Marissa's cousin Megan.