BY MELANIE BUCK –
Remembering Hearts Forever will hold their annual Candle Lighting Ceremony to honor their children and siblings who have passed from this life. Each year, The Pulse features a family who has had to cope with the loss of a child and how they found the strength to carry on without them. Remembering Hearts Forever, led by Diane Mathis, is a group who knows firsthand what a family goes through after the loss of a child, and through only an understanding they can have, they are there to help others cope with such a loss. Each of the children honored through Remembering Hearts Forever may have left this world, but they left it with a mark, and one that Diane Mathis and friends intend not to forget.
Through sharing Paxton’s story, Diana Beckman and Trudy Whitman hope that other grieving families will join Remembering Hearts Forever like they did and try to find comfort by talking with others who know the pain of losing a child. “Diane does a wonderful job leading the group,” said Beckman. “The meetings are open to anyone who has lost a child.” This year, Remembering Hearts Forever will hold it’s 8th Candle Lighting in Mena and people like Beckman and Whitman will light a candle for children such as Paxton.
Paxton Cayne Crook Beckman was just nine and a half years old when she left this Earth for her Heavenly home. But according to her grandmothers, she left a mark that will not be forgotten.
Diana Beckman, Paxton’s maternal grandmother, and Trudy Whitman, her maternal great-grandmother, say their time spent with Paxton is most treasured and they spend their days reminiscing and thanking God for those precious moments. “She was a real joyful child who had a very deep belief in God. She was a delight and she was a friend to everybody that met her,” said Beckman. She had a kind heart and was very giving. She was the love of all of our lives. She was God’s greatest gift to us. When I think of her, I think of a bright angel.”
Paxton was diagnosed with AAL in 2003, at age 4. Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia is a type of blood cancer that invades the blood and can spread throughout the body to other organs, such as the liver, spleen, and lymph nodes. But it does not normally produce tumors, as do many types of cancer. It is an acute type of leukemia, which means it can progress quickly. Without treatment, it can be fatal within a few months. Paxton battled the disease for five years.
When she was diagnosed, the doctor said there was no chance for her to recover and she might have two weeks left, but they would go ahead and place a port and start chemo. “Doctors said the earliest we would be out of there would be a month and eight days later, we were headed home. Her numbers were so off the chart that the doctors said she shouldn’t even be breathing,” Beckman said.
“She was a very special person, a gift. A high-ranking Naval officer came to the hospital to be a volunteer grandparent and Paxton wanted to play chess so he played chess with her. It took her twenty minutes to beat him,” smiled Whitman. She added, “He said, ‘she had me cornered before I even knew what she was doing.’” Whitman took care of Paxton when she was home and Beckman worked. “She would be up at 2 a.m. fixing ramen noodles for Paxton. Mom [Whitman] was right by her side all the time, even learned Spanish with Paxton by watching Scooby Doo in Spanish,” Beckman laughed. Whitman said, “We shared her life. Whenever she was home, she would spend her nights and days with us. She was our love.”
Besides chemotherapy, Paxton had three stem cell transplants in 2006 and 2008. After the last transplant, doctors were concerned what treatments her body could take if she came out of the transplant and relapsed. “One month before she passed away, the doctor told her that because of her situation, it was her choice.” Beckman explained that doctors gave three options. “Do nothing about it and go peacefully or, we can do a well-known treatment that will give you more time or, we will do a new treatment that is very difficult. I’m not going to let your momma answer for you, you make the decision,” were the choices Paxton was given. “She took the tough road and took the new chemo, a tough, aggressive chemo, and then all at once, she was allergic to the new chemo and that’s what took her,” said Beckman. “We thought we had it whipped until two hours before she passed away.”
Beckman courageously shared some very personal times with Paxton during her final days. “I had to live in Little Rock for the last year with her. And exactly a month from when she went into the hospital the last time, we were laying in bed and she rolled over and put her arms around me and she said, ‘Nanna, I want you to know that when I get to Heaven, I’m going to ask Saint Peter if I can wait on the steps until you get there.’ Children are gifted and know what’s going on. They are amazing,” said Beckman.
To others, Beckman would say, “I just pray that a parent can give total understanding to the child. That yes, this could be fatal but God is there to protect the child. With the parents, so many of them that I see, do say, ‘why my child’… Don’t let that child know you feel that way. God is there to protect both of you. You miss your child but you know that God has them cradled in his arms. Not one time during Paxton’s sickness did I ever say, why me.”
To help families like Paxton’s, Remembering Hearts Forever lives by the motto that children that have passed will never be forgotten. Through support group meetings, Mother’s and Father’s Day events, and more, Remembering Hearts Forever dedicates their lives to remember others. “It’s nice to talk to someone who really understands. People say they understand but unless they’ve been through it, they really don’t know. It has helped us,” Whitman said.
One way that Remember Hearts Forever insures their memory lives on is through the annual Candle Lighting Ceremony. The Ceremony will be held in the Community Room at the back of Union Bank of Mena, on Sunday, December 13th, at 6:30 p.m.
“At the candle ceremony, everyone gets a candle, lights it and says the name of their child and they ring a bell. It’s beautiful and it’s very touching,” explained Whitman. All who have lost a child are encouraged to attend and to bring a picture of their child. A slide show will be presented at the ceremony as well. If you have any questions or would like to become a part of the group, contact Diane Mathis, at 479-243-0191.