Reporter's journal | Jerry Brewer on covering Gloria Strauss
Seattle Times staff columnist
The Strausses are relaxing this weekend because school starts Tuesday. Most of the children go to St. Philomena Catholic School in Des Moines. Gloria's father, Doug, is a math and Spanish teacher at Kennedy High School in Burien.
Kennedy opened last week, and obviously, Doug didn't get to start the year with his students. He's been thinking about school a lot lately. Even before Gloria went into the hospital three weeks ago, Doug was trying to balance taking care of Gloria with preparing for the start of school.
More than anything, he says, this experience has given him more clarity on what he wants from both his career and family life. He hasn't detailed his epiphany, but he keeps referring to it. Despite Gloria's illness, Doug seems really at peace with his life and thankful for what he's learned from this struggle.
We've talked a lot about our own life-changing experiences while following Gloria. Inside of the Strauss family, there have been similar transformations. Over the next few weeks, I plan on focusing on that aspect of this story.September 3, 7:32 PM
Gloria's father, Doug Strauss, called to say that Gloria is doing "pretty well." There's no real change in her condition. She's hanging in there.
He said the family is trying to spend more quality time with Gloria today before school starts Tuesday. It was just a brief update, and Doug said he'd talk more later today.
In the meantime, there's still plenty of reader response. I'll share two more at this time. Once again, you are welcome to share your thoughts and feelings on Gloria and this series. Just e-mail me at email@example.com.One more thing before we get to the e-mails: Someone wrote to me recently feeling a little intimidated and frustrated by the religious slant of many of these e-mails. I told the reader that this is an all-inclusive journal; it just happens that the majority of the people who write these letters believe in God.
The "A Prayer for Gloria" series is about family and faith, but our world is far more diverse. As long as you are respectful, coherent and thought-provoking with your e-mails, your thoughts will be printed — whether you believe in God or not.
This series isn't about taking you to church, so to speak. It's about showing how one family handles suffering, and the Strauss family's method just happens to include its Catholic faith. Beyond religion, there's much more to take from this story, and many readers have written to talk about this story in broader terms.
Think of it like a television series. "Grey's Anatomy" centers around medicine, but it's about so much more. Same concept here.
Now onto the e-mails.The first comes from Taryn Darr, who shares how reading about Gloria has inspired her. Taryn is an actress, which is Gloria's dream job.
####### Hi Jerry,
Just another note to add to your inbox. I just felt compelled to write you.
I check your journal on Gloria daily. We can all learn from the strength shown in this beautiful little girl. Particularly touching is the audio of her talking about her life, her family, the things she enjoys. It hit me where it counts when she talked about how she loved to dance and sing and act. I'm an actress currently living in New York City pursuing a career in theatre. Before NY, I lived in Seattle for 8 years. (Born in Ore., but a UW grad!) I have performed on many Seattle stages and have taught musical theatre and dance.
This past month, I was back in Seattle working on a reading of a new musical, while also choreographing Music Man for the Burien Hi-Liners, a performing arts group for kids, many Gloria's age. After I listened to the audio of Gloria and then went to rehearsal every day with these kids, I just started thinking about her all the time — how she could be any one of them, and how much I wish she was well enough to share the thrill of it all.
I submitted my bio as choreographer for the program the other day. The last line reads:"The joy of this performance I give to Gloria Strauss."
The next e-mail comes from Sharon Lynch. Sharon is talking about all the blessings in life we sometimes fail to recognize.
Dear Mr. Brewer:We've been praying for Gloria nightly, and have been thanking God for the little miracles He's worked in her life so far. As so many people have already shared with you, our thoughts and lives have been affected as well.
As a community, we have become complacent and taken for granted all of the blessings, the miracles, that are around us every day, every hour. In general, our children drink clean water, have three (mostly) balanced meals a day, attend school and have access to the best medical care science can provide. In some parts of the world, and in some parts of the United States as well, parents daily live through the hell of seeing their children suffer from malnutrition, starvation and diseases that only our parents remember. Why are we here and those people there? We have done nothing to deserve a better life. We need stories like Gloria's to remind us that we cannot afford to be complacent; that we cannot take anything for granted. And hopefully, stories like Gloria's will move enough of us to do something for the people who are not as fortunate as we.
I remember sitting, stunned, with my Bible study group two days after 9/11. We were discussing how "life would never be the same again." A very wise friend of mine said, "It will. Give it a year or two and the American people will be acting as if it hadn't happened."
I hate to say it, but she was right. For the most part, people have become complacent again. Will we never learn?
As so many other readers have told you, I am also giving my children lots of extra hugs, extra story time and giving thanks to God that they are healthy and whole. And, as so many other readers have told you, every night I pray that they remain so.
Thank you for what you are doing Mr. Brewer. We need more people to remind us, as both a community and as individuals, that we need to appreciate all that we have.Love and prayers,
September 4, 6:44 PM
Today was a special day for Gloria.
She was confirmed by Father Tom Vandenberg of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Federal Way.
Confirmation is a Catholic sacrament of mature Christian commitment. Children tend to get baptized at an early age, and then later, they are confirmed. In the simplest terms, it’s an affirmation of a person’s baptismal commitment and a symbol of the deepening of faith.
Typically, Catholics are confirmed in their teens. Because of Gloria’s cancer, maturity and strong faith, she was given this honor early.
Gloria also has learned of the damage her neuroblastoma is doing. Last night, for the first time, Gloria’s father, Doug, told her that the cancer had spread to her brain.
"Really?” Gloria asked. “Oh, Dad, we’ve got to pray.”
So Gloria, Doug and a nurse recited the rosary. As they prayed, Gloria was fatigued and would fade in and out, but she always entered the prayer on cue. Even though she could barely stay awake, she was right with them, Doug said.
While watching Gloria’s will to pray, the nurse cried.
Gloria also allowed her father to lift her last night. She is normally in too much pain to sit up, but her back was itching badly, so she toughed it out so that Dad could scratch her back.
In addition, the Strausses began school today. Gloria’s mother, Kristen, stayed home to ensure the children had a good first day. Life goes on, and the family is preparing for new amounts of stress.
"Gloria’s sad she can’t go to school,” Doug said. “It’s hard on her, but what can you do? I worry about her. I worry about the other kids. I worry about everything.
"It’s going to be an intense time. We’re going to have to get detailed on everything. Each kid is going to have different stresses, and we can’t rely on other people to take care of them. We have to get through it as a family.”
September 5, 8:28 PM
Gloria continued making small strides in physical therapy. She's moving her legs a little bit and focusing on simple goals.
"Some people do marathon conditioning," said her father, Doug Strauss. "We're doing medical marathon conditioning. We know this might take awhile."
Gloria and her family aren't thinking about their big goal, which is to get Gloria back on her feet. They're talking about the small steps. The other day, Doug listened to his daughter praying about simply having enough strength to "freshen up." The next day, she was able to let the medical staff move her around enough so that she could be bathed.
Last night, Doug and Gloria shared a tender moment while Dad was washing her hair. He also told Gloria another piece of what happened to her more than three weeks ago. She learned her heart stopped temporarily as they arrived at the hospital. The news saddened her for a while, her father said.
Then the two talked about being confirmed and "just getting closer to Jesus," Doug said.
Gloria's parents want to help their daughter to be unafraid of heaven. They want her to have peace of mind as she continues to battle cancer.
Everyone understands that this is the point where most neuroblastoma patients die. If Gloria doesn't receive the miracle she's praying for, her family believes she will get a "final healing." Her parents want her to understand that heaven is beautiful, the place to be. Right now, Gloria is so afraid to leave her family that she can barely imagine anything else.
"I told her that I'm scared of heaven, too," Doug said. "But I told her to allow God to be in control. I said, 'Gloria, you are confirmed. I acknowledge your fear. I acknowledge my fear, honey. Do you understand?' She said yes."
This will be an ongoing process. The parents aren't giving up on Gloria and will not let go unless they feel God is telling them to let go. But they need to be prepared for all possibilities.
"Today was a good day for us," Doug said. "Gloria looks great. Her hair's good. She's smiling."
September 6, 6:56 PM
Gloria had another solid day. Physically, there has been no change, but she was in good spirits while several family members visited.
Included in the bunch were two out-of-town family members. John and Michael Miller, two of Kristen’s first cousins, are here from South Bend, Ind. They’ve had a pleasant trip spending time with Gloria, as well as Kristen, Doug and the couple's six other children.
It’s interesting to observe how close this family is, all the way to its extensions. Watching Doug, John and Michael talk, you would’ve thought they were brothers, not people connected by marriage.
In the “A Prayer for Gloria” series, we’ve focused a lot on the Strauss side of the family, because they’re all here, but only mentioned Kristen’s side – the Trimbergers – in small doses. That side of the family is just as interesting as the Strausses, and it has greatly influenced this family's strong faith that readers admire.
If you go back and listen to the audio of Gloria on our Web site, she talks about how proud she is of her family in South Bend, Ind. She talks about how much they pray and how hard they pray. This summer, the Strausses traveled to Indiana, and when they returned, they talked about their visit for two weeks.
During Gloria’s hospital stay, her maternal grandfather, Pat Trimberger, has visited from Indiana, as well as her uncle, Danny Trimberger, and his family.
Gloria’s grandmother, Vicki Trimberger, recently had knee replacement surgery and hasn’t been able to travel. But she likely will be boarding a plane once doctors give their blessing.
Michael and John shared some moving stories of how Gloria has touched them. Gloria inspired Michael to run the Chicago Marathon in her honor a few years ago. He’s currently training for the New York City Marathon on Nov. 4, and he says he’s praying that this " will help all the other prayers and sacrifices to ease Gloria’s pain, and if it’s God’s will, to grant her the miracle of a complete healing.”
His brother, John, recently quit smoking for Gloria.
When I left the hospital, Gloria was putting on lip gloss and enjoying time with her relatives. They’re the reason she’s fighting so hard to recover.
September 7, 5:38 PM
Gloria has impressed her father and others with her unselfishness over the past 24 hours.
They've witnessed her praying for other kids at Children's Hospital. While saying goodbye to her cousins, John and Michael Miller, she prayed for them, too.
The cousins, who returned to Indiana this afternoon, left amazed at the moments they shared during this visit. They know Gloria is a fighter and a caring 11-year-old, but they said seeing it up close again -- especially during this tough time -- has been an eye-opening reminder.
Everyone who meets Gloria talks about her heart. Four years ago, during her first bouts of chemotherapy, Gloria would ask her family to take some of the toys and gifts people had brought to her room and give them to other patients. She has a kind and generous spirit.
Her condition remains largely unchanged. She's still going through physical therapy, trying to get her legs strong enough to walk. But she's handling the situation with her trademark grace, as well as incredible patience.
"It's that veteran savvy she has," said her father, Doug Strauss.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Strausses had a good first week of school. It hasn't been easy, as Gloria's mother, Kristen, and Gloria's six siblings have been away for large amounts of time. But the family is managing as best they can.
I'll end this entry by sharing a special poem a reader named Pam McCauley wrote for Gloria. Perhaps it speaks to this group experience we've had following Gloria. It's a beautiful and compassionate piece of writing.
Here's Pam's poem.
We gather round this young heart, her plight drawing us in.
We follow her days, small wishes granted, another smile, another kiss.
This struggle of the innocent, this family of faith, hope carried valiantly.
God's tender touch, compassion overflowing, blessings mixed with pain.
Prayers for miracles,seen and unseen, precious time for a precious life.
September 8, 9:47 PM
I received an e-mail from a reader with information about campaign that five fathers of children with neuroblastoma have started.
It's called the Loneliest Road Campaign. Starting Monday, the five fathers will cycle 3,700 from Sacramento, Calif., to Washington, D.C. They are doing this to raise awareness and money for cutting-edge treatments to fight neuroblastoma.
I didn't even know that neuroblastoma existed before I met Gloria, and now I realize what a cruel and vexing cancer it is.
For more information on those fathers and their mission, go to www.loneliestroad.org.
Gloria remains about the same today. After being away from the hospital a lot last week to help the other children with their first week of school, Kristen, Gloria's mother, is getting to spend some quality time with her daughter this weekend.
September 9, 8:27 PM
If you recall, while Gloria was in her coma, Hasselbeck went to see her, along Seahawks defensive tackle Craig Terrill and his wife, Rachel.
Craig and Rachel had befriended Gloria during former Seahawk Grant Wistrom's Circle of Friends trip to Wisconsin last February.
Gloria continues to do well in the hospital. She's still focusing on small victories as she works to make her legs strong enough to walk.
I've been away from Gloria and her family for most of this weekend because I've returned to writing my sports column.
It's been an interesting transition. At first, I was dreading it because I've gained so much perspective from covering Gloria, and I don't want to lose it while arguing about games. But the games turned out to be an elixir in a lot of ways. They were fun and energizing. I didn't feel too bothered by the triviality of them. And I think I was able to use the perspective I've acquired to write in a more levelheaded manner.
But it will be nice to return to the hospital and check on Gloria on Monday.
September 10, 10:51 PM
Gloria's condition remains stable. So I'm going to get to some reader response in a minute.
Wanted to let you know I've been working on Part 9 of the "A Prayer for Gloria" series. To me, this is the most important piece to date. We're listening to all of you and trying to capture what this journey has meant, as well as showing what this family is currently going through.
I'm probably more nervous to write this story than the others. I don't want to get it wrong. I want it to be the best possible representation of Gloria's four-year struggle and her determination to continue living. I want it to be the best story in the entire series.
It's a bit of an unorthodox approach because these types of stories generally appear at the end of a series. There are many reasons why we believe this is an appropriate next story, but the most important one is that all of you, the readers, have been expressing this to us for weeks.
We've all had our epiphanies, and now is an appropriate time to write a story expressing what this community has learned.
Now let's go to some more readers. Remember, if you'd like to share some thoughts, you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The first e-mail comes from Evoney Williams, who's trying to make sense how destructive cancer can be.
I have been following Gloria's story and it is heart wrenching to read about a beautiful little girl who is suffering the way she is, but she is in my heart. I love Gloria's spirit, and the fact that on the outside looking in she seems okay and happy.
My grandmother on my distant mother's side died 3 years ago from some sort of stomach cancer, and I didn't know until she passed. My aunt told me about how much pain she was in and tried to give me stories to help me understand but I couldn't and as I have been reading about Gloria it is helping me understand what it is that you go through when you have cancer, and I caught myself at work the other day wiping away tears, not knowing why, and then I thought about it and wondered why should anyone have to go through all that suffering.
I just want to say.... I don't know Gloria or her family but I have her in my prayers and I am rooting for her to get better, I have two boys myself, and I couldn't imagine what her parents are going through and have to keep it together for the sake of the other children. My heart goes out to Doug and Kristen as well, I admire their courage, strength and the ability to keep a positive outlook on life.
The second message is from an anonymous e-mailer who has a myriad of thoughts. Mostly, the e-mailer is talking about how Gloria's story has had a role in bringing childhood illness back into focus.
The e-mailer also has a passionate message for the healers -- the doctors and nurses -- who might sometimes get too wrapped up in long odds. It's a simple message: Never give up.
Gloria really is a face to childhood illness. The family gives the piece of how one person's illness impacts the entire family. Since the family unit is the basic societal structure, it illustrates how when one family is distressed, it truly has an impact on an entire community. Even the most hardened heart who only looks at actuarial tables and economic impacts finally realizes that the ripple effect has a long reach. Children's Hospital has helped so many sick children and their families, and continues right now to help little ones fight with dignity.
Even if you don't have religious viewpoints, we are all still social creatures and exist on this planet together and have to take care of each other. Compassion isn't the province of one religion, or one culture. It's part of being human.
As I read the recent update on Gloria's responsiveness, I smiled and said to my computer screen, "This kid rocks!"
Gloria's parents also continue to have my support and encouragement. They are not just letting external forces decide the fate of their child. They aren't passive, fatalistic, or detached from the process. They are part of the healing process. They are actively seeking medical care that they believe is appropriate and are making solid decisions. They are listening to Gloria. They are allowing Gloria's strength, and the strengths of her doctors and nurses to also have a role in her healing. They are giving her their unwavering faith as added strength, and are being pro-active themselves by their personal attitudes.
Finally, this is also a wake-up call to the medical community. Too often they look at just numbers, statistics, and the truly limited knowledge of what a life force and cells can do in a crisis.
Sometimes they just give up. They need a reminder, too, that patients and their families are dynamic forces and each one of us is a wild card of sorts. Sometimes their biases and prejudices stop them from even giving basic attention to the woman bleeding to death in the ER lobby (as what happened in L.A.). Sometimes they just don't bother with basic tests or diagnostics, because "oh, it's probably just...." All of those things have to stop. "First do no harm" means also the harm of apathy, or of not being open to other ways people might heal.
Just because many didn't make it, doesn't mean others can't. When Christopher Reeve was injured, he brought attention to the lack of medical care available for others, the lack of insurance coverage in a catastrophic injury, and also that nerve cells can heal. He showed by each milestone of progress, that the human body, if given time and care, can really do a lot to heal itself and we need more research into spinal injuries and the healing process.
Same holds true for stroke victims, and what we are learning now about early intervention and intense therapy to recover. Women and heart health issues. Autism. Birth defects.
And here now is Gloria. Rock on. :)
And, finally, we have Chris. He speaks very eloquently on how following Gloria has affected him as a father.
Jerry, I've had many thoughts run through my head as I've read your stories and on-line updates. This probably won't be the last time you'll hear from me. I'm a 35 year old father of two little girls, 7 and 10 years old. So obviously this story hit home because I immediately pictured how I would feel if it was my 10 year old girl lying on the hospital bed.
Gloria's story has elicited many reactions in me, one of which is a constant reminder of just how much I cherish my daughters. I read your on-line journal in constant anticipation, hoping and praying that Gloria would wake up from her coma so her dad (and her mom too, of course, but naturally I put myself in Doug's shoes) could hear her voice at least once more, hug her again, and to hear his little girl say, "I love you Daddy."
I was ecstatic when I read that Gloria had awoken enough that she had kissed Doug on the cheek. I've always cherished my time with my girls and every night when I go to their room to say goodnight to them I ask myself, "Did I make the most of my time with them today?" However, now I hug them a bit longer and tighter and give them two or three kisses instead of one.
Recently, we spent our annual "end-of-summer-day-at-the-fair". My daughters wanted to hold my hand as we walked around the midway. At the time it would have been more convenient to have my hands free to negotiate the crowd. However, I just thought to myself, "My little girls want to hold my hand. Right now, what could possibly be more important than that?"
Thanks Gloria for constantly reminding me of what really matters.
September 11, 7:27 PM
I spent the day working on the next “A Prayer for Gloria” story, which included a visit with Gloria’s mother, Kristen, at their Federal Way home.
Gloria’s condition remains the same. She’s stable, meaning she’s had so significant complications of late, but she’s still battling the pain of her cancer and the discomfort from being in a bed all the time.
One month ago today, Gloria was rushed to the hospital. The family realizes the incredible odds Gloria has overcome already.
Her heart stopping. The medically induced coma. The ventilator.
And then, the comeback.
It seems the Strausses have healed emotionally from the shock of all that has happened. For the most part, they are back in their familiar peaceful state of mind.
But there are still struggles. Kristen says she’s having a tough time dealing with being displaced from Gloria. She wants to see the children off to school and ensuring they are doing their homework, so she’s staying in Federal Way.
There are so many dilemmas. While they’re at school, should she go visit Gloria and come back in time to pick them up from school? If she does that, then the kids probably won’t get to see their sister that day because two hospital trips are just too taxing, both physically and on the bank account.
Should she always bring everyone to visit Gloria at night, after the kids have eaten and done their homework? That’s the usual strategy, but then the kids are tired and have trouble rising in the morning.
"It’s frustrating,” Kristen admits.
In the meantime, Gloria’s father, Doug, hasn’t been home in a month. He wants to be with his other children, too.
It’s a tough time, but the parents expected this, and they only allow themselves a few minutes of woe before refocusing. Like Gloria is doing with her rehabilitation, Doug and Kristen have learned to appreciate the little things, the precious moments they get with their kids, regardless of time.
I’m going to finish this entry with a letter from a reader. This being Sept. 11, the anonymous e-mailer’s thoughts are appropriate.
At the beginning, the reader refers, in italicized type, to yesterday’s e-mail from Chris.
"Did I make the most of my time with them today?" However, now I hug them a bit longer and tighter and give them two or three kisses instead of one.”
Gloria and the anniversary of 9/11 put so much into perspective for all of us. Gloria, you serve as a witness to so may as to how to walk with faith and dignity. My father passed away several years ago, and he was a witness of faith until the end. I pray we all take a moment to savor an extra hug or time with a loved one today and all our days to come.
September 12, 12:02 PM
Gloria and her family are growing more concerned with a few burdensome signs.
First, Gloria's breathing became more labored last night. She has a tumor in her rib cage that is putting pressure on her left lung, and the heavy breathing could be a sign of that tumor's presence.
Also, three new bumps have been found on Gloria's body. There's a small bump on her forehead, as well as on her back and armpit. At this stage in Gloria's cancer, doctors aren't testing every bump, but Gloria has been told those swollen areas could be tumors.
Gloria's parents, Doug and Kristen, decided to keep their children out of school today. They want to spend time with Gloria and keep her relaxed. Kristen and Gloria's oldest sister, Alissa, slept in Gloria's room last night while Doug took the rest of the kids to a nearby hotel.
"Today, we're focused on family and prayer," Doug said. "We want to make sure Gloria keeps her spirits up. She wants her family. She wants to pray. So that's what we're going to do."
Gloria, who has battled a childhood cancer called neuroblastoma for four years, has been at Children's Hospital & Regional Medical Center since Aug. 11. She was admitted after her pain increased dramatically. She suffered seizures and her heart stopped, but she was revived, put into a medically induced coma and attached to a ventilator.
Since then, Gloria has made a mini-comeback, coming out of the coma and being taken off the ventilator. But she's always known this could merely be a reprieve because the cancer is still growing in her body.
September 13, 8:49 PM
My fingernails are pink and sparkly as I type this journal entry.
Blame Gloria Strauss.
On Wednesday night, after a prayer session in her room, Gloria painted my nails with the assistance of Jennifer Vertetis, a family friend. At first, they were just going to paint one nail. Thirty minutes later, I looked like a little princess.
"I only ask one thing," Gloria said when she finished. "You have to wear them for at least a day. After that, all bets are off."
OK, but what if people make fun of me?
"If they do," Gloria said, "tell them you did it for me."
I did, and it worked. You could probably get away with anything if you end your explanation by saying, "I did it for Gloria."
So that should give you a good idea of how Gloria is doing. Despite all that she's going through, all the fears over possible new tumors, all her frustration of being unable to move, she remains Gloria. She's still getting much joy out of life and mixing in humor, sometimes at other's expense.
Over the past week, Gloria has gained a greater understanding how much her cancer has spread. At first, it frightened her. Now she's incredibly calm. And she's responded by returning to intense prayer.
The prayer session Wednesday night was pretty amazing. She sounded like a 40-year-old as she prayed not only for the healing of her body but for everyone who is suffering. At times, she sounded poetic, despite being hindered by heavy breathing.
Tom Curran, a Strauss family friend runs a Catholic ministry, often says of Gloria, "She teaches us all how to pray."
Today, when I visited Gloria, she was getting her hair washed. She was fatigued, but she was also trying to save her energy to pray tonight.
I showed her my nails, making good on the promise to keep on her paint for a day.
"I'm sorry," Gloria said.
No — thank you.September 15, 7:59 PM
Gloria's maternal grandparents, Pat and Vicki Trimberger, have arrived from South Bend, Ind.
It figures to be a very emotional and uplifting trip. Pat visited during the first week Gloria was admitted to the hospital. But Vicki couldn't come because she had just had knee replacement surgery.
Grandma Trimberger badly wanted to be here, but she's been limited to phone calls. Now, with Gloria out of her coma, off the ventilator and doing as well as possible, she has both sets of grandparents around for a while.
She loves her family and always seems to respond well when they are around.
I also wanted to pass along news that Diana McKune, a Seattle University student who I've referred to in this journal, is in the hospital. Diana has brain cancer, and she visited several times while Gloria was in intensive care. She even got out of her wheelchair to kneel and pray at Gloria's bedside.
Diana is one of many people who will appear in tomorrow's "A Prayer for Gloria" story.
Throughout this journey, I've met so many new and interesting folks, all with their own special stories. Diana is definitely among that group, and just last Friday, Steve Ringman and I were interviewing her for Part 9 of this series.
It's saddening — and maddening — how cancer lurks and attacks. It gives me an even greater sense of mission to keep telling Gloria's story.September 14, 3:53 PM
Part 9 of the "A Prayer for Gloria" series is scheduled to run in this Sunday's newspaper. It's about her living legacy, the lives she has touched and what she means to so many people.
There will be some interesting attachments to this story as well, including an unbelievable audio slideshow from photographer Steve Ringman that features Gloria praying.
I want to share a poem from one of Gloria's good friends, Hallie Holton. Hallie e-mailed me a few days ago with her touching tribute to Gloria. I read the poem to Gloria, and she smiled and said, "Wow."
Hallie is 12 years old. She met Gloria at the American Cancer Society's Camp Goodtimes, a camp for cancer survivors, their siblings and people still in treatment.
Like Gloria, Hallie has neuroblastoma.
"I went through the same stages as Gloria, including a 'coma' ÂÂÂÂÂÂ-- technically, I was only heavily sedated, but it's the same thing -- for 40 days and 40 nights," Hallie said. "I had a stem cell transplant, radiation and so forth.
"The Strauss family and Gloria mean a lot to me. More than words can describe. I love them all a lot. I may have only been to their house one time, but I'm so close to her because I know what she is going through. I understand."
Here is Hallie's poem.
A generous heart, a warm-the-room personality,
A smile that fills every room, a devotion to her family and friends like
No other person I know.
She's Gloria Strauss
And she's my best friend.
September 16, 12:13 PM
Today, in Part 9 of "A Prayer for Gloria" ("She teaches us all so much each day about life"), the main character is not really Gloria Strauss.
The main character is us.
All of us.
Throughout this story, Gloria is praying. She's praying for her own healing, but she's praying for whatever ails us — physically or mentally. Meanwhile, her admirers are providing testimony on what Gloria means to them.
I include five "monologues" about what Gloria means in this piece. They come from a friend, a nurse, a patient, a mother and a stranger. Those testimonials provide a glimpse of how many people Gloria has touched. If you look at all five, we go from someone Gloria's very close to (Taylor Freyberg) to a complete stranger (Cliff Wagner).
Amazingly, the monologues seem to get stronger, even though each new speaker knows Gloria less. I thought it, very subtly, gave the story some power.
Ultimately, what we're portraying here is Gloria's living legacy. Most of the time, you will read a piece like this after someone has passed. Gloria is still alive and fighting, but I felt like this community and all readers of this story had come to an understanding of what Gloria means to them. So it was an appropriate time to tell this story.
I got the idea from watching a lot of movies. Many times, in movies, they'll focus on one small portion of the main character's life, take you on a strong emotional journey and come to an epiphany. I call that epiphany "the ending before the ending." So that's what this is.
One quote has inspired this entire series. It's what Gloria's mother, Kristen, believes God told her days before Gloria was diagnosed with cancer.
"When I heal her, I will change the lives of many."
Through most of this series, we've focused on the "When I heal her" part. Is God coming? How strongly does the family believe in this healing miracle? What if they don't get it?
Over the past five weeks, since Gloria entered the hospital, it has become clear to me, as the writer, that the "I will change the lives of many" part has already occurred.
So this is kind of a self-correcting story. We were heading strongly in one direction, then stopped and realized there's a better route to where we're going.
There are a lot of ill people in this story, too. Taylor has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Diana McKune has brain cancer. Jill Douglas' baby girl, Alexis, has neuroblastoma. We have an alcoholic, Cliff Wagner. Jessica Morley survived neuroblastoma. And we included one of Gloria's nurses, Brooke James, a nurturer of the sick.
There was a reason for that. I'm trying to show the vicious cycle of illness, especially childhood disease. In the story, the Strausses are dealing with the start of school and the fact that life goes on. Unfortunately, illness goes on, too.
I really wanted to show that Gloria is a representative of all these people. In her prayers, this comes through quite well.
Her strength and unselfishness are on display more than ever. That is her legacy. That is why so many people have been taken by her.
My humble hope is that I did a good enough job capturing her essence. This was the hardest story of the nine to write, but it's also the most rewarding.September 17, 9:01 PM
Gloria is having an even tougher time breathing.
Her father, Doug Strauss, describes her breathing as "slow." She hasn't been talking much lately. She's sleeping a lot and saving what little energy she has.
The one good part is that Gloria hasn't complained much about pain. It's probably because she's resting so much, Doug said.
"Her breathing is slower, which was causes her to be a little sleepier, which almost acts as a sedative and a painkiller," Doug said.
Gloria, who suffers from a childhood cancer called neuroblastoma, has a tumor in her rib cage, which is putting pressure on her left lung.
Gloria's breathing is not dramatically different. There is an audio slideshow of Gloria praying on our Web site, and you can hear how she labors to breathe. She's just a level below how she sounds on that audio, but it's noticeable to her parents and the medical staff.
The Strausses continue to pray for a healing miracle while also preparing for the possibility that Gloria might leave them.
When they pray, they're seeking permission from God to pray for a healing, Kristen said. They ask God to talk to them through Gloria's body and guide them. Right now, they still don't feel like they've heard God say to let go.
"We're just praying for peace right now because her breathing is low," Doug said.
Overall, Doug sounded like he was in good spirits. The family is not seeing any alarming signs of discomfort from Gloria, so they're continuing to hold out hope.
September 18, 10:35 PM
I want to answer one question about Gloria that several readers have asked since the story came out Sunday.
They asked whether Gloria is still afraid to go to heaven, or if you want to put it another way, die.
In Part 8 of the series, she told her father she didn't want to go to heaven because, "I want my miracle. I want my family." In Part 9, Dad was telling her not to be afraid of heaven and explaining that he, too, wouldn't want to want to leave his family.
In the story, I kind of left it at that.
Since then, Gloria has come around, and I believe she's as peaceful about the possibility of dying as any 11-year-old could be. She prefers to pray for a healing miracle, of course, as does her family. They're still asking for Gloria to be healed, but as I've stated before, they're praying for God's will first.
Gloria is hanging in there right now. She's still fighting.
I've also received word that Diana McKune, the Seattle University student with brain cancer who was in Sunday's story, is back in the hospital. She was discharged last weekend but readmitted to Swedish Hospital today.
Some of the Strauss' friends have been helping her as best they can. Diana is different from Gloria. She's older, and she doesn't have a huge support system.
Everyone here who is thinking about and praying for Gloria should keep Diana in mind, too, as well as anyone who's suffering.
Gloria has always felt a little guilty of the attention she receives. She doesn't feel she's special. She's always puts others before herself.
As Gloria says in the latest audio slideshow posted on our site, "I know I'm not the only one sick, with a sick body. Some of us, our close friends, are sick, too."
If Gloria knows about Diana, she's probably praying for her right now.
September 19, 09:40 AM
I have an update from my last post.
While they prayed the rosary last night at Children's Hospital, the Strausses and their friends called Diana McKune, the Seattle University student wrestling with brain cancer.
Kelley Masterson, a Strauss family friend who's become close with Diana, was in Diana's room at Swedish Hospital. They all prayed via speaker phone, and it was a moving night.
So Gloria indeed wound up praying for Diana.
"It was like we extended our arms to her and prayed the rosary with her the whole time," said Gloria's father, Doug. "It was absolutely beautiful to pray the rosary with her and for her."September 19, 08:39 PM
For more than an hour today, Gloria's family and friends were preparing for the worst.
At about 1:30 p.m., Gloria became non-responsive, and shortly thereafter, friends and family rushed to pray at her bedside. Her breathing has become even more labored, and she has an oxygen mask covering her nose and mouth.
When her parents couldn't get Gloria to answer them, they calmly called everyone, and despite some tears, her room was quite peaceful.
It seems the Strausses and their friends are prepared for whatever happens. I was amazed at the poise in that room. Everyone was wondering what was happening. Was Gloria going into a coma? Was she about to die? What's going on? But no one panicked. The strength and focus of every person in that room was mesmerizing.
It turned out to be a false alarm. Gloria awoke nearly 90 minutes after she had stopped responding, complained that it was too hot in the room and asked for ice chips.
If people had fallen into a state of comfort over Gloria's improvement, they are back on edge now. The tumor near her left lung is attacking her. There seems to be no way out. The demand for prayer is even greater.
If my writing seems flat right now, it's because I'm in shock. Several hours have passed, but I'm still in shock. I'm having a hard time processing all that happened today.
I came to the hospital and was immediately hit with the news. Then all of Gloria's loved ones came rushing to be with her. Then, in a split-second, she awoke, saw everyone staring at her, gathered herself, and the world was right again.
Today just reminded me how important Gloria is to so many people and how barren life would seem without her.
In conclusion, I'm going to share a message from Kelley Masterson about last night's moving prayer session. Kelley was with Diana McKune last night when the Strausses called and prayed with her via speaker phone.
Kelley is a mutual friend of the Strausses' and Diana, and she helped arrange the prayer. In this message, Kelley will refer to Stephanie. She's talking about Stephanie Squires, a Seattle University student who's also friends with Diana and the Strausses.
Here's what Kelley wrote:
I wanted to share a special moment that I witnessed at Diana's bedside last night in the hospital. When I got there she was barely able to speak due to her weak state and because she is feeling so poorly. She basically would moan a little bit, we would lean in close by her mouth with our ear to listen to what little she could ask for, ice chips or a heat pack for her pain.
It had been arranged that we would receive a call from Gloria's room and put them on speaker on my cell so Diana, Stephanie and I could be together with them as they prayed. When Doug opened in prayer and spoke about the Agony in the garden, the first sorrowful mystery, and Christ anguishing at being alone, he likened this to Diana and how she has found herself in this place on her journey all too often.
It was almost 9:30, and Diana appeared to be sleeping since she hadn't spoken in almost an hour. When she heard her name and Doug's voice she raises up her voice with closed eyes, "I love you Gloria!" On our two-way speaker phone call, Gloria's room responds, "We love you too! We're praying for you!"
And so we joined hearts and it felt like one big room ... together in the unity of the Holy Spirit ... it was so special and comforting. At the end, Diana raises her voice again and says, "I'm praying for you Gloria!"
September 20, 02:43 PM
Today is Doug Strauss' 33rd birthday, and Gloria gave him a nice surprise early this morning.
She sang happy birthday to him. It took her a lot of time, but she finished the entire song. Afterward, she told her father, "I love you."
After Doug repeated those words to Gloria, she came back with, "I love you so much."
"It was the best birthday present she could give me," Doug said.September 21, 10:00 AM
Gloria Strauss, subject of The Seattle Times' "A prayer for Gloria" series, died this morning from complications of neuroblastoma.
Reporter Jerry Brewer and photographer Steve Ringman are with her family and will be sharing more about Gloria online today and in Saturday's newspaper.
Gloria's family posted the following statement this morning:
"After a 4 year battle with cancer, Gloria received her miracle this morning, passing into our Heavenly Father's hands. Gloria's courageous battle has inspired us to deeper faith and has taught to love, suffer, and most of all pray. Let her short life of 11 years be an example to each of us as we walk through the days of our lives.
"Gloria, you are a shining star, yes, a miracle for each of us."September 21, 06:16 PM
I'm in the middle of preparing the story I always dreaded, but I do want to pass along some more information about Gloria.
Here's what happened to Gloria this morning. At about 4 a.m., her father, Doug Strauss, called his wife, Kristen, who was sleeping at a nearby hotel. Gloria's breathing was labored, and she was in lots of pain, and Doug just needed his wife to be with him.
So Kristen came to the hospital, and they watched an old video of a family trip to Lourdes, France. It was one of the signature moments of Gloria's life.
At about 6:10 a.m., Doug and Kristen fell asleep. Forty minutes later, two nurses awoke them.
Gloria had stopped breathing.
After a brief attempt to revive her was unsuccessful, the parents decided to let her go.
I just finished an interview with Doug and Kristen about an hour ago. It was a cathartic time for them. The more we talked, the more they pondered Gloria's life and how much she had accomplished in 11 short years. It really wasn't an interview. I just let them talk, and the things they said about their daughter were amazing.
In Saturday's newspaper, you can experience this moment with them. My goal is to stay out of the way and just let them guide us through this story.
I hope to share more with you in this journal later tonight. Right now, I have a deadline to meet.
And over the next week, I'll continue to update this journal.
One final note: Funeral plans have yet to be finalized. When they are, I will post them on this journal. In all likelihood, those plans will be posted in Sunday's newspaper, too, along with another story I'm writing.
Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers.September 21, 10:45 PM
I have so much more to express about Gloria and this journey. But right now, I just can't do it.
Honestly, I want to go home and cry. I hope to cry. Since 8 a.m. this morning, when I discovered Gloria had died, I've focused on getting the job done. I wept briefly in my closet this morning, but after that, I turned grief into a sense of mission.
Now that the writing is over, it's important for me to expose my feelings.
You can't cover a story like this for seven months and not ache for the family. You can't get to know a child like Gloria and say, "Tough break, kid."
This isn't a story to me. This is my heart on paper. This has been an opportunity for me to redefine myself, as well as my journalism career. I'm very honored to tell a story this moving. I'm very humbled that, despite how difficult this became, the entire Strauss/Trimberger family and Gloria's entire support base continued to embrace the telling of this story. Check that: They spurred the telling of this story.
This journey has been more uplifting than depressing. The tears I will cry for Gloria are for joy, for gratitude and for the other children who suffer like she did.
Once again, thanks for all the thoughts and support. We'll talk more at length tomorrow.
September 22, 03:23 PM
Doug and Kristen Strauss are handling all the details of Gloria's funeral right now. I spoke with Doug shortly before he and his wife left to meet with some friends about those arrangements.
Everything is preliminary right now, but they're trying to plan three events for next week.
On Tuesday, they're thinking about having the viewing. They're thinking about having a rosary Wednesday. The funeral is expected to be Thursday at Kennedy High School in Burien, where Doug teaches and coaches boys basketball.
Plans could change today. When they are absolute, I will let you know. I also expect to put them in the Sunday newspaper.
Readers have asked about a fund for Gloria. Let me post that information again: You can contribute to the Gloria Strauss Benevolent Fund by going to any Washington Mutual Bank and saying you want to donate. You will be helped on the spot. Simple as that.
Readers have also asked about where to send cards and flowers. That's a question I will ask the family later today, and when I get that information, I'll be sure to pass it along.
My editors invited me to write a special reporter's journal for the Sunday paper, and it will appear tomorrow. The plan is for the journal to run in the Local News section.
I'm working on the piece right now. It's probably the hardest story I've ever written, mostly because I'm still searching for how I truly feel about it all. I think this piece will be therapeutic, however. I'm no longer able to hide from my own feelings.
I'll write more later this afternoon, after I've met a deadline. Perhaps by then the plans for next week will be set in stone, and I also have a special poem from Jessica Morley, a Strauss family friend, to share.September 22, 07:55 PM
Some of the plans for celebrating Gloria's life have been finalized.
The viewing of her body is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. Wednesday at the Kennedy High School chapel in Burien. There will be a rosary at 7:30 that night, and then the chapel will be open through the night, until 9 a.m. Thursday.
Everyone is invited. Gloria's parents, Doug and Kristen Strauss, want this to be a true celebration, and they want all the people who have been touched by Gloria to be able to pay their respects.
The funeral will be Thursday at Kennedy High, but the time is still to be determined.
Doug and Kristen would like to have a reception after the funeral. Gloria always said she wanted a party when she was healed. So they want to have a joyous reception to share memories of her life.
But they are having trouble securing a place that might fit a large crowd, and they don't want to turn people away.
Readers have been asking questions about what they can do to help. If anyone has any ideas on the reception, I will pass them along to the family.September 22, 05:56 PM
I want to share Jessica Morley’s poem with you now.
Jessica is a senior at Kennedy High School in Burien, where Gloria’s father teaches and coaches. She’s also a neuroblastoma survivor, and in the final chapters of the series, she had a strong presence.
Jessica said she wrote this poem on Wednesday night after leaving a prayer session in Gloria’s room. She said she was in total peace that night, and she has remained that way, even though she’s sad about losing Gloria.
I think this poem captures the entire spiritual journey. I'm posting it because it speaks for how a large portion of Gloria's supporters are handling the news.
Elevator to Heaven
We stand as one body united by love
In an elevator to Heaven.
Raise us, lift us
Beyond the understandable
To the perfection of Your will.
Permeate our souls with your grace and
Don’t pass us by.
We are here because we believe.
We are here because we see Your face
Reflected in her purity.
You are the Glory of her name,
The breath that brings her life.
Give her a new body,
A healing that extends beyond the
Grasp of the finite mind.
Help us to see you and to understand
In a new and clear way.
We listen as her spirit speaks
Words straight from the Father
The precious veil between Heaven and earth
Ever so thin.
Tears dance down my face
Unlike any I have ever cried.
Not tears of sadness,
But tears of perfect joy.
The peace is unbelievable.
It flows through my whole being and
Lights up my soul
Burning from within.
A smile rides up my face
Genuine and honest
How could it leave?
After all, I finally understand.
I’ve discovered the Truth.
Here in this moment
I know what it means to trust,
To let go and to surrender everything
To the one who is in control of the uncontrollable.
The full picture is hidden
And the reality larger than life
But there it stands,
Glittering and shimmering:
I have some updates about Gloria's services.
First of all, the funeral will begin at 10 a.m. Thursday at Kennedy High School in Burien.
The time for the viewing of her body is being pushed back to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Kennedy High chapel. There will be a rosary at 7 p.m. (moved up 30 minutes earlier), and then the chapel will be open for viewing through the night until 9 a.m. Thursday.
Gloria's parents, Doug and Kristen, also came to a conclusion early this morning about the reception. Doug said they've decided to keep it simple. They're going to have it at the Kennedy gymnasium.
Details for the reception are still being hashed out.
September 23, 11:45 AM
Gloria's parents, Doug and Kristen, will be on the radio at 11 a.m. Monday.
They will be on a show called "Sound Insight" on 1050 AM, a Catholic radio station. Tom Curran, their friend who runs a Catholic ministry, is the host. So it figures to be quite a therapeutic hour for Doug and Kristen.
The show has an encore airing at 9 p.m. Monday. It is also streamed over the Web. I'll provide the link for that later. During this time of grieving, Gloria's parents want to celebrate her life. They want to continue spreading word of what Gloria meant and enrich the community with her legacy.
I'm amazed at how committed and unselfish they remain despite this difficult time.September 24, 5:37 PM
Doug and Kristen Strauss have a message they would like to share with all readers of this journal.
Here are their words:
Thank you to everyone who has prayed for and been touched by our beautiful daughter, Gloria. Words cannot express how grateful we are for the love and support, which no doubt came as a result for the unselfishness and kindness and purity of Gloria’s spirit. Her 11 short years gave us a roadmap for a committed relationship with God through prayer, taught us the importance and power of community and showered blessings over all of our family, friends and anyone who simply knew the name Gloria Strauss.
We would like to extend an invitation to everyone this week. We really want anyone who has been touched by Gloria’s story to feel welcome to come to her funeral (10 a.m. Thursday at the Kennedy High School gymnasium in Burien) and to come to a special rosary (7 p.m. Wednesday at Kennedy High gym). If you can’t make it to those two events, Gloria is going to be beautifully laid in state at the Kennedy chapel, beginning at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday. She will remain there from 3:30 until about 6 p.m., then we will have the rosary, and afterward, she will be with us in the chapel for an all-night vigil until early Thursday morning. You are welcome to come at any hour – midnight, 2 a.m., 3 a.m., 5 a.m., whenever you can make it.
We invite all who want to mourn and celebrate, pray and ask for prayers. Gloria always wanted to have a party when she was healed, and we are going to honor those wishes by sending her to heaven on Cloud Nine.
It’s what she would want. Her heart extended to everyone, and so we now extend our hearts to everyone, too. Continue to spread the word. We will always glorify God through Gloria.
We look forward to having a glorious week celebrating Gloria’s life. It is a difficult time for our family, but honoring Gloria in an appropriate manner drives us. We will see you all later this week.
God bless you,
Doug and Kristen
September 25, 7:16 PM
Here are some important notes to help you if you’re planning to attend Gloria’s funeral at 10 a.m. Thursday:
--There will be no school that day, which should free up some parking. But it’s going to be tight. The Kennedy High School gymnasium has a capacity of about 2,200, but there are not enough parking spaces to accommodate everyone. School officials have come up with a solution for alternative parking.
A statement from the school: “Due to the expected number of attendees for Gloria Strauss’ funeral on Thursday, a free shuttle will run from 8:30 – 9:45 a.m. between St. Bernadette’s Catholic Church and Kennedy High School. Return transportation will begin immediately after the funeral. We are strongly requesting that you carpool due to extremely limited parking at Kennedy High School.”
St. Bernadette’s address is: 861 SW 126th St. , Seattle, WA.
It’s a short commute to the high school.
"We don’t have the capacity for parking without doing something creative,” Kennedy principal Mike Prato said. “If you’re planning on coming, please, please, please carpool. And please take advantage of the shuttle. We’ll make it as easy on you as possible.”
-- There has been an incredible number of people sending flowers. Kennedy has been both touched and overwhelmed by that outpouring of love. Now there’s a request that, in lieu of flowers, people donate to the Gloria Strauss Benevolent Fund. You can go to any Washington Mutual Bank, ask about the fund, and someone will be able to help you on the spot.
Let me explain what’s happening there. The Strausses have a strong desire to honor Gloria by helping others. New donations to that fund will go toward charity work in Gloria’s honor. Gloria’s parents, Doug and Kristen, want to help others in the way that people have helped them. Any contributions will help carry on Gloria’s legacy.
-- And, finally, on another note, I wanted to update those who have asked about Diana McKune, Gloria’s friend from Seattle University who is in the hospital because of brain cancer.
Diana is in a tough situation. She remains under care at Swedish Hospital, and her friends report that her white blood cell count is basically zero. She will likely need a bone marrow transplant.
Diana, who spent a part of her life in a foster home, hopes to be discharged so that she can go to Atlanta to live with her brother and his family and resume care. She’s most comfortable with the doctors there because they have a longer history treating her.
The problem becomes transporting her to Atlanta. She is too sick to fly commercial right now and needs a nurse’s assistance at all times.
Some of the Strass family’s friends are scrambling for solutions on how to get her to Atlanta to be with her family.
September 26, 4:12 PM
At a time like this, so many memories keep rushing into the mind, and the nostalgia is overtaking me right now.
I'm typing this entry from a Starbucks in Burien, where I had my first highly emotional interview with Gloria's father, Doug. It was April 19, the day before Gloria discovered she only had weeks to live.
Back then, Gloria was doing well, but Doug was worried something was bothering her. Later that night, he discovered Gloria was masking much of her pain. The next day, the Strauss family heard of news they long dreaded.
Neuroblastoma, the childhood cancer that killed Gloria, was in her liver, lymph nodes, bones and bone marrow. The tenor of this entire journey changed.
When I finish writing, I will take the two-minute drive from this coffee shop to Kennedy High School, where Gloria's viewing is set to begin at 3:30 p.m. today at the school's chapel. As a reminder, the viewing of her body is open to the public. You can see her from 3:30-6 p.m. Then there will be a break for a 7 p.m. rosary at Kennedy gym. Afterward, at about 9, the viewing will continue and carry on through the night.
I expect this day will be sad but uplifting, much like Gloria's entire battle with cancer. The Strausses have a mission to celebrate Gloria's life more than mourn her death. In the days leading up to her services, there have been plenty of touching moments.
The family spent many nights this week laughing and remembering Gloria while planning for her services. I visited Kennedy High, where Doug teaches, and St. Philomena Catholic School, where Gloria attended, this week. Both trips were quite touching, and the amazing thing is that, after spending a half-year reporting this story, after writing a whole series, I'm still discovering untold tales.
And I'm still witnessing new tales.
For instance, two Seahawks — defensive tackle Craig Terrill and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck — visited the Strausses on Tuesday, along with their wives.
Craig and Rachel, his wife, wrote this amazing song for Gloria entitled "Too Beautiful For This World." Craig played it live, and nearly everyone in attendance wept. The emotion in his voice was so strong.
Craig and Rachel Terrill knew Gloria. They went to Wisconsin with her last February as part of former Seahawk Grant Wistrom's Circle of Friends Winter Trip. Both shared memories of Gloria's playfulness and leadership abilities while in Wisconsin.
It was inspiring to see them verbalize how Gloria touched them in such a short amount of time. And afterward, as Matt and Sarah Hasselbeck visited with Gloria's parents, their son, Henry, played with the Strauss kids. It was a reminder of the innocence and resilience of youth.
Tuesday was quite a day. And next two days are certain to be full of even more of these moments.
September 27, 5:23 PM
What an incredible day. I just finished writing my story about Gloria's funeral. It was a sad yet deeply moving ceremony.
The part that struck me the most was watching Gloria's 5-year-old brother, Anthony, holding up a large photo of his sister during the opening procession. An estimated crowd of 2,000 showed up to mourn Gloria's death, but they also fought through the tears and celebrated her life.
Diana McKune, the Seattle University student and brain cancer patient who befriended Gloria, was able to make it to the funeral. McKune has been in the hospital for a few weeks, but she was released to say goodbye to a girl who inspires her.
Diana said she's planning to go to Atlanta tomorrow if all goes well. Her flight has been arranged. When she gets to Atlanta, she'll be admitted to another hospital and will face a possible bone marrow transplant. Her white blood cell count is still close to zero.
But she was energetic and excited to be around for the ceremony.
During the reception after the funeral, I was asked to speak briefly about my journey with Gloria. It was the greatest honor I have been given. I had prepared some remarks, but I closed my notebook and spoke from the heart — just like the Strausses did throughout the "A prayer for Gloria" series.
The crowd gave a standing ovation, but I hope they applauded the story more than the storyteller. The praise and well wishes were wonderful, but you can't tell a great story unless your subjects are great. This is journalism, not fiction. The material has to be profound in order for the story to be profound.
I just thank the Strausses for allowing our newspaper to walk with them during this battle with cancer. It was hard, but it was worthwhile for all of us.
I'll end this entry with a quote from Father Tom Vandenberg, the pastor of Federal Way's St. Vincent de Paul Parish. He gave the sermon today, and during it, he said this about how Gloria lived: "This is death with dignity. This is celebrating life to the end."
September 28, 01:19 PM
A few notes:
• This is my second-to-last journal entry. I will share a final one later in the day.
• Diana McKune, Gloria's friend with brain cancer from Seattle University, flew to Atlanta this morning with a nurse. She was scheduled to land at about 1 p.m. today. When she arrives, she will be admitted to a hospital, and she will likely need a bone marrow transplant.
Here's a message about Diana from a friend, Kelley Masterson: "This morning, after weeks of hoping and praying, she boarded her flight to Atlanta -- thank you Gloria! -- with her kitty on her lap, little 'Glow.' They are on their way to new beginnings, and I pray for better health."
• I have referred to Craig Terrill, the Seahawks defensive tackle, who performed his song about Gloria "Too Beautiful For This World" for the Strausses on Tuesday. He has recorded it. The song can be found here.
In our audio slideshow today, a portion of Terrill's live performance plays at the beginning.
• And finally, I want to provide information about a key fundraiser for childhood cancer.
The CieSam & Friends Childhood Cancer Foundation is holding its seventh annual casino night, dinner and live auction on Saturday. It's from 5 p.m. until midnight at the new Hilton Hotel in Bellevue (300 112th Ave SE). The tickets are $100. There are still seats available.
For more information, go to the website www.ciesam.org.
Neuroblastoma, the disease that killed Gloria, is this group's primary focus. The name CieSam is a combination of the names of two girls with neuroblastoma.
One of the girls, Cienna, is still fighting neuroblastoma. The other, Samantha, faced the same struggles as Gloria and lost her battle to the cancer four years ago.
September 28, 03:47 PM
I sent Steve Ringman an e-mail about his wonderful photography and production of today's audio slideshow, "A tribute to Gloria."
When he wrote back, he told me this: "I'm suffering today from Gloria letdown."
For nearly six months, we spent an incredible amount of time with Gloria and her family. We were always fascinated with the layers of this story, the many dimensions we had to reveal.
There were 12 stories in all -- a 10-part series, coverage of the funeral and a personal essay -- as well as countless journal entries. Still, there's so much riveting story left over.
But it's time for the family to heal in private. It's time for the rest of us to return to normalcy. Then again, the definition of "normal" might never be the same.
I keep expecting to hop in the car for my next trip to their Federal Way home. I keep expecting Gloria's father, Doug, to call and offer some new tidbit for the next story. I keep expecting Gloria's mother, Kristen, to call while transporting the kids in the family van.
Because the seven children needed their mother so much, Kristen had to do half of her interviews while driving. That was the only time the young boys would sit still. Somehow, despite the challenges, Kristen always managed to be so introspective while answering questions.
Today is more than a letdown. It's a void.
This is the final journal entry. The spirit of Gloria will remain with everyone, but it's time to close the door on her story.
Of course, I reserve the right to knock on that door in the future and tell more of the story. And sometimes, I will just knock just to say hello to Gloria's family.
We've talked about revisiting the Strausses several months from now to do a piece on how they're coping. I'm sure there will be lots of change in their lives, and considering the way they've handled the past week, I expect it to be positive.
For now, however, it's time to leave the family in peace.
I can't go without saying thank you. First of all, thank you to all the Strausses' friends and relatives, as well as readers of this story. I never felt uncomfortable doing this series because there was little backlash. People lifted me up and supported me, and they gave me the confidence to continue writing about Gloria's struggle with cancer.
But most important, thank you to the Strauss family -- Doug, Kristen, Alissa, Gloria, Maria, Joe, Anthony, Sam and Vincent -- for allowing us the access to tell this story.
It was not easy. The Strausses opened themselves up to criticism. They showed their vulnerability. But they never wavered while sharing their lives. Instead, when the journey became tougher, when Gloria's condition went into severe decline, their sense of mission grew.
There were times when I didn't know if I wanted to carry on with this story, and Kristen would keep saying how she felt it was her family's "calling" to have their story told. Whenever she said that, my job was simple: Keep sending the message. Don't worry about anything else. Keep sending the message.
Because of the strength of the Strausses' religious beliefs, "A prayer for Gloria" was a story predominantly about faith. There were many other dimensions to the tale -- family, love, strength, courage, hope, the innocence of youth and medicine -- but it always came back to faith.
If I had to do one thing differently, I would've found a way to subtly weave in more about the specifics of the vicious childhood disease that killed Gloria, neuroblastoma.
Dr. Julie Park, Gloria's oncologist, said that about 650 children are diagnosed with neuroblastoma each year. She joins many doctors in a mission to figure out this cancer and keep it from taking so many children.
Nothing tugs our hearts more than watching a child suffer. Gloria suffered, like so many other children. That's the brutal part about this disease: You are guaranteed to suffer. There's no dying easily from neuroblastoma.
As I move on, I'll always think of not only what Gloria went through, but of what others are going through. She helped put a face on this disease, but it's too easy for people to forget that face. I want her legacy to endure.
I'll never forget her. She gave me the best story I've ever told. And then she made me examine my own life and make some changes. I'm still in the process of those renovations. They're going to take awhile.
I'm grateful, so grateful. I hope that the passion we all have for her manifests itself in acts of benevolence.
In our first interview, Gloria was telling me about her struggles with school. She was in and out of school, and it bothered her that she had difficulty catching up. Math was especially tough for her. But after a few moments of worry, Gloria changed her tone.
"I may not be good at math," she said, "but other kids don't know neuroblastoma like I do."
That's a good sentiment to close this conversation. There are many things in life that we can't do, but if we use our hearts and focus on something that matters to us, we can have an impact.
It's all about using your heart. People are complimenting me for writing this series, but I didn't really write it. I felt it. Once I included my heart in this story, the way to tell it was quite clear.
Your brain will fail you, but your heart never will.
Think less. Feel more.
One more time: Thank you. This story will stay with me forever.
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.