All good things have to come to an end. My sister came out of her remission and this time the Leukemia was back with a vengeance. Becky and my parents decided to let the doctors try some experimental treatments because at this point it was the only option. Unfortunately, the treatments were usually more brutal than the actual disease and my sister suffered great pain in her fight for survival. My mother decided to find a better wig for Becky and called a radio talk show hosted by Mr. Blackwell, who was famous for his top ten Best/Worst dressed lists, where she learned about an excellent wig shop in Beverly Hills. The new wig was a great improvement but still looked like a wig, but as far as my sister was concerned, it made a world of difference.
But time was not on our side. The Leukemia had progressed to the point where the treatments were not helping. My sister started to get sores and bruises all over her body. When she wasn't in the hospital she usually had a cold and a pile of used Kleenex near her. I honestly don't have many specific memories about this time in my life because I was in a fog. It is all a hazy memory and not a place I like to dwell in because of all the heartbreak and sorrow involved. That is one of the many reasons it has taken me over 20 years to finish writing my book. This is not an easy process and I needed to make sure I wasn’t just writing a series of words and a storyline. Every word in this book has to be heartfelt even at a time when my heart was breaking.
We all tried desperately to do anything to make Becky’s’ life a little easier and happier. My Aunt Helen and Uncle Tom had a Chinese Pug named, Misty, and Misty had some puppies. They sneaked one of the puppies into Becky's hospital room and surprised her with her new pet. She named him, Pudgy. Pudgys' only purpose in life was to provide companionship and comfort for Becky and he went above and beyond the call of duty. He followed her everywhere and never left her side. He had big, bulging brown eyes, and a smashed up face that effected his breathing causing uncontrollable grunts and snorts, both annoying and funny.
My father was convinced that there was still a chance that God would save his little girl. His conviction and determination helped to motivate and inspire my brother and myself. One of the many rituals of the Mormon religion is the laying on of hands for the purpose of healing and asking God for his blessing. Mormons believe that through the power of God they can heal the sick. My father performed several blessings on my sister and prayed intently and emotionally for her recovery. I think these blessings were good for my sister because it was like a platform for getting God’s attention, a step above a prayer. Becky had touched just about everyone she came into contact with and their prayers were with her as well.
By now, Becky was in the hospital most of the time and sometimes needed a wheelchair to get around. She didn't wear her wig very often and still found humor in brushing the few tuffs of hair she had left. We would sneak Pudgy into the hospital whenever we could. It was fairly easy because my sister had charmed and won over the hearts of the staff at the hospital. Hospitals can be a very lonely and frightening place for a child to spend time in and the compassion and care the doctors and nurses showed Becky was greatly appreciated. Then my sister did something that was very simple but ended up being quite remarkable. My Aunt Marilyn, Aunt Helen and my mother asked Becky if she could have three wishes what would they be. Becky had three special wishes.
1) Go to Disneyland.
2) Meet Jerry Lewis.
3) Meet Carol Burnett.
We used to go to Disneyland as a family at least once a year and I used to get so worked up and excited about going to Disneyland that I would usually get a fever blister on my lip. Disneyland was an obvious choice, but what about Carol Burnett and Jerry Lewis. My sister had picked the three wishes I would have picked at the time. I was the one who loved Jerry Lewis and Carol Burnett. Becky would sometimes join me when I would secretly watch The Carol Burnett Show on Saturday nights but I could not understand why she would do this. I would watch Jerry Lewis and Carol Burnett as if I was studying for an exam. I wanted to do what they did for a living and I wanted to learn from the best.
As soon as word of Becky's three wishes got around, the wheels were in motion. Before long my mother had received dozens of ticket coupons for Disneyland from co-workers and friends. This was back in the days when you needed an "E" ticket to ride the Matterhorn. This is also before the emergence of the Give Kids the World and the Make a Wish Foundation, which grants wishes for terminally ill children. So my Aunt Marilyn made a few phone calls.
Jerry Lewis was not available at the time. That was okay though, because Jerry Lewis was heavily involved with the Muscular Dystrophy Association and it was completely understandable that he did not solicit our request. For me at least, it was the thought that counted. My sister was giving me a gift that would keep on giving for the rest of my life.
Carol Burnett on the other hand went above and beyond the call of duty. Her generosity and kindness brought so much joy to my sister and my family that there would be no way to ever repay her. She invited Becky to come visit her at the CBS studio where they produced her television show. My mother, Aunt Helen and Aunt Marilyn accompanied my sister to the studio. Carol Burnett gave Becky the grand tour of the studio and also gave Becky several momentous from her show. They all bumped into actor Buddy Ebsen in the elevator, who was a guest star that week, and he did an impromptu tap dance for Becky. Jean Stapleton who played Edith Bunker on the Television show, All in the Family was a guest on the show that week as well.
Carol Burnett and my sister developed a close and personal relationship over the next week. Carol Burnett even said hello to Becky on her TV show that week. Carol had a tradition of pulling her earlobe at the end of her show in memory of her own grandmother. At the end of the show Becky attended, Carol said she pulled her earlobe for my sister, which was a rare and sincere gesture. There was something very endearing and special about this whole situation. It was all so sudden and overwhelming that it somehow seemed surreal. There was a feeling of joy and hopefulness that overwhelmed my family and side tracked us from focusing on the painful reality of our situation. Carol Burnett was like an angel that came to rescue Becky, comfort her and prepare her for her journey from this life to the next.
Even though Becky was wheelchair bound and bedridden I still had not given up hope that she could get better, that there was still a glimmer of hope. Then one day while visiting Becky at the hospital I found a pamphlet for a funeral home in my dad's car. Right then and there was the very first time I knew that the end was near and inevitable. I remember getting the courage up to talk to my father about what was happening. We were walking down the hallway at the hospital when I asked my dad if he could, instead of asking God to help and heal my sister, ask God to end her suffering. He said he had just done that. He said he had just performed a Father’s prayer, which asks God to help make the death expedient and painless. For the first time we were not praying for Becky’s survival but for her death. By now I am sure that God knew exactly who I was. I needed answers and reasons and a sign. If God was not going to answer my prayers in person then I at least wanted a sign. Something that would make sense of everything that was going on in my, and my family’s life. My most loudest prayer was that if Becky was indeed going to die, then please, please make it as painless and pleasant as possible.
There had already been so much damage and destruction in all of our lives for the last couple years that if something wonderful, special and meaningful came about by Becky’s passing then my prayers would be answered and that would be sign enough for me. The timing of Becky and Carol Burnett meeting was already an answer to my prayers but of course I was greedy and in almost every prayer I made, I asked for a sign. Even when I perceived something to be a sign that I prayed for, it wasn’t enough. I needed to be assured that Becky’s passing would be painless and special.