Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending the Celebration of Life service for Mary Elizabeth Paris – a young 12 year old girl who lost her bravely fought battle with AML (Acute Myeloid Leukemia) last week. While this is not a service that I ever wanted to attend, nor should have had to attend, I feel honored to have been able to be there in person and witness amazing grace happening right before my eyes. Yes, it is true that Mary Elizabeth WAS the miracle – as her grandfather said. Yes, it is true that her courage and strength and faith has inspired tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of people around the globe. Yes, it is true that she is, and always will be, loved beyond words.
What is also true, though, is that I witnessed an unspoken strength yesterday that was equally as inspiring. Mary Elizabeth’s father stood up in front of thousands of people and spoke about his beautiful girl and the amazing impact that she had on this world. Amazing Grace. He spoke of her from the heart of a daddy who loved his little girl more than life itself. Amazing Grace. He spoke of her courage and strength in the midst of fighting the most horrific and terrifying battle. Amazing Grace. He spoke of her kindness and heart for those less fortunate. Amazing Grace. He spoke of her love for her family and for God. Amazing Grace. He spoke of his beautiful and strong wife, Mandi, and how it was through her words that Mary Elizabeth’s story changed the lives of people around the world. Amazing Grace. He spoke of the courage of his other two children for staying strong while their worlds were torn apart because they couldn’t be with Steve or Mandi or Mary Elizabeth for almost a year and a half. Amazing Grace. He spoke of the amazing support they had from their family who stayed by their side through it all. Amazing Grace.
The strength that Steve Paris had yesterday when sharing his beautiful daughter and his amazing family with the world is something that was awe-inspiring. He left me feeling thankful that I know him, grateful to live 2 doors down from him, comforted in knowing that we will see Mary Elizabeth again, encouraged to hold my family close and inspired to do whatever I can to help find a CURE for Childhood Cancer.
When it is all said and done, the truth is that while, yes, Mary Elizabeth IS the miracle, the Paris family – in its’ entirety – is the complete miracle. And I will forever be thankful to know them.