My sweet, Lukas, it is an honor being your Godmother and aunt. I loved you before I even met you. Your Nouno and I will always be here to support and guide you through life.
Getting to Know Lukas
It all started back in 2016. I kept asking (or maybe it was more like begging) my sister, Nicole, if she would have a second baby. I always said to her, “I call your next baby as my Godchild!”
Tears of happiness came on October 26, 2016. Nicole FaceTimed my husband, Andy, and I, since at the time we were living in the city. We would always FaceTime with Nicole’s first-born, Jakob, so I didn’t think this was out of the ordinary, nor did I expect to hear any exciting news. Nicole was in the car and put a picture of an ultrasound in front of the camera. My initial thought was, “Why is she showing me a picture of Jakob’s ultrasound?!” Finally, I put two and two together and realized we were going to have a new baby in the family! Nicole was too excited to wait and tell me in person that she was pregnant and due June 15, 2017! Andy and I were overwhelmed with happiness! I remember officially asking her to be this baby’s Godmother.
Boy or Girl? Of course, all you hope and pray for is a healthy baby. Even though gender didn’t matter to me, there’s something special about finding out if you’re having a niece or nephew. Nicole and her husband, Jeff found out the results and kept it a secret from our family for a good week. I was annoyed and desperate to know. Christmas morning rolls around and we were over at my parent’s house to exchange our gifts. As I was passing out everyone’s gift from under the tree, I saw something that instantly made me cry. There was a gift under the tree with the name “Lukas” written on it. Our family was so happy to welcome another sweet baby boy into the family. I have such a special bond with Jakob and was so excited to build that same kind of relationship with another nephew and Godson.
After months of helping my sister get through this pregnancy, we finally met our little Lukey. May 30, 2017 was a day filled with so much love, excitement and thankfulness. The love I felt for him as I held him for the first time is indescribable. Seeing my sister’s family grow from three to four was so beautiful. They finally looked complete.
I felt so blessed to be his Godmother. I am the person who gets to baptize him. I am the person who gets to rub the holy oil all over his body. I am the person tasked with his lifelong spiritual foundation.
There have been so many wonderful memories made together over the past 2 years. Lukas and I share so many inside jokes, special songs and silly games. We love being goofy together and we can always put a smile on each other’s faces. Lukas has this type of charisma and magnetic personality where he can make every person feel special and loved. His pure smile could light up a room. My heart melted when I saw how much Lukas loves my 3-month old daughter, Alexandra. His kind temperament with her truly shows how gentle his heart is.
Discovering Lukas was Sick
The greatest heartbreak I’ve ever experienced was on the morning of March 19, 2019. As I am feeding Alexandra, and babysitting Jakob, I received a call from my sister. Nicole was screaming and crying. She said, “it’s bad – Luke has leukemia.” My heart broke. My stomach was in knots. My legs became shaky. I felt broken.
My Godson, who isn’t even two years old, has leukemia. My sister was now the mother of a sick child. The goofy boy who I just held days ago had cancer and I didn’t even know it. When you genuinely care about a person, you feel their pain. I was scared. I was angry. I was hurting. I was struggling.
Between the paralyzing anxiety I was feeling, I realized that as Lukas’s Godmother, I had to be his religious advocate. As Nicole and Jeff were at the hospital processing their “new normal” and awaiting the results of the bone marrow biopsy to determine which type of leukemia consumed Lukas, someone had to step up to the plate and bring God into our situation.
Immediately, I called our church and requested our priest to give our Lukas a special blessing. Our wonderful priest at Holy Apostles Greek Orthodox Church came to Lukas’s hospital room at Lutheran General to bless him. Our priest presented Lukas with Holy Oil and prayed for healing and strength for him and our family. We felt so comforted by our priest’s presence. A few minutes after our priest left, we received the results that Lukas had ALL (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia) – the type of leukemia with a better prognosis and higher cure rate. The power of prayer is incredible.
Providing Value to a Family Affected by Cancer
Every time I saw Lukas in the hospital, I couldn’t keep it together. The more I fought my tears, the more I had to cry. Seeing the pain and discomfort that Lukas was experiencing is something that no baby, or person for that matter, should ever have to experience. The fears, sadness, and racing thoughts consumed my mind. I couldn’t escape the negative emotions.
Quickly, I realized that I needed to be more of an asset to my sister and her family, rather than an emotional wreck. My mindset had to change. I wanted to be the helper rather than the one who needed to be helped. My sister was the one that could be weak, not me. Her strength was greatly impacted by the people she was surrounded by. Since Lukas’s diagnosis, I have tried my very best to be a pillar of support to my sister’s family.
For those who would like to help families affected by cancer, I would offer the advice to be present, provide acts of service, and pray for them.
Not a day has gone by where I haven’t talked to Lukas or my sister. It’s so important to me to continue making new memories with Lukas to provide a sense of “normalcy” for him. Whenever he is down, Andy, Alexandra and I love to spend time with him to boost his spirits. Jakob has also been a priority to me. I never want him to forget how special and loved he is, as well.
Checking up on my sister has been part of my daily routine. Instead of offering my opinions and advice, I just listen. I let her vent or cry and I try to offer a positive mindset. It’s important for her to know that she could call me any time of the day and I’ll be there to help or listen.
Being present in someone’s life, especially during a hardship, is priceless. All it takes is a text, call, or a visit and a caring heart.
Acts of Services
During an emotional crisis like this, daily tasks can easily get disorganized, as their responsibilities and priorities shift. The routine tasks of cooking, cleaning and driving your children around become stressful and sometimes impossible to juggle. My sister knows that she can lean on my husband and I whenever she needs it. Jakob needs to a ride to school? Done. You need a babysitter? Done. Your family needs a homecooked meal? Done. You need your kitchen clean of germs? Done.
Simple tasks may make the world of a difference to a person’s psyche during a stressful period. Offering a small amount of your time and efforts can greatly relieve a lot of stress from the caretakers.
The Power of Prayer & Religion
Life can be so unfair. Why do bad things happen to good people, especially an innocent baby? I’ve pondered this question far too often over the last couple of months. I seek comfort in knowing that God has a plan. A plan far greater than we can even begin to comprehend. Perhaps God gives us a lesson like this as a reminder to come close to Him. To rely on Him. To trust Him. To desire Him. To need Him. To be forgiving like Him. To live life like Him. To put life in perspective.
Our Greek Orthodox church is a wonderful community filled with prayer-warriors and the means to Holiness. Saint Nectarios is the patron of cancer sufferers, better known as “The Wonderworker;” the Greek saint for healing. Saint Nectarios is known for many healing miracles of sick people. Asking Saint Nectarios to pray for Lukas throughout his treatment is so important. After days of desperate research and almost booking a ticket to Greece to retrieve Saint Nectarios’ Holy Oil, I was able to find a church with the relics of Saint Nectarios. This specific Greek church was kind enough to invite Lukas for a personal service for him to receive holy oil from the candle burning next to Saint Nectarios. About two weeks after this special blessing, Lukas was cancer-free. Although he has a long journey ahead of him to remain cancer-free, we give all the glory to God for allowing his treatment to be a success right from the start.
Every single day I pray for our little Lukey. I pray for strength, recovery and healing for Lukas. I pray that Nicole and Jeff have the strength to remain positive, calm and to feel God’s peace. I pray that Jakob always knows that he is loved and that he is very important to everyone. I pray that Jakob is fearless throughout this process. I pray that Jakob and Lukas’s relationship grows even deeper. I pray for happiness for their entire family.
My Greatest Wish
I cannot wait to hear the words “Lukas is cured!” We have a very long journey ahead, but I know “Lukas, the Warrior,” will come out undefeated. I truly believe Lukas is here for a reason. That dreamy sparkle in his eyes hasn’t dulled once throughout this process. His strength, bravery, and kindness will overcome cancer. His story will inspire others and he will do big things someday.
I love you so much, Luke-a-Duke! I will always be there to hold you, hug you, and comfort you. You are a special boy and you are loved by so many people. Thank you for choosing us to be your family. May God bless you, always and forever.
“Do not worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4: 6-7