Naomi Williams is living on hugs and hope. Join her.

Jack and Chrissy

When you see my cousin Chrissy and her boyfriend, Jack, you think they’ve been ripped right out of an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog. They’re both tall, athletic, lean, tanned and, let’s get right down to it, beautiful. Then you spend five minutes talking to them and you realize their insides match their outsides: Beautiful. It’s lovely how these two found each other, started dating in college and are now both making a go of it as teachers and high school coaches in New York.

Jack’s sister, Naomi, is equally beautiful. She’s 29 and married with a 2-and-a half-year-old boy named Jake. She owns a successful photography studio in Jacksonville, Fla., and looks like she should be in front of the lens, not just behind it. A charmed life, no?


Because a few months ago she bent over to put a plug in an electrical socket and heard a “pop,” which led to an MRI to confirm a compound fracture in her spine, which led to surgery being scheduled, which led to pre-op testing that found cancer. A lot of cancer. Stage 4 metastatic melanoma that had already spread to her lungs, bones and pelvis. (Forgive the horrendous TV reference I’m about to throw out here, but if anyone still watches “Grey’s Anatomy,” Naomi’s got what Izzy Stevens was diagnosed with this past season.)

Naomi and Jack

Before I had kids, I was not afraid of dying. Part faith and part denial, perhaps, but I just never worried about it. But now. Now I can’t bear the thought. I have two tiny, innocent little boys whose lives are dependent upon mine. OK, I suppose that’s not literally true. I know if, God forbid, something happened to me, loved ones would step in and surround those two boys with such tender loving care that they might never feel a minute of loneliness. But it wouldn’t be my tender loving care. They wouldn’t know my love.

They wouldn’t know me.

That’s what gets me every time a plight like Naomi’s crosses my radar screen -- that my boys are so young right now (... just like Jake ...), if I were whisked away to heaven tomorrow would they remember me? Would Kostyn’s memory of his mama eventually fade to nothing? Would he somehow retain the words to the silly songs only he and I sing? Would he ever see a mole on someone’s face and think about how he used to gingerly touch the tiny one on his mother’s face, just below her lower lip, and say “Mama mole”? Would Evan have any recollection of my voice, my scent? Would either of them hear one of the songs we dance to a lot and be able to conjure up my image in their minds? Would they feel a pang of something missing in their hearts?

Or not?

I know it’s an incredibly selfish place to wallow, but there it is. The thought that crushes my soul. And when I think about Jake and Naomi, my heart aches for them in a way I couldn’t have truly felt two years ago.

Naomi and Jake

Chrissy told me tonight that after a successful benefit last weekend for Naomi, which she was feeling well enough to attend, things suddenly have gone downhill. She’s in the hospital battling even larger, painful lesions on her pelvis and spine. The cancer is overtaking her lungs and is showing up on her liver now, too.

All I can do is cry and pray for this woman I’ve never met, and for her child I’ve taken in as my own in my heart.

I’m relaying all of this not to depress you, but to ask for a call to action.

If you are a person of faith, this family could use the prayers.

If you are a person of means, they could use the donation.

And at the risk of sounding trite, if you are a parent, your children could use more hugs. Like, now. Even if they’re tucked up in bed. Even if they just threw a screaming fit and are in Time Out. Even if you just hugged them 5 minutes ago. Hug them for Naomi, hug them for Jake, and hug them for every other family whose happily ever after gets suddenly called into question.

For me, this tragedy is a reminder to give my kids every drop of tender loving care I’ve got, every day, knowing that God will supply more for me tomorrow. I don’t want to squander any of it, or save it up for later. I want to give them so much today that they have no option but to savor such a priceless bounty — their own mother’s love — in their little hearts, forever. No matter what tomorrow brings.

To read more about Naomi and her plight (she was also featured on ABC News) check out the Pictures of Hope Web site.


Dee said...

OK Robyn, you have done it again...all I can say is WOW and Thank you. You are so gifted, thanks for sharing and spreading the word.

Dee said...


Anonymous said...

I am another Robyn and you don't know me but I grew up with Naomi and her battle hit me in a very similar way. Thank you for putting my feelings into words. Her passing has hit me really hard and I feel for her family who I know were VERY close. Since I heard the news I have cherished every moment with my one year old son...