Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Eulogy for Aimee Dickey
Aimee L. Dickey, 12, of Scranton , died Friday at Hospice Community Care, Dunmore, after a courageous battle with inoperable brainstem glioma.
Born July 22, 1996 , in Kingston , daughter of Annette Nardelli McKeon, Scranton , and Thomas Dickey, El Mirage , Arizona , she was a seventh-grade student at West Scranton Middle School and a member of Centermoreland United Methodist Church .
Aimee was a special and loving daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece and friend who enjoyed cheerleading, go-kart racing and arts and crafts. She had a special love for her animals. She will be sadly missed by her loving family and friends.
Also surviving are two brothers, Robert McKeon II and wife, Jessica, Pittston; and Travis Dickey and wife, Jennifer, Iowa; three sisters, Jennifer McKeon, Pittston; Jessica Dickey, Louisiana; Sara Seabolt and husband, Eric, Iowa; her maternal grandfather and step-grandmother: Anthony and Rita Nardelli, Scranton; her paternal grandparents, Ken and Shirley Dickey, Arizona; aunts and uncles, Theresa Harrity and husband, Roy, Scranton; Michael Nardelli and wife, Diane, Scranton; Steven Nardelli, New York; Kenlyn Winters and husband, Jerry, Arizona; and Timothy Dickey and wife, Shannon, South Dakota; nieces, nephews and cousins.
She was also preceded in death by her maternal grandmother, Madelyn Nardelli.
Amy liked to flip me off. She found it endlessly amusing, and once she found out that I was not offended by it, she did it a lot. Her mom would be a little offended, but when she would see that I wasn't, she was more OK with it, though I think it still troubled her.
She was a twelve year old girl, and she could very well have had about her the image issues that most twelve year olds, girls and boys, have. I'm sure there were kids at her school that said that she looked weird. She couldn't speak well, which many kids might have found frightening, and they may have covered that fright with insults. I never did hear Aimee talk about that pain, and she was bold as brass about not hiding herself, no matter how she looked, or felt, or whether her trach tube was in or not. She was bold, in a way which in this valley's isn't perhaps accepted, but wonderful nonetheless.
I never knew Aimee when she didn't have cancer. When I first met her, at Dottie Kupstas' house in the spring of 2008, she was already having trouble walking, and her speech was slurred. I never heard Aimee's normal voice. She was diagnosed with her glioma at the end of September 2007, and they had moved back from Arizona in February. I never knew Aimee when she didn't have cancer, but if she didn't fall ill, it is also pretty true that I wouldn't have known her or her family at all.
When a child becomes ill, the questions we all have about death rise up in our throats like shouts, rather than the whispers we normally hear at the death of one who has lived a long time. We want to know why; we want God to explain to us, in great detail, why a child has to suffer. Some of us may even blame God for what happened to Aimee. We may say, in order to make ourselves better, that God needed her back in heaven.
I believe that God is never short of grace, never short of an angel. Giving children cancer is not the work of the Lord. The God who created us, who called us good, and has loved us even when we are not good, is not in the business of causing pain and suffering to his people, and especially not to his children. Aimee's suffering is not the work of the Lord. The Work of the Lord is his constant presence in our lives, though good and bad; through pain, though joy, though life and certainly through illness. His work is in keeping his spark lit within us, until the time when it is clear that it is time to relieve our suffering. Then, like a campfire, God draws the spark back toward himself, and takes it back and makes it part of himself again. Aimee, or the spark that we know as Aimee, is now once again within and a part of God.
For almost all of those who have had near-death experiences, one thing that is in common for most of the stories they have told is that there is a light that shines forth, a warming, comforting, welcoming light. Aimee told Annette, just not too long ago, that she is in that light all the time, and that she was just not ready to walk into it yet. She was just not ready to trade perishability for imperishability. There were things she wanted to do- she wanted to go to school, she wanted to be confirmed, and she wanted go to Harrisburg with Kevin (this is Kevin Murphy, who had just been elected her local Pa State Representative) to speak on behalf of childhood cancer sufferers, and increase the visibility of this group of children. But the time finally came a week and three hours ago, and she has now joined what we, left behind on earth, call the church triumphant. She has gone to a place where her pain is over, her swollen face has returned to its original shape, and her eyes have regained that mischievous glint. The relationships that she had here on earth are now placed in their best light, and she is able to love everyone without reservation, no matter how troubled, mean, abusive or neglectful they may be here on earth. What she sees best, out the window of that dwelling place that God has built just for her, are the sparks that God has placed within each of us, those tiny flames that are his own spirit that resides in everyone's heart.
She was sure, in a way which is specific only to those who are twelve, that there was a God, and that God loved her. She had experienced his love, she had seen his light, and she had about her, even in the midst of the pain, and the embarrassment, and the sheer boredom and frustration she felt at not being able to drive a go kart, or to cheer, or even in the end to speak without signing, the certainly of knowing where she was going next. Let us be assured by her certainty. Let us know, as she did, what's next when our spark is drawn back to the home fire.