Have you ever known someone who's seemingly had a black cloud over them - or bad luck just follows them no matter where they go? If you didn't know better, you could have said that about the Pavlats (Jack, Barbara and Suzanne). Within about a month their lives were completely turned around and not in a way that anyone would wish on their worst enemy. What happened to them in that short period of time would have turned lesser mortals into pessimistic, bitter and angry people. But not them! They tackled the problems at hand with their usual positive attitude and the usual question - "Ok so what can we do about it now?".
Within that short period of time, Jack had been in the hospital having surgery for colon cancer (in fact, he was in the hospital when they told him that his daughter, Suzanne, had been diagnosed with neuroblastoma), Suzanne was diagnosed, and then Barbara was also diagnosed with cancer. How much more can the odds be stacked against one family?
I met this family in a way that only the Universe can orchestrate and I will be forever grateful. Suzanne became the Wind Beneath My Wings and is my inspiration for everything I do (especially the non-profit organization I want to develop). Every time I saw them they were filled with gratitude and the smiles across all their faces were the broadest smiles you could ever imagine. How they did it, I never knew. Because it always seemed as if the odds were against them. But they never let that show. They always maintained the positive "it could be worse" or "it's going to get better" attitude that you only see (and know is sincere) in people you consider Saints. And I have to tell you that I think that these three people qualify for saint hood in my opinion.
I was fortunate enough to get to visit St Jude Children's Research Hospital during a weekend when the country DJs from all around the country were there for their annual workshop. So I got to see everything they did. I can't tell you how grateful I am for that. And Jack, Barbara and Suzanne were there because they were part of the panel of patients/families that talked with the DJs. So I got to see inside the Target House there too. That is where I fell in love with elephants (I was told they were the international symbol of friendship but I'm not sure that's correct - I do know they have a complex social structure) because there are wonderful statues of elephants outside the house.
After Suzanne's passing Jack and Barbara continued to be avid supporters of St Jude - they didn't just fall off the face of the earth in their grief - they expressed their immense gratitude by recording their story for St Jude to use in their radiothons, they volunteered at the hospital and the Target House. They were all over, supporting St Jude in memory of Suzanne. They gave back in gratitude just as I encourage all of you to do every day no matter what is going on in your life.
If Jack and Barbara can remain positive after finding out that their precious little girl had a deadly disease and then had relapses just when they thought she was on the verge of a remission (not just once but twice), you can remain positive at least for today, don't you think. I know that I try to remember what they went through every time things don't seem to go my way or get overwhelming.
To continue with faith and hope in the face of immense adversity and tragedy is the mark of a true hero in my book. And Jack and Barbara fit that bill completely. I honor and respect their resilience and hope that I can garner a tiny bit of their phenomenal qualities.
Thank you for being in my life, Jack and Barbara. You are a great inspiration to me.