Honored Kid

Karen Anne May

Karen Anne May Kid Photo


Harrisburg, PA, US



Date of Diagnosis

July 1958



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My Story

Karen was born in 1957 and died of cancer in 1959 at the age of 26 months. She was my parents' first child and she died before I was even born, but the mere knowledge of her existence has always impacted me (and even more so now that I have four of my own children).

My parents didn't speak much about her with us kids growing up - there ended up being four more of us - and I'm not even sure they did a lot between themselves. I'm sure Karen, their first child, brought them both the most joy of their lives and the most devastating thing a parent should never have to deal with.

After my dad passed away, Karen would come up in conversations with my mom once in a while. She told me that my dad's nickname for Karen was puppchen, or "little doll" in German. It was appropriate because Karen was both cute as a doll and since her growth slowed considerably as the cancer progressed. The German nickname was also significant since my mom fled East Germany during World War II, and eventually immigrated to the United States.

A picture of Karen was always prominently displayed in my parents' bedroom, and contained the poem below which I have always loved:

"I'll lend you for a little time a child of Mine," He said

"For you to love while she lives, and mourn for when she's dead.

It may be two or seven years or twenty-two or three.

But will you, till I call her back, take care of her for Me?

She'll bring her charm to gladden you, and should her stay be brief,

You'll have her lovely memories as solace for your grief.

I cannot promise she will stay, since all from earth return,

But there are lessons taught down there I want this child to learn.

I've looked this wide world over in My search for teachers true,

And from the throngs that crowd life's lanes, I have selected you.

Now will you give her all your love, nor think the labor vain,

Nor hate Me when I come to call to take her back again?"

I fancied that I heard them say, "Dear Lord, Thy will be done,

For all the joy Thy child shall bring, the risk of grief we'll run.

We'll shelter her with tenderness, we'll love her while we may,

And for the happiness we've known, forever grateful stay.

But should the angels call for her much sooner than we've planned,

We'll brave the bitter grief that comes and try to understand."


The Childhood Cancer Ripple Effect

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