Update: This morning I was blessed to spend a half hour with the sister of the woman I wrote about below two years ago. Dawn’s sister, the little girl she gave birth to (Kellie) and I had a meaningful FaceTime conversation about two hours ago. The sister had somehow found this blog and made contact to set up the call, here the day after Thanksgiving (how very appropriate). Through some misty eyes reliving old times, I got to tell Kellie about her Mother in ways no one ever had. My life is enriched because of this experience beyond my ability to accurately describe it. I won’t ever forget Dawn or the talk with her “baby” today. My, my how Kellie looks like her Mom!
This was originally posted on August 16, 2011: Her name was Dawn. Right out of college she began her first full-time job as a fledgling account rep where I worked. Although she was “green” as grass, two of the senior account executives took her under their wing and brought her along. She had talent, was well liked and was succeeding at her work when I took another job two thousand miles away. While we were friendly, we were never really close so it was no surprise we did not keep in touch after I moved away.
Fast forward ten years. Working one’s way up in my profession required a lot of moving around to advance. After three positions in three different states covering a decade I had advanced to a V.P./G.M. position I’d taken back in the same city where I had met Dawn originally. During the ten years I was away from Ohio she had married and moved away. Out of the blue one day I got a call from her telling me she was moving back to town, was looking for a job and wanted to know if we had anything open. We did and were glad to have her join our staff. My second association with Dawn lasted for around three years.
Never will I forget how joyful Dawn was when she learned she was going to have a child. She and her husband had encountered problems conceiving so Dawn, now in her mid 30’s, was elated to finally be expecting. No happier Mom-to-be have I ever encountered. About half way through the pregnancy she began having some health problems and testing began to find the source.
Clear in my memory is the optimism she maintained that somehow everything would be OK as she explained to me privately she had cancer. She told me her doctors said if she began chemotherapy very soon she had a good chance of recovery but would lose her baby. If she chose to go full term with the baby, treatment after birth might save her, but it was very risky and the odds were against her. I remember vividly her rubbing her several-month pregnant belly as she told me she was going to have her baby, no matter what.
Dawn gave birth to a healthy baby and worked up until a few weeks before delivery. She began chemotherapy treatment soon after. Although she came by the office to show off her baby a few times, she never returned to work. Each time we saw her she looked more ill than the time before. Well before the baby’s first birthday Dawn was gone.
Writing here now about something that happened 20 years ago still chokes me up. Plain and simple, she knew what she was doing and knew her chances were slim. She chose life for her child instead of life for herself. No greater sacrifice do I know of a Mother making. Clearly I recall hearing what a good father Dawn’s husband was to the child and then heard some years later he remarried. That’s all I know of the story except Dawn’s baby would be around 20 years old now. No child was ever more wanted or loved by a Mother.
Some of the greatest stories of courage and sacrifice are lived out quietly by ordinary, every day people. Books are not written about them nor movies made, but I am very thankful to know firsthand this account of Dawn Perry Gustin, one of the bravest people I have ever known.
©1996 Allison Chambers Coxsey
The sacrifice of love we give,
Takes less and yet gives more;
An everlasting hand of love,
The heart an open door.
The willingness to give of self,
To lay down your own life;
To touch another person’s heart,
In loving sacrifice.
A chance that God has given you,
To reach another soul;
Forever changed by kindness,
A life your love made whole.
For life is but a circle,
Each life part of the chain;
Each link is joined by sacrifice,
That causes man to change.
To turn and reach a hand of love,
To touch another’s life;
Will cause the circle to be whole,
In loving sacrifice.
It is not now much we do, but how much love we put into the doing. It is not how much we give, but how much love we put into the giving. Mother Teresa
much we give, but how much love we put into the giving. Mother Teresa