I Marilyn Hawkins was born and raised in the small town of Wayland, Michigan in the home where I lived out my childhood. My parents Harold and Willo Calkins were farmers so I grew up doing chores for my Father and helping my Mother with housework, cooking, canning and freezing meats, veg and fruits. I feel helping out around the home and farm gave me the strong work ethics I’ve had in my adult life.
I fell in love at seventeen and a year later married David L Smith on June 23 – 1962 a month after I graduated from High School. We had three children. Our first child a daughter Lori Ann was born April 25 – 1963. Our second daughter Dawn Marie which my book is about was born two years later right to the day on April 25 – 1965. We felt or family would be complete if we had a son. After suffering a miscarriage in 1968 I gave birth to our son July 27 – 1969. This was a special day in my family for it was my Fathers birthday. We named our son David L Smith Jr after his Father. Because Dave (name my husband went by) did not want to call our son David we decided together to nickname him DJ. He has continued to use his nickname throughout his adult life.
For the first 12 years of our marriage we had a low-key life style raising our family. Our girls became involved in Girl Scouts so I became a leader. As a family we became involved in the Wayland United Methodist church were Dave and I were Married and I also attended in the years living with my parents. Life was good during those years and we stayed busy with our church and extended family of which there is many because I was one of seven children for my parents.
Our life changed drastically in March of 1975 when Dawn at nine and half years was diagnosed with A cancerous brain tumor. Our happy low-key family life was turned upside down. And by October of that year I had to take on a full-time job as a grocery store cashier to help make ends meet. The next seven and a half years was devastating because there was so much to deal with. Because Dawn’s tumor was cancer she had the maximum amount of radiation her body was allowed. She also had a shunt to drain excess fluid from the brain and after three years of working well it got infected and it was all down hill from there. Also about that same time damage from the radiation started showing up.
Because Dawn started having so many problems I started a note book because I wanted to track the radiation damage and log the severe changes that was happening to her. I felt by keeping a note book it might help someone else someday to know what radiation does to a body. It was also helpful for me to write down my feelings. In May of 1982 Dawn fell of our porch railing. This led to more tests for which a mass was found on the brain. Surgery was done and a cancerous tumor was found that left her paralyzed on one side. This time the doctor gave us the news that she could not be helped and we had to let her go. He said there was no treatment out there that would treat the cancer. It was a shock to Dave and I to hear the news but knew we had to except it in order to help Dawn for her remaining time.
In July of 1982 the tumor robed Dawn of her speech. I had to learn to communicate with her through eye contact. I was constantly looking into her blue eyes to figure out what was going on in her head. Because there was so many times that she was sad with tears I remember her eyes being shiny. On August 13th while in the hospital she went into a coma. I’ve never liked any Friday the 13th since then because I’m reminded of that day. She passed away a week later on August 20th. Because of my grief of loosing Dawn I had a hard time dealing with my family and job.
The Pastor at my church encouraged me to go on a mission trip to Haiti that the church was sponsoring thinking that would help in my healing. It was on that trip that I met a couple that encouraged me to take my note book and write my story about the past years dealing with Dawn’s cancer, radiation damage and death. I did not think I could do it telling them that there was no notes for the first three years. They reassured me with God’s help those years would come back to me. I was so inspired by them that soon after coming home I prayed for God’s help and stated writing my manuscript by long hand in a large note book.
I wanted to write my book because while I was going through my ordeal with Dawn’s health problems I looked for books to help me cope. The book I found was written by a Rabbi about his son’s aging decease. The name of the book was ” Why Bad Things Happen To Good People”. It brought me much comfort because he asked the same question I did. ” why was this happening to my son?” he asked. I kept asking “why my daughter” After reading his book I thought to myself if a Rabbi can question his faith then maybe my questions about God and my faith should not be so surprising. I thought about that and decided I wanted to help other people by writing my story to tell let them know I worked through all those years of difficult times because of my faith in God. I needed help so now I want to help others.
I feel my book is different because I pour out all the stuff that goes through a person’s mind when under stress dealing with a child’s life threatening illness, home, work, husband, and two other children. It’s a lot to juggle even if the illness was not so serious. It’s also a book about dealing with your faith at a time it is being tested. This book will take the reader on the journey with Dawn and her family and show how dealing with her cancer effects her family, doctors and everyone else that was close to her. It will also show how faith in God can become stronger even when being tested in the worst circumstances.
The message I want people to learn from reading my book is that life will always have bumps in the road. God did not promise us a care free life but he did say if we believe in him he will help us through life’s problems. We just have to have faith and he will help us through when bad things happen. The reader will learn from reading my book that I went through so much heart ache during those seven and half years and my faith was tested but keeping faith got me through. I believe that God works through the people he puts in our life and they help bring the physical love and comfort we need. My book is not just about the painful stuff but the comfort family, church and friends gave us. This book even thou sad can bring comfort to anyone that is questioning their faith because of going through serious problems themselves or with a family member.
I want this book to end up in the hands of people that are looking for help and wanting to know how having faith in God will help them get through their dark days. My heart goes out to anyone that has to watch a love one fade slowly out of there life like Dawn did me. God will bring sunshine back in our life even after the darkest days if we trust in him.