An interview with Windle’s family
What was the timeline of Windle's cancer journey?
Tara (mother): Windle was diagnosed in October of 2011 with a Wilms tumor, stage 4. He relapsed 5 times. He died on May 17, 2015.
What was the hardest part of the journey?
Tara: It was heartbreaking to have believed we had a miracle after his fourth relapse and wanting to believe that the miracle would hold for years, only to have a mere five more months with him.
Michael (father): The hardest part was how to adjust to everyday life. You still have jobs, you have other kids, and you want normality, but that is not the reality. Others around you may give you so much margin, but it is hard to know how to give yourself the same margin and to know how to make simple decisions each day. The fear of regret looms large.
Martha (15-year-old sister): Believing in the Lord's goodness despite grief and suffering. Getting past my subconscious thought process that the Lord's goodness hinged on what I thought was right or what His sustaining love should look like.
What was the most unexpected part of the journey?
Tara: One of the hardest parts of his journey was when we had to make a decision of great magnitude—whether to do a stem cell transplant or not. The doctor could not really recommend it—as there was no evidence that it would work for his type of cancer—but there were no other treatments available. The same treatment has worked for many cancer patients with different cancers. The transplant itself could have been deadly or caused long-term serious side effects. We chose to not to do the stem cell transplant.
Michael: Everything—unless, God forbid, you had done this before.
Martha: How quickly it went past—at least for me. Four years sounds like it's an eternity until it's over. You would think everything would be so memorable, but at my age, time went by in such a blur.
How were you able to find hope during the process?
Tara: Jesus. We really dove into the promises of God—that through faith in Jesus, we are given eternal hope, salvation, and healing. He promised to never leave us or forsake us, to be near to the broken-hearted, to restore us. He has done all these things.
Martha: Jesus' love being displayed so much by the people around us, and His promises being spoken to us when we needed to hear them. Also, hope in Windle's salvation and the trust that no matter the outcome and how long we suffered, eternity was promised for us with him.
What encouragement do you give to families in a similar situation?
Tara: Surround yourself with people who say more than “Good luck, and we wish you well.” Surround yourself with people that will remind you that God is good—that we don't always understand Him or like what He does, but we can trust Him because He has proven He is trustworthy by allowing us to be called His children. Make sure you have people surrounding your whole family, especially siblings. Draw near to God in your anger, confusion, and grief. He can handle whatever you have to say to Him. But listen for what He says to you through the promises in His Word. Talk about what is going on with each family member, ask hard questions, and be a safe place to hear hard answers. Really dig deep to understand what God has promised.
Michael: Let others serve you. Lean into the help people are giving around you. Ask for help. Seek counsel. Spend every moment you can with your child; these are precious times.
Martha: Remind yourself constantly with the words of the Lord. Write them down, hang them up, and refresh yourself with them each morning. Sing of His goodness, and lean on it when the world's kindness and encouragement are not enough to sustain you.
What was your experience like when you attended the Sunrise Retreat in 2019?
Tara: Our youngest, James, who was three years old when Windle died, was eight when we went to Sunrise. At the chapel service, he really grieved Windle's death at a deeper level. It was painful to see his hurt and loss but also very needed, and Sunrise provided a place for that to happen.
We were almost five years out when we went, so for us it was an amazing blessing and encouragement. For one, to see that we were healing as we spoke with other parents that were closer to their child's death. We remembered being where they were and wondering if the intense pain would ever relent. It was also healing to offer that hope to others. And to walk into the familiar Lighthouse family, where we made so many precious memories with Windle, was really an experience of hope and joy—making new memories. It was a gift.
Miriam (19-year-old sister, and 2021 Lighthouse Summer Staff): My experience at Sunrise Retreat was restoring. Not only was it restoring through providing a beautiful place to rest, it was an open place to talk and feel and grieve. It brought my family’s lives to a pace where we connected with each other, enjoying being together and with people who simply wanted to love and listen to us.
To learn more about the Sunrise Retreat, our bereavement experience for former Lighthouse families who have lost a child to cancer, click here.
During the month of September, we will be sharing stories written by some of the families who will be attending our Sunrise Retreat this month. We hope you will join us in praying for these families who have endured unimaginable loss, that God will use the week away with their family and Lighthouse volunteers to bring healing and hope.
Our fundraising goal for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month is $30,000, because that’s what it takes to put on a Sunrise Retreat. From meals and gifts to Parent’s Night Out, sibling activities and nights of remembrance, every single dollar we receive in September is going to be invested into providing a restorative experience for families who have lost their child to cancer. When it comes to our growing Sunrise Retreat program, more funding means more families served. Whether you can give $1, $100 or $1,000, please join us in honoring the memories of the children we’ve lost by providing support for the families who will never forget them. Visit this page to learn more or donate.