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Story Archives: In Memory of Hallie Beth Gravelle
|In Memory of Hallie Beth Gravelle|
As remembered by her mother, Beth Ann Gravelle
Hallie Beth Gravelle was born on February 9, 2002, and died at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital on November 11, 2007, after her battle with neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer. She was the daughter of Joe and Beth Ann Gravelle and the little sister to Harrison Gravelle.
I have been thinking about how this year's Relay for Life will be much different. The past few years have been about lacing up Hallie's tennis shoes for the heart-tugging survivor walk around the track and a bundle of one dollar bills for warm hot dogs, chances to break the piņata, and best of all, face painting. I can just see Hallie standing so eagerly in front of the crowd in her much-too-big Relay for Life t-shirt, waiting as they called out the youngest survivor award. For three years, they placed that shiny gold medal with the red, white and blue ribbon around her little neck, and it almost seemed as if she really understood its full meaning. Her Dad and I understood it and silently thanked God for that very moment.
Hallie was diagnosed with cancer two weeks after her first birthday, and that marked the beginning of a long journey that we, family and friends, would make together. Joe and I made a lot of decisions over the course of Hallie's illness, but they were always based on two things: quality of life for both Harrison and Hallie and God's guidance. We started each day with this, and from there Joe and I and St. Jude set out to heal Hallie. Looking back, Joe and I both are comforted knowing that we did all we could to keep life as normal as possible. We smile every time we talk about how Harrison and Hallie couldn't wait for the next trip to St. Jude, as if it were a vacation of some sort. Joe and I would be loading the car in complete silence -- our minds occupied and worried -- and the two of them would be running back and forth from the house to the car loading Nintendos, stuffed animals, food and art sets. It's here that you see life through a child's eyes and there is peace in that.
Throughout the years, Hallie had unbelievable amounts of chemotherapy, radiation and multiple surgeries. We even tried experimental oral chemotherapy when the large bags of IV chemo became too much for her. This allowed us to live back in Winnsboro after long stays in Memphis.
In between all this, Hallie was just a little girl living and loving life. All this cancer stuff was just something she had to do so she could get on with the good stuff. She loved coloring and cutting like no child I have ever seen. She spent countless hours on our living room floor doing just that. And swinging, it was something she truly loved and her enjoyment could outlast anyone's arms. Hallie never really saw how her life was any different from anyone else's life. She had a Hickman line (tube) that exited her chest for getting chemo, blood and things like that. We cleaned and bandaged it daily and she did fuss some that she wished she didn't have a "line." She and I made up a song once that went, "this little line of mine, we clean it with betadine..." I had to remind her of the correct version when it came time for Vacation Bible School. Summers were hard because it was an absolute NO to swimming with a Hickman line due to infection, so she made the most of splashing others with her feet.
Hallie went to preschool at Temple Baptist Church and began her kindergarten year at Franklin Academy. She loved all the friends she made and both schools had swings. Hallie was a member of the First United Methodist Church in Winnsboro and she attended Sunday School and the morning worship services every chance she got. She also enjoyed Mission Friends at the First Baptist Church. She took dancing with Miss Tommie and almost missed the recital last May because she needed treatment, but St. Jude got her back the day of the recital and it was breathtaking for all of us. It was time for swimming again and Hallie had missed out on swimming pools and lake fun at our camp on Lake Bruin her entire life. We asked Dr. Furman, Hallie's doctor at St. Jude, if we could have her line removed since her latest treatment was being given orally. He agreed, because he, like us, couldn't know how many more summers there would be. We immediately signed up for swimming lessons and you could see pure joy on her face. She was a natural. I think when you have wanted something for so long, that can happen. Life without that line was so cool. Splashing all she wanted in the tub was now fine, and no one minded cleaning up the water. I don't know how many times she jumped off diving boards and the side of the pier yelling, "cannonball!" Life was just really simple and really sweet. Just like Hallie.
The only thing she hadn't tried was tee-ball, and she wanted that too. We loaded up with chairs, cameras and sunscreen, then Joe, Harrison, me, and lots of others cheered her on. One day she hit the ball and started for first base. She had a noticeable limp. There is a real heaviness that you feel when you think that your child's cancer has come back. We soon learned that Hallie had relapsed for the third time.
There can come a point in the world of cancer when the treatment is as harmful as the cancer itself. It was clear to us that the disease was still very strong and that Hallie's little body wasn't. At this point, we felt it was best for Hallie to stop treating the disease and to continue to place her in God's hands. We hoped that there would still be many days of quality time with family and friends. Sadly, in late October, Hallie began to become very sick. We returned to St. Jude and were admitted into the hospital she loved so much. In her final days she was able to color many pictures for her family and friends. She received many visitors whom she hugged and kissed and professed her love for them. Finally, as dawn broke on Sunday morning, November 11, Hallie left us for a better life with her savior Jesus Christ.
It had been a long and courageous battle for Hallie and in the end, she was very tired. Joe and I knew her time was drawing near and it was very hard to let her go. We still have not let go; but we continue to cling to all of the fond memories of our precious daughter and enjoy today the blessing we have in Harrison. I know that Hallie's journey has led others to Christ. It has been an unbearable sacrifice; but a necessary one.
So, for me, this year's Relay for Life will be much different. But, the fight must go on. It goes on for others in my family, like my mother, for friends like Tommy Luckett, and for all those out there battling this disease. There is still so much to celebrate, as will become clear when the survivor walks take place.