Sunday, February 1, 2009

In The Words Of Luke's Mom

Jeff posted earlier that our sweet friend, Luke, passed away peacefully yesterday afternoon. Laura, Luke's mother, wrote a beautiful journal entry on their website. We asked if we could share it with all of you and she said that she would like that. I just want to say that over the last few weeks I have had very strong feelings about Luke's journey...and how it relates to our own. I have felt the deepest sadness over this past week which began with our last encounter with John, Laura, Gracie and Luke at the hospital. After reading Laura's words, I have been put at ease. I feel a sense of calm and peacefulness and am grateful to Laura for that. Her ability to walk through this with such beauty has inspired me and made me feel safe. Here are those words:

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 01, 2009 11:01 AM, CST

Luke passed away at home early yesterday afternoon. He was sleeping in my arms with John sitting right next to us. Gracie, FarFar, FarMor, his Aunt Marie, and his cousin Joe were all with us. It was the most peaceful thing you can imagine. He had been sleeping so sweetly in my arms, then he pooped :), then shortly thereafter I noticed his back was no longer moving up and down with each breath. There was no indication of any pain or discomfort or tenseness in his body, no cries, no grimaces. God and the angels came to him so sweetly, held him so close, and carried him away so gently.

Luke had been steadily moving in this direction for days now, but really in the last 2-3 days he was floating into a less conscious, more sleepy state. By Friday and Saturday we could only hope and believe that he heard our voices, felt our touches, sensed our presence and love. Things in his body were somehow taking a natural, steady course, and doing so in a very peaceful way. Friday was a beautiful day. The four of us took a nice walk to breakfast with Luke and Gracie sitting side-by-side in the stroller. After breakfast, Luke migrated to my baby carrier where so many of you have seen him so many times, and where he stayed for probably a few hours. John headed to work while Luke, Gracie, and I spent some time at the Calabasas Commons. We then picked John up at work and all walked home together. His peacefulness continued in the afternoon, at times resting with Dad and at times I was right by his side. Later that day, he was grabbing and holding our fingers with his little hands, as small babies do. Strangely, or fittingly, he started doing this on what turned out to be hours to days before his death. That night instead of putting Luke to bed at a more normal baby-hour, John and I kept him in our 'playroom' with us on a comfy pillow bed until we were ready to go to bed ourselves. As we mentioned, John and I had moved into their bedroom.We were positioned to sleep in between Gracie's bed and Luke's crib. On what would become our last night together, instead of putting him in his crib for the night, we put Luke's pillow bed right in between John and I, with us at times holding his hand, checking him, making sure he was comfortable, hoping our presence made a difference to him, knowing it made a difference to us. Gracie of course was right in the room with us. We like to believe he could sense all of it.

Saturday morning we continued to spend time with Luke. John gave him kisses, soaked him up, smelled his sweet smell while Gracie and I took a shower. Luke sat with me, then he rested peacefully for some time with his Aunt Marie and then his cousin Joe. He then returned to my arms, and was sleeping with me so sweetly for some time before he breathed his last breath. He really chose the perfect time to say goodbye. Having been so close to Luke for so long, we know him like the back our hand, and we feel something changed in Luke Thursday night. We believe even in the absence of drugs his pain really diminished or went away (Friday he went all day without morphine, with no indication of any pain). It was also in those last days that he somehow reached out through his unconscious state to hold our fingers and connect with us.

Quite shortly after he passed, John and I wrapped him in our favorite blanket (he already happened to be wearing favorite jammies) and took him to the hospital where, upon our phone call, our oncologist put into action our previously arranged plan to have his body autopsied within hours of his death. When we arrived to CHLA, we had some minutes to spare while they prepared for our Luke. In those minutes we finally had the chance to visit a park close by on a hilltop that we kept saying we wanted to visit. We parked and sat in the car overlooking the beautiful city on the beautifully clear, sunny day and soaked up every minute with him. When they were ready for us, we drove back down the hill to the hospital so Luke's body could be used for science. We are hoping that his tumor can be 'immortalized' in a way and that researchers across the country can use it to study neuroblastoma for years and years and years to come. She phoned us later to let us know that the autopsy had been completed and plenty of tumor obtained.

After passing this sweet, precious, angel of a boy, whose face and body was as beautiful in death as in life, to the nurse for authopsy, John and I came home and immediately went out with Gracie for a walk to our now favorite climbing tree where Gracie eagerly stepped up with Mom and Dad next to her to walk on her favorite branch. We continued on to the Calabasas Commons where Gracie got her favorite 'present' at RiteAid- band-aids and stickers. After we returned home, Gracie stayed with FarMor and John and I spent the rest of the evening together starting to deal with a new set of feelings. We drove and then walked up 'Stunt Road', where John and I got engaged and from which you can see the San Fernando Valley, Santa Monica, and downtown - a beautiful night from the 'mountain-top' -70 degrees, stars twinkling in the clear night sky that filled our lungs with much-needed fresh air. We then went to one of our old haunts in Santa Monica for dinner, where the four of us had spent many-a-time before he was diagnosed. We needed the time to be together and start working through what the last 6 months have brought to our lives.

This morning the three of us are up and together, and while we mourn and miss our boy to the deepest core of our souls and wonder how all these feelings will weave their way through the rest of our lives, we are together and we are alive and Luke is at peace. We are thankful to God for this day, and we will honor God and Luke today by spending it in a good way. While we grieve, we will also bond with each other, love each other, and somehow enjoy this precious day with beautiful pictures of Luke running through our minds. Dare I say we will even laugh? Yes, most definitely. On this gorgeous, sunny, 70 degree day, we plan to visit Malibu and enjoy the fresh ocean breezes.

Our love,
The Piersol Family


Anonymous said...


please thank the piersols for sharing their lives with us. their story touched our hearts incredibly deeply.

we have been inspired to reach out, give, and love more to the people that need us and our own family.

it reminds me that every single moment is precious with the ones you love.

Anonymous said...

Jeff and Jo Ann,
I love, love, love that you pay tribute to sweet Luke. What a wonderful family. I am so sad right now, but so greatful for what I have and what we all have, life and eachother. I feel so fortunate to have cared for Luke and his family. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful, inspiring heartbreaking and heartfilling. I appreciate being reminded of Love's strength and perseverance. As always I'm sending love your way and now to the Piersols.

Anonymous said...

To the Piersol family,

I am moved and saddened by your family's loss in a very profound way. Our daughter Kelsey was diagnosed 3 years ago at CHLA with a very rare form of leukemia at the age of 13. We were told that there was little chance that she would survive.

Shock...anger.....helplessness..overwhelming despair......why this child.....did we do something wrong.....all sear through your brain and soul at all hours of the day and night.

And then the battle begins that only families that have had this misfortune fall upon them can really
understand. I don't know your family, but I know how brave and positive you all are for helping precious Luke fight his battle

Kelsey is alive today and doing well thanks to a long chemo battle at CHLA and a very risky bone marrow transplant at City of Hope. She has beaten the odds for now. But we met and got to know many families that did not have the light shine on them. It's something you deal with every minute of every day when your residence is the 4th floor of CHLA or City of Hope. The reality of what we are all facing is just numbing at times because it's so painful.

Please forgive me if this doesn't feel right, but it's what helped me get through our ordeal and keep moving forward no matter how much I wanted to give in. Our souls are eternal and you will have the opportunity one day to know and feel how much your love means to Luke. He has moved on to the next phase of his soul's journey, as we all are in the process of doing.

Thank you for sharing your incredibly moving, and private moments. I wish you peace and understanding in the time ahead.

Much love and empathy to you all.......

-Dave Burke

Dawn: said...

Thank you for sharing this post. All my love and thoughts are with your friends- and with you.

MKPatrick said...

To Luke's Mom & Family,
Thank you for sharing with us Luke's final moments here on earth. Your precious little angel was here for such a short time yet made a profound impact on the world. Love to you,
The Patricks

jhaygood said...

Damn. I can't fathom the strength involved in that level of stark reality. It's heartbreaking, and inspiring at the same time. It makes me think our hearts grow bigger the more they are depended on.

Peace to Luke and his family, and to everyone that shares his struggle.

Is there a place donations can go in his name?

Anonymous said...

Jo Ann and Jeff,

Thank you so much for sharing this story. I have been praying for the Piersol family since I read Jeff's post last week.

This is heart breaking, yet I am so inspired by the strength and sense of family and peace I get when I read that post.

The struggle that you all face is unfathomable to me -- but know that it touches my life in a way that makes me want to be a better person and give back in any way that I can.

My thoughts and prayers and tears will continue to be with the Piersol family. Thank you again for sharing their story.

Much love...

Jules said...

Thank you so much for sharing. Those of us who have not had to deal with something like this always wonder how we would react if faced with the same situation. I would like to hope now, after reading this, that I would have even 1/2 the grace and strength of Luke's family.

On another note, allowing Luke's body to be autopsied in the hopes that others may not suffer is such a wonderful gift. So much can be learned to help others in the future and I greatly admire your clarity and selflessness.

God Bless