By Jennifer Maya Antiwan
Our daughter’s name is Lillian Rita Antiwan. She loved to dance, act silly, play with her older brother Anthony who she loved very much, play wrestle with her dad who was obsessed with her and most of all she loved to eat!
Her favorite song was “You are my sunshine”. I would sing it to her every night before we did our nightly prayers. She loved her Jiddou Yousif and would always sit in his lap whenever he was over, which was almost every day. They had a really special bond. Whenever he came over, she would call his name and run straight into his arms with a huge smile on her face. She was his best friend. To this day, whenever we talk about her, he tells me to stop because he starts crying and can’t handle it. He loved her so very much. She also loved and looked up to her cousin Chloe, who she loved to dance with, and she loved her cousins, Scarlett and Savannah who were like her sisters because they were always together. She was a very active and happy little girl. She always had a smile on her face, even when she was sick. Her dad David and I just had Anthony, then 4, at the time we found out she was sick and I was pregnant with her younger brother Roman, now 2 ½-years-old. She also has a younger sister Evelyn now, who’s 9 months old. She had just turned 2 years old when she was diagnosed with a PNet tumor. It stands for primitive neuroectodermal tumor. It’s a rare tumor, usually occurring in children and young adults younger than 25-years-old.
She passed away at 2 1/2. It was very quick and of course, devastating. We found out she had a brain tumor on May 23, 2015 and she passed away on September 22, 2015, in our loving arms. Her birthday is April 9, 2013. She turned 5 this year.
The most difficult part of Lilly’s death was not having her smiling face and big blue eyes looking up at us every morning. She lit up our entire home. My husband, David, and my dad, Yousif, were beyond obsessed with her, as we’re all of us. Anthony, now 7, was her best friend. It broke my heart the most when I would see him kneel in front of her picture, crying with his whole heart for his sister. It was so traumatic and devastating. That was the hardest thing for my husband and me. It really affected all of us differently. She just made everybody fall in love with her because she was always so friendly and happy. She was always smiling and she lit up every room she entered.
The most comforting thing is knowing she’s up in heaven with my mom Najiba and her grandparents Antiwan and Mary Bashi and that they are watching over her. Also, that we have a beautiful little saint watching over us, always. Not like that’s what we would have ever wanted, but it’s what God wants and we have to trust in Him.
I’m sure there is a way bigger reason why she is not here with us and why she is rejoicing in heaven with Him. The best way family and friends can better comfort a mother/parents during a loss is to just be there for them. Not necessarily say anything but just to be around them and be compassionate to the fact that our child is no longer with us. Just lend a shoulder for us to cry on. You have to understand that we just lost our child, a part of us. We just want to grieve our child and it’s our right to cry, get angry, scream, or just sit there like a zombie because we have no more tears to shed.
Basically, just let us be. I personally found comfort in being around my family and loved ones. Thank God for them, because if it wasn’t for my family, I don’t know where I would be. Another thing is when people tell you to be strong for your other kids. We know that too, but we have a right to grieve and let it out. That’s the healthy thing to do. If you hold it in, it will fester and come out in other ways that are unhealthy and this is speaking from experience.
I held it in because there was a lot going on in my life at that time and I actually had no choice but to be strong for my family and never really had a chance to grieve. I highly recommend you take as much time as you need or can take to grieve. One thing I didn’t understand, which I know people were just trying to make us feel better, was when people would tell me to take all her pictures down and not have them around. If anything, I want pictures of my daughter everywhere because I want to think she’s still with us and around us, always. It makes us happy to see her and not forget her, not that we ever will. She’ll always be with us in spirit and her pictures around us are comforting.
Lilly will be most remembered by how she was such a friendly, outgoing, and happy little girl. Even through her chemo treatments and all that my poor baby girl went through, she was the toughest little girl ever. To this day, our family and friends still recall how strong and happy she was through it all. She was such a strong and independent little girl and we will never forget that. She was always smiling and happy no matter what. We will never forget her beautiful smile, big blue eyes, blonde curls, and more importantly her amazing strength!
We keep her memory alive by always talking about her and her adorable mannerisms. By the things she did, like how much she loved to dance, how much she loved her brother and would always hug and kiss him, how she always followed him around, and by how caring and loving she was. Also, by keeping her pictures around us and watching her beautiful videos.
I hope I really have helped at least one person or have educated people on what to do and not do during such a difficult time. I honestly hope no one ever has to go thru what our family and some other families have endured but if they do, please know that I will always be there if there is ever anything I can do to help another person in need of comfort. Thank you to all our family and friends and also to those people whom we didn’t know, for their support and prayers during such a traumatic time. It will never be forgotten. God bless you all