It's my loss.
From what I've read, and from what I've been told, her touch was golden.
But the days since Megan's death last week have cast an intense and profound cloud of self-realization over our neighbors, thousands of whom are just like me: Saddened deeply by the Jacksonville elementary student's death, all the while feeling as if we've been through something communal with a family so many of us do not know.
Yet, we've cried just the same.
The boilerplate portion of Megan's story is as touching as it is tragic. The bravery and spunk she wielded during her fight with cancer was the stuff of legend, and of immense value. There's a reason why Megan's struggle became our struggle. We wanted her to live, to find the miracle that all cancer patients seek.
She represented everything good that can be born from the horrible mixture of children and cancer. Her story was script-like, a mesmerizing, inspiring book few of us could put down.
The Jacksonville church that hosted her funeral couldn't have held everyone who wanted to pay their final respects.
Last week, a few days before Megan's death, a friend from Jacksonville called to chat about work; drudgery, it was. But he knew the Brittain family, so he filled me in. He told me of her outlook, and that he was afraid her time drew near.
My friend's voice faltered, slowed.
I'd never heard this man, so experienced in many things in life, sound as he did that day.
I don't know if he held back his tears. I hung up, and tried to do the same.
A few days later, after Megan's burial, The Star's Brett Buckner attempted to place a next-day context on the grief that was enveloping her family, her friends and her many admirers that now dot the map of this often-fractured community.
"There are no answers that can make sense of the sorrow in a child's death," Buckner wrote. "… (Yet) there is an answer to the question of how this 12-year-old girl inspired a community.
"It was simply Megan being Megan."
The frightening part of this story is that Megan Brittain isn't alone. Childhood cancer is one of the world's great evils, a disease that strikes universal fear and damages more than the sickened young. It's indiscriminate and unforgiving in which children it chooses, in which families it attempts to destroy, the rich or poor, the black or white or Latino, the ones you know or the ones you've never met.
For every Megan, there's another, and another, and another.
In that sense, Megan's story isn't over.
Up in Memphis, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital remains a beacon of hope for pediatric cancer patients and their families. Its existence, its calling, is truly heaven on earth. Trust me, touring St. Jude is a life-changing experience, an overwhelming time of introspection about what's important in life. And it's hardly relevant to the bigger picture, but I couldn't help but smile when realizing that the professional golf tournament held in the hospital's behalf, the St. Jude Classic, is this weekend.
For me, at least, the timing couldn't have been more appropriate. I've been to that tournament several times, usually thinking more about birdies and bogies than chemotherapy and cures.
This weekend, I'm sure I'll find a few minutes to catch that tournament on TV, and there's no way to do so without thinking of Megan and the thousands of children like her. How many other communities have been touched by their own Megans? By their own stories of hope and survival and strength displayed by the youngest among them?
As I sit here, a bulky Red Cross bus drives up into The Star's parking lot. There's a blood drive going on, and I'm not your normal give-every-time guy. Needles aren't the devil, but they're his cousins. I'd rather avoid them.
Today, though, seems different.
Remember Megan, I think.
Remember her commitment to her cause.
Remember the hundreds, perhaps thousands, who've given blood because she asked them to, because they saw her strength and emulated it.
I can see that Red Cross bus outside my office window.
For now, work can wait.
There's something I need to do.