Six-year-old Elena Desserich died of brain cancer in 2007, but she left behind treasures for her family that became a book for everyone. Notes Left Behind is a tribute to Elena and helps to raise funds for The Cure Starts Now, a foundation started by her parents supporting research towards curing pediatric brain cancer. Perhaps you’ve heard about Elena’s story on Good Morning America or the Today show.
Elena was an artist, and when she became sick, and especially after she lost her ability to speak, she began drawing pictures and writing notes to her parents, her little sister, other relatives, even her great-aunt’s dog. After her death, her parents began finding notes hidden not just in Elena’s room but in their own books and dresser drawers, in a briefcase, in a box of Christmas ornaments. They were the simple drawings and misspelled notes of a beginning writer, but Elena’s mother thinks they were her daughter’s way of letting them know everything would be okay. Each note found was “like a little hug from her.” Elena’s parents did everything they could to hide from her the fact that her illness was terminal. Did Elena sense the end coming and want to leave love notes behind, or was she just a prolific and fun-loving artist expressing herself?
Elena’s father kept a personal journal for younger daughter Grace during the family’s ordeal so that she might know her sister, but the idea grew into something larger. Notes Left Behind is a sad and unflinching story of how a family coped with having a child with cancer, but is also about capturing “the love, the compassion, the minutes of life – not necessarily the milestones.” A reminder for all.