"Living my life in a beautiful world"


This is a portrait of my little sister, Hudis.

Hudis was only 16 years old when she was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. She fought for 22 months until just a week shy of her 18th birthday.

Hudis kept her spirits up throughout her illness, forcing our family to float on clouds of hope with her. She wore t-shirts that said things like "secretly hoping chemo gives me superpowers," played electric guitar in her hospital room, made everyone around her laugh and dance and sing, and believe that she would get better.

She was so young... always my little baby sister... and yet she managed to outgrow me in every way.

We have hundreds of photos of Hudis growing up too fast in the pediatric oncology ward. But this one, this one, is special. This was the day she had a private photo shoot. She got dressed, had her makeup done, wore a cute hat on top of her bald head because she refused to wear a wig, and went down to the lobby of Robert Wood Johnson to pose. My god did she pose... with grace and beauty and growth, she showed us how she wanted to be remembered.

It's been nearly 5 years since she died. I've thought of her achingly a million times. I've thought of her sick and hurting and trying so hard to live, but always, I come back to this image.

My family has kept this image close. It's on every phone, Facebook profile, and memorial graphic we create. But I needed more. So I had it painted by Paint Your Life and trusted their amazing artist to paint my sister as the vibrant teenager she was.

Seeing the finished painting made me breathless. Her eyes shine out from the canvas sparkling with joy, her hands reflecting off the top of the piano, the lights in the hospital lobby casting the shadows she left behind; her head is thrown back as she opens her mouth, and I swear I can almost hear her laughing.

Now, Hudis is displayed the way I know she wanted to be seen. I look at her every day and I remember how she floated on clouds of hope, and I am comforted.


by Hudis

The flowers bloom in a garden oh so beautiful

The sky is blue with one neatly shaped white cloud

Everything just seems to be so perfect

In a world where so much can go so wrong

And I've been there on the days when weeds were growing

With a gray sky threatening to storm

When nothing’s going right it’s just not working

The world has proved itself to be so cruel

And I dreamt

About the day

When all of it will end

And I spent

All my time

Hoping it would come very soon

And I woke up one day

and I realized that its all in me

That all of the things that I wish would go away

Are staying

And it's up to me

To show them it won't affect me

I still dream

About the day

When all of it will end

And I spend

All my time

Hoping it would come very soon

But I'm living my life

in a beautiful world

And I can enjoy every day

And I will

Because it's up to me

To show them it won't affect me