Sometimes we forget how quickly life can change. Ten-year-old Meryl, who had lived in Lincoln, but recently moved to Bismarck, was an exceptionally intelligent, healthy and active girl. And then her family noticed her balance was off. An MRI on July 7 of last year revealed a tumor that was later determined to be diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG). There is no cure. When hearing a diagnosis such as this, a family’s sense of normalcy never returns. They had to become medical researchers overnight because so little is known about DIPG and treatment really only provide for a little extra time. Her parents, Seth and Angie, became caretakers as Meryl recovered from her surgeries, radiation, and ultimately the loss of movement and speech. Everyone in their family, including her sister Dalila, had a special way of knowing how to help Meryl.
Meryl loved wolves and huskies. Her goal in life was to have a husky ranch and be a scientist when she was older. She refused to wait until she was older to start the husky ranch though and she talked her parents into helping her turn that dream into a reality by adopting her dog in the spring of 2018 and appropriately named him Husky.
After nine months of treatment, including a medical trial in Texas, Meryl was able to break ground on her husky ranch in heaven on March 1, 2020. “Bravery is the obvious word that comes to mind,” said Angie, “but Meryl didn't like being called brave. She just said that she did what needed to be done. I have faith that we'll look back someday and see the strength this brought out in all of us as a family.”
The Sharp family’s goal was to stay present, which meant that they didn't discuss typical outcomes and intense words like cancer, tumor or DIPG. This allowed the girls to live each day the best they could.
Angie says, “It is hard to put into words everything that we miss, but there's hope we'll establish a new kind of relationship with her. Meryl taught us how to "air hug.” This was her preference when saying goodbye to people. You put your hands out in front of you facing each other and bring them together and away. Even though we can't get a physical hug now, we can still hug and we know that she’s hugging us back. Meryl's strong opinions, always making us laugh, standing up for what is right, appreciation for collections, love of wolves and huskies, and her imagination will always be inspiring to us and remind us to live life to the fullest.