By Kristen Wadsten
VIP envelopes – very important purple envelopes, that is – have been popping up in mailboxes all over the low country. Inside are two wonderful gifts. The first is the deeply moving, extremely personal story of the Erlenbach family, long-time Myrtle Beach residents. It’s a story that wrenches your heart and then makes it soar. John Erlenbach’s tragic death devastated his young family, but because of caring community members and support services, his widow, Cheryl, and her son, J.P., are doing okay.
Cheryl Erlenbach agreed to share her story for several reasons. First and foremost, they hope that anyone suffering will realize there is help and that shared suffering is suffering relieved. Second, they hope that anyone who can will support Mercy Care, and ensure that these vitally needed programs are available to any local person in need, regardless of their ability to pay.
John Erlenbach, a native of Myrtle Beach, was diagnosed with a very rare type of cancer, neuroendocrine cancer, in October of 2008, and his doctor gave him six months to live. He lived much longer than that, but ended up losing the battle on August 16, 2010, at age 52. Cheryl attributes this to his will to live, as well as the quality care and compassionate support he received from Mercy.
Cheryl is learning to deal with the loss of her husband, while assuming the role of a single mother. With Mercy’s pastoral support, as well as friendly calls from its dedicated volunteers Cheryl is learning to cope one day at a time.
Losing someone you love is life-altering, but for a child it can be especially devastating. For J.P. Erlenbach, the loss of his dad, John, was also the loss his best buddy. John and J.P. cherished every moment together. With a lot of help and encouragement from Tom Badurski, Mercy’s director of Children’s Programs, J.P. has taken advantage of individual counseling, group counseling, and has been to Camp Happy Hearts twice, each time with more evidence of healing. J.P.’s grades are back up, he’s spending time with friends, and he’s participating in sports again.
Part of the process is realizing that although grief can feel like a desolate, desperate place, there is help available.
It is only with your assistance that Mercy is able to reach out to children like J.P. Every day Mercy’s volunteers and staff are engaged in comforting the body, soothing the spirit, and healing the heart. Mercy’s programs extend far beyond hospice and reach children, young adults, and older adults.
For more information on how you can help contribute to Mercy’s growing mission to nurture and care for the community one person at a time, contact Lyn Rumage, director of Development and Community Affairs for Mercy Care, at 843-848-6480.