Response to Miah Arnold’s “You Owe Me”

Miah Arnold’s piece “You Owe Me” demonstrates the profound impact a child with terminal illness has on those around them. In Arnold’s piece, she details her experiences with teaching English/Poetry at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. Arnold’s daily encounters with these children who are surrounded by pain, sickness, and death impact her deeply because through their struggles, they are able to persevere and smile. Despite being surrounded by death, Arnold’s classroom serves as a safe haven for the children to interact and express themselves.

Arnold uses a series of anecdotes to convey the enduring relationship she has with certain students. Throughout the essay she mentions a particular student who has touched her heart, Kahlil. Khalil’s enduring spirit and positive spunky outlet demonstrates the resilience she admires in these children. Arnold mentions that Khalil “is too full of life” (32), and that the untimely death of these children shows how precious the gift of life is. Arnold heavily employs the use of pathos in order to connect with her audience. She uses vivid imagery in describing a young boy, Michael, whose bones were like “dried-out honeycombs” (40). She details how he climbed on her lap, as if he needed that physical comfort in order to sustain his life. By injecting pathos into her imagery, Arnold conveys the emotional trials the children must endure daily.

Similar to Arnold, Maria Kefalas describes her experiences as the mother of a terminally in child in her article “Mothering Cal”: http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2013/05/fatally_ill_child_teaches_us_how_to_mother.html

In the article, Kefalas urges parents to cherish each day they have with their children. Kefalas’ daughter suffers from a rare genetic disorder, and was told she would not live past 5. Kefalas views her daughter’s limited time as stolen, and compares it to the mothers and fathers of the Sandy Hook incident, where the untimely passing of their children have left them with a void. I found it poignant that Kefalas advises parents to “Please stop playing with your smart phones and your iPads when you take your children out for ice cream or to the park or for their swimming lesson” (10). It is a cautionary message in today’s digital world, where we might become so enraptured in our technology that we forget to appreciate the simplistic moments in life.

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