Surrounded by darkness in early winter

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Column by Ben Sheroan, editor

By Ben Sheroan

It gets dark very early these days. It’s one of the things I hate about winter.

The thought bounced around in my head while driving Interstate 65 on a 180-mile round trip. Leaving immediately after work and on the highway within 15 minutes, yet that’s already dusk. Darkness would arrive before I crossed the county line.

Crossing into the eastern-edge of the Central Time Zone on this southbound journey, I remembered that it’s even worse there. Nightfall before 5 p.m. can be overwhelmingly dark. You begin to feel trapped as the limited December daylight is all consumed by the daily grind and after hours are engulfed in blackness.

This unscheduled trip took me back to Franklin, a small community along the Kentucky-Tennessee line where I spent five years, including five winters with darkness by 5.

I was going to see a dear friend and former co-worker who had been claimed by the darkness of cancer. Roger Burton worked diligently every day and always carried a smile.

Six weeks earlier, his world had been shattered by the diagnosis. Now he was resting peacefully at Crafton Funeral Home.

He was 59.

Earlier that day while passing through the newspaper parking lot, I happened to lock eyes with another co-worker, who is on leave. Cancer has visited her family in a double dose. She’s tending to her husband while her mother battles another form of the disease.

Just that week, Hospice volunteers had been called to help them both. While reports about her mom have been encouraging, her husband died Friday.

Kenny Ashlock was 51.

Back in office a day later making small talk in the newsroom, I stumbled onto another cancer story.

A reporter and her fiance are confronting his mother’s bout with throat cancer. It cast a long shadow over that family’s Thanksgiving celebration and could alter wedding plans.

These are only some cancer stories I have encountered. All bring back memories that I prefer not to revisit. More than a decade ago, my mother waged a personal war with cancer. Her fight ended after 18 months when a frail 76-pound body collapsed into my sister’s arms.

The end actually was one of the high points. There is no better place to die than in the embrace of someone who truly loves you.

At times, her suffering reached a point where it seemed that praying for life was a selfish wish.

Through her 18 months of pain, suffering, violent medical treatment and uncertainty, the depth and strength of my mother’s character were clearly displayed. I refuse to forget those lessons, even though the memories are accompanied by tears.

Before the weekend ended, another story. A copy editor here has a connection to Brooklyn’s Believers. That’s an upbeat name that Daniel and Erin Disselkamp selected for supporters of their 14-month-old daughter.

The day after Thanksgiving, the little girl was diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma, a cancerous tumor that develops on nerve tissue. Friends are trying to raise money to assist with the expenses and to display their loving concern.

Brooklyn has not yet celebrated her second Christmas. My mother’s battle with cancer lasted longer than this sweet child has been alive.

It gets dark very early these days. It’s one of the things I hate about cancer.

Ben Sheroan is editor of The News-Enterprise. He can be reached at (270) 505-1764 or bsheroan@thenewsenterprise.com.