They were beautiful, talented, and athletic.
Were. The cruelest word sometimes.
Darren Gallup was heading to Harvard to study and play football. His sister, Lisa, would dedicate her life to comforting the sick as a nurse. They had dreams, and they had purpose. And so little time.
Darren died in 2003, on a slippery road on a wintry night, in a car accident not far from his Wellesley home. He was 18.
Lisa died last Wednesday, the chemo and radiation no longer weapons against the cancer that invaded her. She was 26.
And so Barry Gallup Jr., 25, has eulogized and buried both of his siblings. You think of the cliché: God doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle. Really? Really?
The Gallup family has shown us how it is done. The price has been high. At Lisa’s funeral Saturday at Wellesley Congregational Church, Barry Gallup Sr. and Jr. were heavy-hearted, yet spoke with humor and courage as they shared stories about Lisa that only a family could know.
To her last breath, her hand entwined with her family’s, Lisa would not make dying about her. The cancer had been in her for 14 months. She treated it like a nuisance. She could fall weak, she could lose her hair, the treatments could make her sick, but she had things to get to still.
Things to do. The sick to comfort. She was a nurse in New York, ever the giver, never the taker. When she got really sick, Barry Jr. switched jobs and moved in with her, just as she had moved in with him at their Wellesley home after Darren died.
The Gallups were and are a sports-nutty family. The dad was a football player at Boston College, a head coach at Northeastern, and is BC’s associate athletic director. The sons were sports stars at Belmont Hill, the daughter a three-sport standout at Wellesley High. She captained three sports.
Being captain of one sport can be just a popularity contest. When you wind up captain of three, it gives you a better idea how special Lisa Gallup was, the effect she had on people. She knew how to lead, naturally, without thinking about it. She went on to graduate from BC’s Connell School of Nursing.
How special was she? How about, in her sickest, chemo days, working the night shift in the intensive care unit — the zenith of hard, emotional work for a nurse — at New York Presbyterian Hospital. She received her master’s degree from New York University, as well as an award for scholarship, service, leadership — and there was one more thing the award was for, and it is the saddest: potential for future achievement.
Shortly before Lisa died, she ran a half-marathon in New York City and plunged through the Boston Triathlon, damn the treatments. She dictated the terms of her life, took what came, and kept moving just as she had always done.
A tremendous family of five is now three, and they are a powerful three — Lisa’s mother, Vicki, Barry, young Barry. Lisa to the end made them even stronger. Even as their hearts felt like a blacksmith’s fist was squeezing, even as their tears could flood the backyard, even as they understood, or tried to, how wrong this all was.
The Gallups have put their trust in the power of the great beyond. They want to believe Lisa and Darren have caught up with each other in a better place. They need that faith.
When Darren died, Vicki said in an interview, “What kind of God takes a child from me, my beautiful child?”
No mother should ever have to ask that twice.