Authors: Lurlene McDaniel
She stopped. By now tears had filled her eyes and her heart felt as if it might break. She truly believed that God had heard her prayer. What she did not know was whether or not he would grant her request. Against great odds, God had given her a new heart when she’d desperately needed one. And he had brought Josh into her life as well. She believed that with all her heart and soul. Now there was nothing more she could do except wait. And have faith.
Katie lifted her arms in the moonlight in supplication to the heavens.
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Text copyright © 1999 by Lurlene McDaniel
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Bantam Starfire edition August 1999
First Laurel-Leaf edition October 2003
elcome to the world of One Last Wish. It is a world of many interconnected lives—people who are sick, as well as people who are healthy. All of them are full of dreams and hopes. One Last Wish is about reaching out and making a difference—even a small one that has lasting value for someone else.
In this book you’ll meet characters who have appeared in some of my earlier works, but this story stands alone. The people you’ll meet have been touched by the One Last Wish philosophy, which helps those who are facing life’s difficulties to find meaning in acts of kindness and courage. Think of a pebble that is dropped into a calm lake. From the tiny pebble, concentric circles ripple outward, growing larger until they touch the shore.
As you join me in the world of One Last Wish, you’ll meet not only teens who confront difficult problems, but also people who see beyond their own limitations and their own suffering. Share their pain as well as their hope and discover in yourself an appreciation of all that life offers. Just as the ripples spread out far around the pebble, the actions you choose to take have an impact, even if you do not see it. Once you show the world you care, you will find yourself looking into the heart of love.
I’m writing to you, as well as to several others, with some exciting news. The JWC Foundation is rebuilding Jenny House. There was no way I could allow anything to do with Jenny Crawford, including her grandmother’s dream to create a tribute to her granddaughter, to die, especially through something so horrific as a freak fire. So, with insurance funds, generous donations from “angels,” and the help of the Foundation itself, we’re rebuilding.
Which brings me to the purpose of this letter. While the actual facility won’t be ready by this summer, I still want to sponsor the camp for the children who need it the most—those stricken with diseases and medical problems. The group will be smaller this year, but we’ve already built
cabins and a log rec center in the woods, down near the stables. I have a small but brilliant medical staff hired, and now all I need are counselors for each cabin—four women, two men. I’d like you to be one of those women.…
Katie O’Roark stopped reading long enough to glance at the calendar pinned to her dorm room bulletin board.
“What’s up?” asked her college roommate, Tara Greene. “You’re smiling.” Like Katie, Tara was on athletic scholarship, but Tara’s was for swimming. They had arrived as freshmen in the fall and were now wrapping up their last few weeks before final exams. They’d already decided to be roomies when they returned as sophomores.
“A summer job in North Carolina,” Katie answered.
“What!” Tara jumped down from the top bunk and snatched the letter from Katie’s hands. “Not fair! I have to live at home and flip burgers all summer. How did you luck out?”
Katie grabbed the letter back. “It’s that counselor job I told you about from last summer.”
“You told me the place burned.”
“Are you taking the job?”
“I’d like to. My folks won’t be too thrilled. They wanted me home all summer, but how can I say no? I’ll bet Mr. Holloway asks some of my friends to work there too. Maybe I can get you on staff.”
“No way. I couldn’t stand being around sick kids. It would break my heart.”
“You’re around me.”
“A heart transplant doesn’t count. And besides, look at all the track medals you won this season. How can you
think of yourself as sick?”
A string of Katie’s medals lined her bulletin board, and at the campus gym, the display case housed two trophies with her name engraved on them.
“How can you find out if he asked your friends?” Tara asked.
“I can e-mail Chelsea and Lacey and ask, of course.” Katie read the rest of the letter. “Mr. Holloway says he’s asking a few others who were helped by the JWC Foundation, but he doesn’t say exactly who. It’s helped plenty of people, so I wouldn’t expect to know them anyway.”
“Maybe your old boyfriend, Josh, will be asked.”
Katie’s heart skipped a beat. She hadn’t thought of that. In truth, she hadn’t been looking forward to going home to Ann Arbor because she knew she’d have to face Josh Martel. They’d broken up the
summer before at Jenny House, and things hadn’t gone well between them at Christmas break. Josh said he still loved her, but she didn’t know how she felt about him anymore. She was grateful for all he’d been in her life. He had nothing to do with his parents, both alcoholics, and had pretty much been on his own since his brother’s death. In fact, when Katie had gotten her transplant, it had been Josh’s brother’s heart that had replaced her own. Knowing that she had contributed to Josh’s unhappiness, but still had his brother’s heart beating inside her, only made Katie feel guilty. Katie wanted a fresh start in college. Except that college had been a lot of studying and hard work, and no guy had come along to take Josh’s place.
“If Josh gets asked, I guess I’ll deal with it,” Katie said. “But I know that ever since his grandfather died and left him the house, Josh has had to stick close to home. So he probably won’t have time to work at camp all summer.” She didn’t add that he was also a student at the University of Michigan and working to pay the bills.
“Well, even if he doesn’t go, maybe there’ll be a guy who’ll appeal to you. You’re awfully picky, you know.”
“I’m not either.” Katie sniffed. “I just have high standards.”
“If you want my opinion, I think you still have feelings for Josh.”
Katie felt her Irish temper flare. “Well, I don’t want your opinion, thank you very much.”
Tara feigned innocence. “You protest too much.”
Katie flung a paper clip at her. “Go study for your Shakespeare test and forget about my love life, all right?”
Tara caught the clip in midair. “If you don’t want him, girl, show my picture to him, will you? Good guys are hard to find, and from all you’ve told me about Josh, he sounds like a dream.”
Katie buried her nose in the letter from Mr. Holloway.
She could hardly wait. And if Josh was there, she’d manage. They could just be friends. That would be simple enough. Wouldn’t it?
“Actually, Megan, I think taking this camp job would be a good idea … especially since you want to go on to medical school. It’s only eight weeks out of the summer. It’ll be a good experience.”
Meg Charnell listened to her father’s advice without enthusiasm. Her first year of college had been hard work, and she’d been looking forward to a summer of doing nothing. But then the letter had arrived with the offer to work at a camp for sick
children. “How did this Mr. Holloway get my name, anyway?”
“I suspect that your days of being a candy striper and volunteer helper have been noticed. His foundation networks with all the big hospitals. It’s a very philanthropic organization. That was the organization that helped the Jacoby boy, you know.”
. How could she ever forget? Megan had met him the first summer she had been a candy striper. He had been a patient at the hospital, waiting for a liver transplant. A new liver had not arrived in time to save his life.
The anonymous donor, JWC, had given Donovan $100,000, and he had passed it along to his divorced mother. She still lived in and managed the house that the money had gone to remodel. Families stayed there while their sick children were undergoing prolonged treatments at the giant hospital where Meg’s father practiced surgery. Except that even Dr. Charnell’s considerable skill hadn’t been able to save Donovan Jacoby. But, she reminded herself, knowing Donovan had kindled her own dream to become a pediatrician.