“He left us in August of 2010,” Cheryl Erlenbach said about her late husband John, as she looked lovingly at their son JP, who was eating crackers and playing Xbox. John Erlenbach had a very rare type of cancer, neuroendocrine cancer, and he battled it for two years. He lost his battle on August 16, 2010, at age 52. “He never gave up. Up until the last second he was with us, he always fought as hard as he could to stay alive.” John was an avid golfer and athlete. His passion for the game led him to the creation of the Links Illustrated golf show. Links Illustrated is a 30-minute program that showcases a particular course. Many say that John greatly contributed to Myrtle Beach retaining the title of “Golf Capital of the World.” The impact of Links Illustrated on the success of the Myrtle Beach golf industry may never be fully realized, but John’s legacy will live on forever. “He was really fun to play with, but he worked a lot,” JP said. Some of the fondest memories JP has of his dad are going to the beach and playing basketball. JP and his dad were best buddies and cherished every moment together. John’s battle with cancer began shortly after a game of basketball, when he felt a sharp pain after landing on his back. He was diagnosed in October of 2008, and his doctor gave him six months to live. John lived much longer than this, almost two years. His widow, Cheryl, attributes this to his unflagging will to live, as well as the quality care and compassionate support he received from Mercy.
A death in a family becomes all the more difficult when there are children. Parents have the natural instinct to create an atmosphere that protects children from pain. In instances like JP’s, this just isn’t possible. It’s critical that children are allowed and encouraged to express the pain they are feeling in order to fully process the loss, and be able to deal with it in a healthy way.
Getting back in a routine is one of the hardest things for a child who is still developing and maturing. Knowing that it is okay to laugh and play is a major factor. That can be extremely hard to do when it feels like your tears will never dry and guilt overcomes a sudden bubble of laughter or feeling of joy. Children, like adults, are often plagued by regrets for things they didn’t get a chance to say or wish they hadn’t said. This is the grieving process. And it’s a normal, healthy, necessary response to loss.
“I didn’t get to see him before he went to heaven; I was asleep,” JP said, the devastation clear in his large brown eyes. Cheryl and JP are moving on as best as they can. They are each other’s best friend, and are determined to get through this as a team. A home remodel and regular visits to the local YMCA are a sure start to a healthy and positive life without John. Mercy Care was there for John at the end of his life, and for this, Cheryl says, “he was so grateful.” Mercy was able to be there for her and JP, through bereavement counseling and support from the children’s program. Cheryl has received pastoral counseling, as well as friendly calls from the volunteers to see how she is dong. She is learning how to deal with the loss of her best friend and husband, while assuming the role of single mother. With a lot of help and encouragement from Tom Badurski, Mercy’s Director of Children’s Programs. JP has taken advantage of individual counseling, group counseling, and has attended Camp Happy Hearts. “The hardest part for JP is trying to recover and regain focus,” Badurksi said. “I have seen major improvement during the past six months, and I believe it is only going to get better.” One of the things that makes the process a little easier for Cheryl and JP is knowing they are not alone. Camp Happy Hearts, as well as group counseling, has made JP aware there are a lot of children, just like him, who have lost someone that they love. “I have met a few kids through the camps, and now we play at recess,” he said.
With your help, we can achieve many more success stories like this one. Since 1981, Mercy has been helping children to heal, learn and grow through the tragedy of a loss. But we can’t do this alone – you make these services possible. We are so grateful for the various ways you help. Whether it is volunteering your time at Camp Happy Hearts, hosting a group, or showing your compassion financially, you allow us to continue offering our programs for children like JP. With the right support, there will never be another child that has to go through the pain and suffering alone. Please continue to help transform lives by making a donation.
Please fill out the form and return it to us at: Mercy Care, 8216 Devon Court, Myrtle Beach, SC 29572. Thank you!