As a few of you know, I was mass rejected a few days ago, along with 237 other aspiring writers. It was a simple mistake by a pretty big agency involving Cc’ing people instead of Bcc’ing people. The mistake allowed us writers to see for a brief moment the man behind the curtain spinning the wheel and turning the gadgets that keep all us shaking on the other side, mindlessly searching for witches’ brooms or the perfect combination of show vs. tell. The sting of the whole thing was brief. No big deal. Not anywhere near the toughest things that has have ever happened to me. In fact, it wasn’t even in the same galaxy as the toughest part of last week—which was attending the funeral of an eight-year-old boy who died of Leukemia. His name was Nick. Nick was diagnosed when he was five years old. He would’ve been nine in June, so he fought his disease for almost four years. Nick fought not just to stay alive, but to LIVE. If you’ve ever come back from that place that tries to hold you down, make you dislike circumstances, yourself, and cringe at the idea of putting forth any more effort, you know what I’m talking about.
Nick could’ve let his condition—which put him on chemo for 44 weeks then 40 weeks, drive him away from the simple joy of Legos and baseball and Michael Jackson—all of which he loved. Seriously, you should’ve seen the Millennium Falcon this kid made with Legos! But he managed to have a life full of adventure and joy despite this disease. He managed to not only carry himself through repeated treatments for his condition and surgery to correct the consequences of chemo, but to rally and inspire others through his perseverance, so that in the end, even though he had to leave this world, he didn’t really lose the battle. Because the battle he had-- the one we all have, was to love life despite its sorrows and mishaps. He did.
You could see how Nick accomplished this task by looking around the room where the celebration of his life was held. It was a huge sparkling room filled with comfort food and chandeliers, an ice cream bar, family, friends, and the things Nick loved. And everywhere there were pictures of Nick living—pictures of him with baseball stars, movie stars, at Disney World, Universal, and so many pictures of him with his wonderful family and friends. Nick touched people, changed them in a way that cannot be measured. One such person, an eight year old girl in Nick’s class, after hearing about his death, shaved off all her hair. She was at his celebration, sporting her shaved head proudly and looking beautiful. Nick’s spirit did that—showed up in her. And it didn’t start or end with that one act. His spirit was everywhere you looked. Especially in his family—extended and immediate, who helped put together so many parts of the service—including a slideshow of Nick’s life that played on a huge screen. Nick’s spirit was so evident in his loving mother and father and brother, who graciously and openly greeted people, giving them attention and kindness that really should have been going the other way.
The entire dedication to Nick was touching beyond belief, and I found myself unable to speak many times. Like when I read something Nick had wrote in school. It was one of those assignments teachers give kids. What is the best thing about you? Nick wrote: The best thing about me is my hands. The reason he liked his hands so much was that he could do things with them, write, build with his Legos, hug his family, and play video games. There was a photo of his small hands over his words. Yes, it is so sad, but isn’t it also hopeful? Doesn’t it also make you want to live like that? To love like that?
There was a quote from Nick at his celebration ceremony. It said, “You never know when you are making a memory.” Learn from that. We can let the circumstances in our lives drag us down, but don’t choose that option. Nick didn’t.
What I’m trying to say to all of you is that you may have had a bad week, failed at something, said something you regret, made a mistake, suffered, but don't let that cause you to turn on yourself or life. Forgive yourself and others. Make memories. And use your mind, imagination, and hands to build what you love.