I have referenced my friend Sarah a couple of times...we got to know each other waaay back in the day, on the eBay chatboards if you can believe that. This was over a decade ago, I was still married, still nursing. Sarah had started a little chat group, and when I nervously asked to join (this was my first foray into interwebz friendship) she and the other eBay hens welcomed me with open arms.
Our group became stronger, and our bonds tighter, over the next couple of years. We renamed ourselves "The Cul De Sac" because one day one of us declared, "Dang it...I wish we all lived on a cul de sac together. Then we could just hang out in someone's living room and do this." We celebrated births, we cheered each other on through down times, we gossiped and clucked. In 2005, we all took a big leap and decided to meet IRL (that's in real life, I just figured that out about a month ago. So now I'm going to use it). A bunch of us gathered at one boardie's (that's what you were called back then) house in Dubin, Ohio. Turned out to be one of the best trips of my life.
That's how I know Sarah. And that's how I got to know her son, James. In our little group, we often posted pictures of our kids, bragged about our kids, bemoaned the horrific behavior of our kids...you know the drill. We watched our kids reach and pass countless milestones on that little chat board. James was four years old when I first "met" him.
Our little group started to wane after a while, life got busy for all of us. There was a divorce or two, one of us moved out of the country, others left the glamorous world of eBay for other jobs. For a while, we didn't keep in touch.
Until facebook, that is. Say what you want about facebook, but man does it bring people together. I remember oohing and ahhing out loud as all of the Cul De Sac ladies posted pics of their kids, now bigger and taller and doing crazy things like riding two-wheelers and learning to drive and going to middle school and high school and college. Those little kids we used to chat about back in the day, they were all growing up.
My friend Sarah is a single mom. When Big Daddy first took off, Sarah reached out, offered advice and let me know I wasn't the only one dealing with an ex-husband and all of the side effects they can cause.
James is her only child. I remember when he was little, and Sarah would post things about him, I'd feel a twinge of jealousy now and then. How nice it would be, I'd think, to be able to devote all of my attention to just one kid! And devoted, she was. That kid was the sun in her sky. Her love for him was obvious to anyone who spent even just a few minutes gabbing with her.
Last April, on Easter Sunday, James told his mom that he wasn't feeling well. I clearly remember her posting about it on facebook: "He's so pale! I'm taking him to Urgent Care in the morning." By the end of that week, he had been diagnosed with leukemia.
I don't have much experience with leukemia. There was a boy in my Sunday school class a ways back, who had survived leukemia, not just once but twice. Survived it so well that there were some Sunday mornings I wanted to throw a Bible at him (loveable smartass). So as awful, and shocking, and scary as the news about James was, I felt like this was something he would defeat. I sent Sarah a message, relayed to her the story about my Sunday school kid, and told her James would be ok. James would get through this.
And he did. It wasn't an easy feat. There were scares and chemo and infections and sickness. But at long last, one day Sarah posted the good news. The cancer was gone.
He had done it. He had kicked cancer's slimy ass out the door. Recovery is never easy, though. He had to have a bone marrow transplant, there were hospital visits and tests and procedures. But we, her far-away friends, thought that the worst of it was over.
Then something happened. You obviously know something happened, otherwise I would be writing about yoga pants or some stupid celebrity crush or my own kids.
He had complications, and complications on top of those complications. He was admitted back to the hospital.
And all the while, I kept thinking, "He's gonna beat this. He will pull through. He's going to go back to school and sports and being a goofy 14 year old kid." Because that's how it always works out, right? The good guys win in the end.
James died today. He was 14 years old.
He loved South Park, baseball, The Walking Dead, chocolate milk and video games.
Sarah had some spiritual conflicts while James was sick. She questioned things, and eventually decided that religion wasn't for her. Every once in a while she'd post things about it, and it made me uneasy. I judged her for it, I'm ashamed to admit. I thought, "Why would you question God?".
God, I'm questioning you today. I'm questioning why you would do this to a kid. Why you would do this to his mother, his father, his grandparents.
James spent the last couple months of his too-short life in a hospital bed. Being poked and prodded and operated on. He should have been swimming at his grandparent's house. He should have been playing baseball. He should have been riding bikes with his friends and getting texts from girls and watching zombie movies with his mom.
And Sarah, his mom? She shouldn't be making funeral plans tonight. Tonight she should be thinking about how fast the summer has gone, and maybe picking up big teenage boy socks from the living room floor, and telling James to GET TO BED.
God, I know that you work in mysterious ways. I know that death is a part of life, and that all of us are born with our very own invisible hourglasses hovering above our heads, each grain of sand part of a predetermined amount. I know that James isn't the first innocent to perish at the hands of some heinous disease and I know that Sarah isn't the first mother to find herself living the nightmare that losing a child must be.
I know all of this, but what I don't know...what I cannot figure out, is...why?
Rest in Peace, sweet James.