Today I received a phone call from an old co-worker and friend. For about 2 weeks now, I knew that phone call was coming. When I answered the phone, it went just like I thought it would. The other line was filled with more sniffles and tears than actual words. I ended the conversation by saying, "Tell everyone that I love them, and that I will see them soon."
Back in 2010 while I was working at Hope College, my supervisor and friend Derek Emerson's family was dealt a terrible hand in the game of life. His 4 year old adopted son, Oliver, had been diagnosed with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma...a very aggressive and painful form of Cancer. The department that I worked for was a very close knit group, and I considered them to be just like family. So when he shared the news with us that Oliver was going to be challenged with a very long and endless road to recovery, it rocked us all.
Before his diagnosis, Oliver was THE HAPPIEST KID IN THE WORLD! Derek said that often when he was playing at home, Oliver would look up at him and just say the word "Happy". He was full of life and incredibly innocent. When he would visit our office, he would light it up with his presence and smile. If you we're having a bad day when he visited, your outlook quickly changed when he showed up! After his diagnosis, Oliver was still incredibly positive. After countless treatments, surgeries and trips from Holland to The DeVos Children's Hostipal in Grand Rapids, he stayed positive. He had us all convinced that he was going to beat his opponent in the long run. I could go on for days telling you about his strength and courage.
His father Derek is hands down one of the strongest people I have ever met. When I worked for him, I could always go to him for advice and encouragement. He not only was a rock for his family and friends, but he was the model for "being a parent of a kid who has cancer". Always positive, but always realistic. He has been an incredible influence on me as a parent. He has a lot to do with who I am today.
So as you probably can tell, I am doing a little bit of rambling as I fight through a lot of emotions. And you know where this is story is going. Yes, the phone call I received today informed me that Oliver lost his battle with Cancer this morning while he was resting at home with his entire family by his side, just as they had been for the past 2 1/2 years. My life has forever been changed by the strength of a father and the courage of his son.
So, I have been asking myself all day long, "What Really Matters?"
Does the call that the umpire just missed really matter?
Does your child's playing time really matter?
Does where you bat in the lineup or which leg of the relay you run really matter?
What matters is how you treat people. What matters is how you can inspire someone to do their best in the worst possible conditions. What matters how we love and support each other when we need it the most.
What matters to me is that was lucky enough to know a great kid like Oliver.
Please join me in sending your thoughts and prayers to the Emerson Family in Holland, MI tonight.