A young friend, Cole Owens, passed out of this world on Monday. He was diagnosed with a serious form of cancer at age five, just after arriving in Kindergarten. I remember him well at that stage because we were all together on that Labor Day at his grandma’s house. He was a little dynamo….a bundle of energy. He was so healthy and active that one would never guess that there was anything wrong.
His journey took nine years but was not always uphill. There were times when he was cancer-free and things looked good. But the shadow always returned. He made it through school in those early years but was often in and out of treatment. He managed to be a star of the soccer team and his friends flocked to him. He was the bright and shining face in class. It seemed like he never had a bad day.
Maybe he knew his time was short because he had such a joy for living. He became a local celebrity and an inspiration to many. His single mom was his champion. Together they faced every dragon and won more times than they lost. He made it to through middle school but the future looked cloudy. Doctors were not seeing what they hoped for. His last year was spent away from home and his school friends but he kept in close contact. Some friends travelled halfway across the country to be with him and he was well enough to enjoy their time together. There were good times at football games and a short trip here and there when he was feeling good. His liver was the problem; that and the vicious side effects of cancer treatment.
His smile and his spirit sustained his mom and gave her hope. He took a strong interest in his treatment and the doctors and nurses who were trying to save him. They sought out the best treatment they could find. Cancer treatments have a devastating effect on children. Their young bodies can’t handle such powerful medications, chemotherapy and surgeries. They can suffer as much from the cure as the affliction. Most cancer research is focused on adult cures and medications and the kids can’t handle some of that.
After nine years the horizon closed in. You can only do so much. He got to do things and meet people most kids dream of. His visit with his hero, Jimmy Fallon, was a special time. There is a long list of people who supported and prayed for his recovery. In the end the light goes out of your heart as sadness, waiting in the shadows, envelops all who knew him.
There is a saying that “…it’s not the years in the life but the life in the years that counts” Maybe so…but it is still so hard to say goodbye.