His name is Eric. He’s 28 years old. And he’s about to die.
Almost ten years ago, Eric was diagnosed with Leukemia. His doctors told him he had 18 months to live. He decided that wasn’t quite long enough, so he’s been fighting like hell for the last ten years. But now, the end has finally come.
Over the last several years, Eric has been posting video updates about his condition and his life. He has chronicled his remissions and his relapses, the struggles of his family and his wife, the heroic efforts of his brother and sister. Last week he posted his final video, in which he announced that he is going to die soon. If you want to watch something truly heartbreaking, watch this video.
Eric’s brother, Mike, was an acquaintance of mine in college. I’ve been following Eric’s story since his diagnosis ten years ago, and he has been a huge inspiration to me. He refused to go quietly. He refused to sit down and shut up and take his diagnosis. He refused to take anything for granted. He embraced his life, living every moment as fully and completely as he could. We should all do the same. We may have fifty years left instead of Eric’s ten (if we’re lucky), but that fifty years will go quickly, too.
I cannot imagine facing what Eric has faced. I hope I never have to. But I see another side to his story now that I’m a mother. I cannot imagine facing what his parents have faced. Did they sit with him in that doctor’s office, ten years ago? Did they hold their breath as the doctor announced that their 18-year-old son would die soon? Did they ever exhale? Will they ever?
When you have a child, a million things change. You sleep less. Your house is a mess. You can’t just do whatever you want to anymore. But your life is more full of love than you ever imagined. There is this little person who’s smile can make even the worst day better. You watch this person grow and blossom and become. You are intimately connected to them, yet every day is a process of letting them go.
You think about your child’s safety and future more than your own. You worry and daydream and worry some more. You feel a connection to the future – things matter more than they used to, because you know that one day you will leave this world and your child will remain. You know that you must leave this world while your child remains. How could it be otherwise?
I’ve been thinking about Eric a lot over the last week, as I know hundreds of thousands of other people have. But I’ve also been thinking about his family and his parents. I hope I never face what they have faced. I hope they somehow find a way to live on.
Postscript: Eric passed away on August 23. He will be missed by many.
(This post is part of my 30 Days of Truth series. This is Day 6: Something you hope you never have to do. For the complete list, click here.)