Sunday, November 23, 2008

November 23, 2008 - Brenden's Last Wish

This morning I have the TV news on while getting dressed, and I catch a CNN news item about the recent death of Brenden Foster, an 11-year-old boy with leukemia. It’s a sad story, to be sure, but there’s something very unusual – and powerful – about the way this young boy faces the reality of his own death. Brenden seems preternaturally calm, and incredibly accepting of the fact that his life is going to be far shorter than that of any of his peers.

Searching on YouTube later, I find this clip of an interview with him that aired a week before he died – a portion of which was included in the CNN story I saw:

Brenden exhibits what could be called the “It is what it is” approach to dealing with cancer. There’s a sort of wistfulness about him – not sadness, necessarily, but a detached, philosophical acceptance of what’s about to take place. Maybe there was a time when Brenden raged against the news of his own death, or denied it – but, if he ever was in such a place, he seems to have transcended it. He’s progressed far beyond those stages of the dying process.

I find Brendan’s demeanor calming, and beautiful. Would that we could all accept our own mortality with such equanimity.


Susan C said...

"I've had a great life and I plan on enjoying the rest of the life that I have left."

Wow! What a great spirit and great reminder to those of us who, hopefully, have a lot of time left.

Wendy S. Harpham, MD said...

Dear Pastor,
Thank you for sharing this, especially as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday. Oh that I could even approach his equanimity and continued concern for others when my time comes.
With hope, Wendy

Anonymous said...

As a mother of a child who went through the horror of cancer treatment and as a friend of so many who have lost their child to this horrid disease I can tell you that all kids who face cancer have a wise way about them because of all they endure.
They must see their parents hold back tears at the prospect of losing their babies, they endure terrible, continual pain and agony at the hands of good and kind nurses and doctors who are trying to cure them. They recieve incredible kindess from strangers and sympathy from so many because it unspeakable that a child has to face cancer treatment and often death.
However I find nothing romantic or calming about a child facing death, because in truth so many of them are tired of suffering, they are so so so tired - the acceptance may also be that they will no longer have to face so much. It is horrible, I am afraid I can never see this as you do - as a brave child, because he is still just a child and facing death is different for children than it is for us.
A very good friend of ours died at 20 after fighting leukemia for six years. She fought tooth and nail, she wanted children, she wanted to stay with the love of her life here in the world she loved to explore. She was ripped from us, and although she did face it bravely and with dignity, it was so very wrong - and she KNEW it. She had no choice. No choice.

We can never understand what these children go through, and even with the vast amount of inspiration they give us - never should we assume they are OK with dying, even if they say they are. Many are brave for their siblings, and parents - their acceptance makes us all happy and inspired. Children want to please us.

Energy is better spent funding pediatric cancer research so that children can be children, and not inspirations for how adults handle their natural deaths.

Monique Revellese said...

I am responding to "Anonymous" here. I can't EVEN begin to imagine what it would be like to have cancer or be the parent of a child that does, so I will not pretend that I can. I don't think that anyone here is forgetting the horror and selfishness of this disease (cancer) when we talk of inspiring stories. I DO think that when we hear of stories like this, it lets us know that our problems may not be so bad. That if he can do this, then we should be able to pick ourselves up. It is an amazing thing when we see strength like that in ones small. We all want to believe that someday when we die, that our lives meant something great. Truthfully, some of us may never do anything that will warrant more than a word of two at our eulogy. For his short time here on earth he made a difference. It made me cry to see this story, but also made me hug my children so much tighter than I usually do. He reminded us to be thankful for what we have & to help others, no matter what we are going through. That is INPIRATION.

Anonymous said...

Yes it is inspirational, so very much. He made me cry too because I can see he is scared. And he was amazing, and it is truly something that his message was carried beyond the quiet dark dugeon of his hospital room - that people could actually SEE and KNOW how amazing he was. There are so many other children like this wonderful boy making a difference in their short lives - not that they had a choice to be regular, or selfish or irresponsible.

For his mother, and for so many mothers who lose their children to cancer there is no inspiration there is anger and tremendous loss. For those parents who must witness their sweet babies vomit blood, and convulse and cry out begging for the pain to stop... looking at you with eyes that believe you should be able to help... there is only small consolation that you hug your child closer.

Please pledge your inspiration to support pediatric cancer research. Now that would mean something. That would be INSPIRED.

Anonymous said...

Happy Thanksgiving! Just wanted to say thanks for your support!

-Dan Waeger