In the past six years of my life I have spent countless hours in a hospital. Going to appointments, having tests run, getting surgery, and now that I know how it feels to be there, spending my time visiting other patients and volunteering my time at the kids’ holiday parties. When you’ve spent so much time around the staff, they, like other patients, become your family. Out of all these people who have touched my life in some way, there is one who touched my heart and who I will never forget.
It was a year and a half after I was diagnosed with superior mesenteric artery syndrome when I met Kevin. It was springtime and we were both in the hospital for treatment. Kevin was larger than life, always joking and playing pranks on the hospital staff. By the way he acted you’d never think that he had leukemia. He did though, and as our friendship grew stronger, so did his disease. He was so much fun to be around, and neither of us had to hide our sickness from each other. We’d gone through some of the same tests, some of the same nurses had cared for us, and we knew all the ins and outs of the hospital.
Some time passed, and Kevin went to a hospital in Seattle, where they were hoping to perform a partial bone marrow transplant. All of us who knew Kevin hoped and prayed that they’d be successful. Kevin and I sent messages back and forth while he was away, but one day I received a message from Kevin’s father. He told me, “Kevin and I have lots of time to talk up here, and you’re all he can talk about. Whatever you talk about in your messages is making him very happy, and I thank you for that.” Unknown to me, Kevin had been hiding his true feelings. Although I had a boyfriend, the stress and anxiety over Kevin put a strain on our relationship and we soon broke up, leaving me available for Kevin.
Halloween came and I was at the hospital helping with their party, when my mother pulled me aside and told me Kevin was coming home. He was too sick and there was nothing that the doctors could do. I remember a few minutes later, crying on the phone as Kevin told me himself when he’d be home. When tears kept Kevin from being able to speak, I continued the conversation with his dad. As we rolled into November Kevin finally asked me to be his girlfriend and I promised to be there until the end.
I spent the next weeks by Kevin’s side at the hospital, and at his house. Holding his hand every step of the way as I slowly watched him fade. He was no longer able to walk or lift his arms and eventually lost the use of his hands too. When Kevin’s anxiety attacks hit I was sometimes the only one who could get him calm enough to sleep.
Kevin was still the same person — cracking jokes, making others laugh. He still had a happy outlook. Thanksgiving rolled around and I spent the Friday after at Kevin’s house. He was drifting in and out of sleep, so I sat by him holding his hand, singing or talking to him whether he heard me or not. That night when I left after he fell asleep, I kissed him on the cheek, told him I loved him and that I’d be back tomorrow. Little did I know that was the last time I’d see him.
I was at the mall with my mom and older sister hitting the after Thanksgiving sales. We were finishing up when Kevin’s dad called. I knew then that something was wrong. Kevin had gone to the hospital that morning to get another round of platelets; it was then that the cancer took over. I don’t know if he ever asked for me — I was too scared to know the answer. I had almost been with him that morning. I was planning on going with him to the hospital, but my sister’s desire to start shopping early postponed my plans. I think God knew I wouldn’t have been able to handle it. All the tears I’d been holding in the past few weeks would have spilled out. I needed to be strong for Kevin and, in not being there when he passed away, he never had to see me afraid and crying. For that I’m very thankful.
Some times are harder than others, and life doesn’t always seem fair. But through Kevin I have become a better person. I’ve learned to look at the good even when faced with illness, love wherever I go, and laugh as much as I can. I thank God every day for Kevin’s influence in my life. It’s been four years since Kevin was called home, and there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of the kid in glasses who made me laugh. I still cry sometimes, but I know Kevin’s watching over those he loved. His memory reminds us to never lose faith, laugh often and love whomever we meet, for you never know what battle they’re facing.