I met KJ a few days after I went to live in the Ronald McDonald House in Houston, TX. My husband Brett and I had both been praying that my time at the House would be well spent and that I would be able to make some friends while I was there (I was pregnant with twin girls-one who’d already gone on to be with Jesus and the other who was still fighting for Life), and KJ and his mom Jane quickly became part of the answer to that prayer. It's strange to meet a person when they're in the middle of something as life-altering as cancer treatment. I realized quickly as I met people and started to live life with the other families at the RM house that we were all living in a very strange little bubble. A bubble of diagnosis, prognosis, treatments, pain, sickness, good news/bad news, choices and decisions and all that was messily piled on top of the day to day realities of being parents and kids. I could say much about the effects that bubble had on us all but I mention it here only because KJ was unique. Unlike many of the rest of us, the bubble did not seem to affect or define KJ.
An 11 year old little boy from rural Kentucky, and yet he was really so much more. When I met KJ, he had experienced more difficulty in treatment and prognosis than many of the others at the house at the time. He wore the battle scars of brain cancer and he could have had every reason and excuse to live those scars out. But he didn't. He was so incredibly patient. Cancer treatment is unique in that it has the rare ability to be almost equally as ravaging and brutal to the body as the disease it is made to fight. I would have dinner with KJ and Jane almost every day, and there were days when his treatment left him exhausted and in even more pain but I never ONCE saw him complain. Not once. He would take phone calls from family members and talk to adults that volunteered at the RM house with a maturity and consideration beyond his years. He made people feel special. He was able to see past his own suffering-and that was a gift.
KJ also had an awesome sense of humor. His wit was quick, so quick that you almost knew that his mind was always looking for ways to make light of situations, he did not let the difficulties of his current state bog him down, and it was almost like he was working hard to make sure it didn't bog down the people around him either.
KJ also had a Hope about him that was Other Worldly. I cannot imagine going through the things he was having to go through with the dogged faith that he did, but I can only say that it HAD to be the supernatural. That kid had such a calm peace about him! In fact, I can honestly say that he was the calmest, most at peace person in that place, and he'd be the first to say it was because of Jesus. He and his mom were continually sharing that they fully believed that Jesus could do All Things and KJ lived that faith out. It is True that Jesus can do All Things, because I saw Him do it in KJ.
When I met him, KJ was 11. I say that because he was so very much an 11 year old little boy. You know, the type of 11 year old boy who was super excited about the news that they were going to make more Star Wars movies and who liked to go to Comic book stores to buy just a few more Storm Troopers for his collection. He was an 11 year old boy who would tell me how he'd get up and try to get to the TV rooms before anyone else on Saturday mornings so he could watch the cartoons he wanted to see. He was still the 11 year old boy who loved Olive Garden, especially their pasta and bread sticks. Sickness had not touched these things about him, and it made me love him all the more!
KJ and Jane and I were buddies, getting through our days in the “Bubble" for a little over 2 months. I was so grateful for Jane's friendship during that time and those 2 months together often feel much longer to me, especially the impact that KJ had on my own life as a mom and just as a person. I was in the very throws of mourning the loss of our yet-to-be-born daughter Priscilla, and watching KJ and Jane’s daily walk through life was balm to my sensitive heart. It was yet another reminder of the fragility of life. The remarkable Gift we are all given each day when we wake up. We all have a choice of how we live that oh-so-special day, and I wanted very much to live it a little bit more like KJ.
After our daughter Tabitha was born ( healthy as can be, I might add!) I was excited to get back to the Ronald McDonald House for a day or two because I knew KJ was itching to meet her. He'd been eagerly waiting for her birth for days (as we all had!) and having him hold her and tell his mom, later, that maybe one day he'd like to be a Dad was maybe one of the greatest privileges of my life and( to me) made it totally worth it to be away from my own son and hubby for so long. As I headed back to my "regular life”, I'd get phone calls from KJ (he'd gotten his very own cell phone!) and we'd chat about the goings on at the Ronald McDonald House and he'd ask how Baby Tabitha was doing.
A few months later when KJ had some major setbacks in his sickness and our conversations stopped, my prayers for him didn't. I would often look at my healthy little baby girl and marvel and then I fall to my knees pleading for a miracle for my friend. And when KJ passed away in September 2013, I was heartbroken. The letter I wrote for our daughter Priscilla (which you can read here) carried many of the same sentiments I felt about KJ, the loss of someone that I knew the world would miss! I knew that an awesome son and friend and future dad were lost to us all and it hurt. And my hurt for his parents who lost their only son- was an indescribable ache. What to do with such hurt and pain?
And after much prayer and asking of the Lord, I've decided the only way to deal with them is to try and acknowledge them-not to push them away-understanding and experiencing the Pain of life is to hopefully point us to Heaven. They point us to Christ. He is the only One able to Hold our suffering when we can't. I also want to use that pain to motivate me to make this life, this world, a little bit more liveable because honestly, KJ taught me that life is a beautiful and a delicate gift and that gift is meant to be share with others. He taught me that while he was alive, and I hope that I can carry that with me and honor him in my actions now that he can't do it himself.
As I celebrate his birthday on the 24th of June, I’d like to honor his life with a little "acts of kindness" movement. Big or small, I hope that you will join me in honoring my dear friend's life by showing love to those that cross your path on his birthday. I also hope that we can use his birthday to remind his wonderful parents what a fantastic son they raised. Remind them that his impact lives on and his many fantastic qualities were passed on and shared. If you decide to join me in doing an act of kindness for KJ, will you document it on your social media of choice? I know we usually try to stay anonymous when it comes to doing nice things, but this time its not for us, its for KJ and his parents. His parents have Facebook and I will do my best to transfer any instagram and twitter submissions to Facebook so they can see them. But, wherever you choose to share your act, would you mind using the hashtag: #kindnessesforKJ
(If you aren't familiar with hashtags all you have to do is type it out JUST LIKE THAT -no spaces please- on your Facebook status or on your tweet or instagram comment and it will automatically be "categorized" so that when you click on it, it will take us to ALL the acts of kindness that have been done. )
And feel free to use the picture above if you'd like, if you want to share this story on your own blog or social media! Thanks dear friends! xoxox