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Visitors

By Jean Southworth

March 2002

Two nights ago Sue called with some devastating news: their son, Alex, is diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, a cancer with about an 80% cure rate.

Alex is a good friend of Zach’s, part of a circle of 17 year old boys at Sprague High School, one of several kids I hold dear.

Alex has a dry sense of humor, athletic talent, and a brain barely contained by standardized tests. He’s so attractive that girls obsess over him, yet remains so shy that he has no clue what the girls really think. Of course, this just increases his attractiveness.

Zach’s first inclination at the news was to spread the word via internet chat line. Junior class boys planned a Tuesday drive to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland. Zach made certain that Mikayla, the unattainable beauty of Sprague’s junior class, got Alex’s room number. She called him almost immediately.

Jim and I decided Sunday was a better visiting day than Tuesday. We could drive up together, and Jim needed me along as much as I needed him for this particular trip. Still, we merely provided a vehicle for what Alex really needed: a little band of teenagers to bolster his spirits. So we called Sue to see if Alex was up for visitors, then picked up Jeff and Trevor.

Zach, Jeff and Trevor were so brave, it breaks my heart. They are so young to go through this, but they never hesitated, not for a moment.

Al and Sue greeted us at Alex’s room, jokingly with him about finding these teenage boys wandering the streets of Portland. Even so, the first few minutes felt uneasy. Alex appeared thin and vulnerable atop the bed in shorts and t-shirt. I didn’t think we’d be staying long.

Thankfully, the awkwardness soon melted, and as Trevor recounted, it was as if they were all back in our basement playing video games together. Sue and I stood outside the room, watching as a relaxed Alex talked and laughed with his friends. Several times she whispered to me, "Look at that. Look at that." Our visit went longer than originally planned; it had to.

Tonight I carry an image of four boys in a hospital oncology room, each one loving God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. It is difficult to concentrate on my bible study. This week we examine Psalm 55, a song of personal anguish and the call for refuge and relief. I realize God used these boys as Alex’s relief, if just for an hour.

"Look at that. Look at that."

 

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