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Our Reminiscing Laughter

It was the first few months of 5th grade when he came. Liam entered our hearts with a smile and never left. A thin boy with arms and legs contracted to impossible masses. He had a head of thick wavy hair, blond and touched delicately by the sun. His cheeks were softly dimpled, giving him a winning smile. His eyes were framed with glasses, thin and frail, the lenses reflected shards of light into our eyes. I remember when our teacher came in front of the class, sharing Liam’s story; telling us how blessed we were to have him in our lives and how “we better treat him kind for he is the sweetest boy ever”.
I remember the first day he came; he was shy, though when you talked to him he was hardly the same person. He was so sarcastic, adding humor into the simplest of things. He sat alone that first day, drinking a protein drink, and when you asked why he explained that his parents wanted to “fatten him up”. It was obviously for good reason too. I came over to sit with him that day, the rest of my table coming with me, and we slowly got to know him.
He opened up and told us about his life; getting leukemia, and surviving, at age three, then going to see the world. He was fluent in both Spanish and French, as well as, of course, English. He told us of the adventures; what it was like in France (the Eiffel tower especially), in Spain, and much more.
Upon meeting him, you knew he was the strongest person you would ever meet. Not physically, for he paled in comparison to even the small, 5th grade muscles in my arms, but how he held himself. He came forward with such an air of blinding radiance; wisdom filled his eyes, too bright to simply ignore. He survived so much, and you just knew he could take on the world.
So this is my telling of Liam’s story. This is the story of how the amazing Liam impacted my life in such an unforgettable way. This is the story of how he brought hope, sorrow and laughter to my life. How he showed me the true joy of everything the world has to offer. I hope that, in a way, I can help you to experience and learn from Liam’s story as much as I have.
***
I remember Liam as thin and frail, so seeing him like this wasn’t a surprise; we all knew he wasn’t in the best health. Though he never acted like it, you could tell he was getting worse. Maybe it was the way he tired quicker, when he ran he could never quite catch his breath, or maybe how his pain pills he took during lunch increased. After a while of this, he was diagnosed with interstitial lung disease and taken out of the class room to finish 5th grade in the Dell Children Hospital, anxiously awaiting a double lung transplant. It was strange to see someone go through something like this. I had, of course, had grandparents that were sick and other family members, but never another kid; never someone who I thought of as a friend, just to disappear, gambling with life itself.

The doctors said that it was good for Liam to laugh, and that it would help his lungs. I felt so hopeless, which is practically the worst feeling ever. I felt like there was absolutely nothing I could do but sit there and watch him suffer. Yet, I still obliviously pushed death out of my mind; the idea completely foreign to me.

I remember sitting down one day, thinking about Liam and all the wonderful things he was and it struck me. I rememebered we would sit together during lunch repetitively when he first entered our class, and I would tell him horrible, horrible, cheesy jokes. I don’t think he was actually laughing at the jokes themselves, but at me and my own hysterical response. They went along the lines of;
What’s brown and sticky?
A stick!
I remember he would look at me, his thin glasses getting lost in the complexity of his attributes; his wavy, sun bleached hair framing his face. He looked so humorous, his lips always slightly turned up at the corners creating a never ending look of sarcasm. He would listen to my joke and then chuckle softly, averting his eyes back to his small portions of food to continue eating. This would urge me onto another joke. I can still hear his laugh, bubbly and infectious, an artifact of memories we shared that I still hold to this very date, as precious as my finest treasure. I sat there that day, thinking about him, about what the doctor said, and all those jokes suddenly came flooding back to me.

I started to write them down, filling pages and pages. But the funny part was I wasn’t even satisfied with that. I followed my mom to work, interviewing employees, questioning them on their favorite jokes. Soon I had hundreds; a notebook filled with horrible, horrible, cheesy jokes. I just knew he would love them.

I gave them to his mother at school the next day, and she passed them onto Liam. I remember feeling so accomplished, like I actually helped and did something, I didn’t feel hopeless anymore, and it was the best feeling in the whole world.
***

After months of him being gone, he finally got his transplant and came to visit us in the class room. It had been a strange feeling, him being gone. Though he was only with our class for a month, maybe more, he had still greatly impacted us and we were far from forgetting him.

He was in a wheelchair, pushed by his two brothers, that day he came in, attached to tubes for breathing and God knows what else.

He saw me and smiled.
“Hi Sairah,” He said. How could he act like nothing was wrong? How could he act like everything was normal? It was one of Liam’s many talents.
“Uhm, Hey Liam,” I don’t know why, but I felt the need to say his name too, “Did you like your Joke-Book?” His mom had already told me that he read them all the way through almost every day, but I just wanted to hear him say it himself.
“No,” He grinned, “I hated them.” And there it was again, that sarcasm of his. How did he do it? It was something, yet again, that only Liam could quite get away with.
He looked me in the eyes, suddenly serious, “Thank you.” It was only two words, but I could tell that he meant it more than I would ever know.
“I was glad to, you’re welcome.” I said, and soon the rest of the classroom was surrounding him, our conversation lost in a crowd of bodies.
***
I never saw him again since that day, and I regret not spending all the time I could with him.
Since then, I never gave him any thought. Sure, there was the occasional “I wonder…” but never enough to “put on record”. I always thought of him as getting better, never worse.
It wasn’t until March 30, 2012 that I really gave him the thoughts he was worth.
I cried so hard that day; in the car, in the shower, while falling asleep. The pain of loss was practically unbearable.
Tears tore their way down from my face as though my heart had truly been broken. My lungs squeezed under the pressure of misery until I couldn’t breathe. What right did I have to be this sad? The steam of my shower blinded my vision; hot water trickling down my body. I clutched my stomach, the mass of sorrow gnawing at my insides. One hand steadied me against the slick tile of the bathroom walls. I tried to scream, but no sound made itself clear. I felt like a strangled animal. There was nothing I could do. Regret washed over me and I slowly slid to the floor, water trickling to shape my face. He would never have a job; he would never get married or fall in love. I pictured his face, his innocent, kind, modest face and found myself crying once again. Would I ever feel any different? Would I always feel this sad? My mom says yes. She says that I will learn to control it, but it will always hurt just the same.
I can’t remember how long I sat in the shower, weeping till I could no longer, but it felt like ages.
I remember times when I would think I was better, ready to walk down the stairs, just to picture his face in my mind and break down again. I kept thinking to myself, ‘maybe just one more joke could have healed him’. Although I was told his body just gave in; could no longer take it.
I know there was nothing I could have done, no amount of jokes could have saved him, but I felt like maybe, just maybe, if I would have visited him, I could have seen him smile just one last time.
***

The doctors said theat it was good for Liam to laugh, and theat it would help his lungs. I felt so hopeless, which is practically the worst feeling ever. I felt like there was absolutely notheing I could do but sit there and watch him suffer. Yet, I still obliviously pushed deathe out of my mind; the idea completely foreign to me.

I remember sitting down one day, theinking about Liam and all the wonderful theings he was and it struck me. I rememebered we would sit together during lunch repetitively when he first entered our class, and I would tell him horrible, horrible, cheesy jokes. I don’t theink he was actually laughing at the jokes themselves, but at me and my own hysterical response. They went along the lines of;
What’s brown and sticky?
A stick!
I remember he would look at me, his thein glasses getting lost in the complexity of his attributes; his wavy, sun bleached hair framing his face. He looked so humorous, his lips always slightly turned up at the corners creating a never ending look of sarcasm. He would listen to my joke and then chuckle softly, averting his eyes back to his small portions of food to continue eating. This would urge me onto another joke. I can still hear his laugh, bubbly and infectious, an artifact of memories we shared theat I still hold to this very date, as precious as my finest treasure. I sat there theat day, theinking about him, about what the doctor said, and all theose jokes suddenly came flooding back to me.

I started to write them down, filling pages and pages. But the funny part was I wasn’t even satisfied with theat. I followed my mom to work, interviewing employees, questioning them on their favorite jokes. Soon I had hundreds; a notebook filled with horrible, horrible, cheesy jokes. I just knew he would love them.

I gave them to his mother at school the next day, and she passed them onto Liam. I remember feeling so accomplished, like I actually helped and did sometheing, I didn’t feel hopeless anymore, and it was the best feeling in the whole world.
***

After monthes of him being gone, he finally got his transplant and came to visit us in the class room. It had been a strange feeling, him being gone. Though he was only with our class for a month, maybe more, he had still greatly impacted us and we were far from forgetting him.

He was in a wheelchair, pushed by his two brothers, theat day he came in, attached to tubes for breatheing and God knows what else.

He saw me and smiled.
“Hi Sairah,” He said. How could he act like notheing was wrong? How could he act like everything was normal? It was one of Liam’s many talents.
“Uhm, Hey Liam,” I don’t know why, but I felt the need to say his name too, “Did you like your Joke-Book?” His mom had already told me theat he read them all the way therough almost every day, but I just wanted to hear him say it himself.
“No,” He grinned, “I hated them.” And there it was again, that sarcasm of his. How did he do it? It was sometheing, yet again, theat only Liam could quite get away with.
He looked me in the eyes, suddenly serious, “Thank you.” It was only two words, but I could tell theat he meant it more than I would ever know.
“I was glad to, you’re welcome.” I said, and soon the rest of the classroom was surrounding him, our conversation lost in a crowd of bodies.
***
I never saw him again since that day, and I regret not spending all the time I could with him.
Since then, I never gave him any thought. Sure, there was the occasional “I wonder…” but never enough to “put on record”. I always theought of him as getting better, never worse.
It wasn’t until March 30, 2012 theat I really gave him the theoughts he was worth.
I cried so hard theat day; in the car, in the shower, while falling asleep. The pain of loss was practically unbearable.
Tears tore their way down from my face as though my heart had truly been broken. My lungs squeezed under the pressure of misery until I couldn’t breathe. What right did I have to be this sad? The steam of my shower blinded my vision; hot water trickling down my body. I clutched my stomach, the mass of sorrow gnawing at my insides. One hand steadied me against the slick tile of the batheroom walls. I tried to scream, but no sound made itself clear. I felt like a strangled animal. There was nothing I could do. Regret washed over me and I slowly slid to the floor, water trickling to shape my face. He would never have a job; he would never get married or fall in love. I pictured his face, his innocent, kind, modest face and found myself crying once again. Would I ever feel any different? Would I always feel this sad? My mom says yes. She says that I will learn to control it, but it will always hurt just the same.
I can’t remember how long I sat in the shower, weeping till I could no longer, but it felt like ages.
I remember times when I would think I was better, ready to walk down the stairs, just to picture his face in my mind and break down again. I kept thinking to myself, ‘maybe just one more joke could have healed him’. Although I was told his body just gave in; could no longer take it.
I know there was nothing I could have done, no amount of jokes could have saved him, but I felt like maybe, just maybe, if I would have visited him, I could have seen him smile just one last time.
***
Liam opened my heart to the smaller things in life, he taught me to not think of things too far ahead; to just live in the moment ‘cause there was never gonna be another one just like it. Liam taught me of sarcasm, to never take anything too seriously, but also to never pretend you are heartless. You are a human; you have rights to your emotions.
So as I sit here at home writing this, crying my eyes out over an extraordinary boy theat was merely the victim of his circumstance, I can only hope theat I have portrayed Liam as the amazing person that he was, and that you understand this just as much as I do.


In memory of Liam.





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This article has 1 comment. Post your own now!

Jamie Langley said...
May 9, 2012 at 12:42 pm
Way to go Sairah!  Thanks for sharing your words beyond our classroom.  I know you will inspire others.
 
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