Caleb and Drew were friends through their common bond of a cancer diagnosis. I imagine they never would have crossed paths without it. Nor would they have likely been friends without Special Love, an incredible organization founded thirty years ago to enrich and support the lives of children and their families who battle the beast. Through Special Love, our family has made some lasting friendships and a boatload of unique memories. Two gifts that will never be tagged for the yearly yard sale or rendered useless through overuse, rust or decay. We are blessed.
Caleb, Drew and Ale October 2010
Drew was one of those kids who stood out from day one. He was so incredibly friendly and endlessly generous with hugs and genuine, little boy affection. He surprised me. Most kids have reservations when it comes to strangers...and even friends. I don't think Drew ever met a stranger in his lifetime and friends were practically family.
I will never forget the last morning of the last weekend we spent with Drew and his family at a Special Love event. I was up early. The first one to make my way up the rain slicked steps and onto the camp porch where the coffee was set out for desperadoes like me. I was alone for a good while, which is never a problem for someone who enjoys solitude. I like to get coffee in the mornings at camp for the perfect quietness and beauty of a rising dawn, but also for the opportunity to meet someone new and make a new friend. I am not a total recluse.
That morning, Drew and his dad made their way to the porch, and after Dad poured, assembled and stirred his cup of coffee, he told Drew he was headed back to their room. Drew asked if he could stay.
I was sitting at one of the picnic tables and Drew shuffled over and sat down next to me. With Drew, there was no such thing as personal space. So when I say "next to me", you have to picture no empty air pockets of wasted space.
He began with a bit of small talk...about 30 seconds worth, and then he started telling me details about his battle with cancer. I hadn't asked any questions. That was just Drew. No need to be concerned about making anyone uncomfortable......or wondering if they even want to hear what you have to say......or worried about taking up someone's time. He wrapped me up in a snuggly hug before he left me sitting there with my cold cup of coffee.
I realized immediately that I had been gifted with something not quite tangible. An intimate, almost holy moment, with a boy who seemed to live without reserve. Someone as close to being who God created them to be as I have ever known. The kind of person I have always wanted to be.
It was shortly after this encounter with Drew that I began to step out into the dreams God had set in my heart as a child. I had carried those dreams around for over thirty years, always imagining what it would be like to live them out in real time. Never believing they were ever really meant for me to claim.
But claim them, I did. And the dreams are still unfolding. Once I took that first harrowing step off the edge, the open doors and opportunities just kept falling at my feet.
To live like Drew means that I will throw off my well rooted fears and just be who God intended for me to be all along.
It's really, amazingly quite simple. But I am not sure I would have found my way without Drew to take the lead.
He left far more behind than just my own personal encounter with him. I am only one person amongst hundreds and hundreds of Drew's friends. I did not know him as well as most did. But he left his hand print on my heart and I will always be on the lookout for ways to honor his life and to LIVE LIKE DREW.