Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mourning the Loss of an Amazing Boy

My best friend's son died this week. He was 18 years old. He didn't die in the way most of us think might be expected for one his age. He died peacefully, on his mom's lap, looking into her lovely face, then to the face of Jesus.

LeRoy was born with a very rare condition called lissencephaly, which means that during his development in the womb, something caused his brain to be smooth, rather than bumpy like the rest of ours are. This resulted in profound issues for him. He was never able to speak, walk, or even crawl. He was fed through what we called a tummy tube (a gastrostomy tube) and was confined to a wheelchair. He underwent many surgeries to save his life; endured many seizures; and had many brushes with death. The average life expectancy of someone with lissencephaly is from 2 to 10 years.

Despite his limitations, LeRoy was one of the most effective ministers of the love of Jesus I have ever encountered. His mother, my dear friend, is beautiful, bubbly and congenial. She is not afraid to share her faith, nor is she afraid to pray with pretty much anyone she sees in need, any place. His dad is one of the most amazing men I've met - he was drawn to his wife after meeting LeRoy first. Love poured from this boy. Everyone who met him loved him, and he them.

LeRoy was born before I had any children. Then, as each of my five kids were babies, they got to know LeRoy, or as some of them called him, "ReRoy"... those L's are hard to say when one is a toddler. LeRoy didn't care. He just smiled.

LeRoy got sick last week, as he has so many times in the past. But this time it was different. This time he wasn't getting better. The doctor said that he might lose his life. I didn't believe it, because LeRoy had always bounced back against the odds. By Sunday morning my girlfriend called me and asked me to come over. LeRoy was struggling greatly to breathe, and it was obvious he was not doing well. The family had made advanced directives years ago, outlining what sorts of things they would and wouldn't do to prolong his life in this type of situation. Monday morning came, and the decision was made to take LeRoy off of his oxygen and let him go naturally. We all assumed he would pass quickly once taken off the oxygen, but this process took all day and into the night.

I got to spend all of Monday with LeRoy and his mom and dad, and many friends who stopped by along the way. It was amazing to see how many people loved this boy. Teachers, nurses, friends, neighbors, church friends all came filing through to talk to LeRoy and kiss him and stroke his hair for one last time. All his brothers came to be with him - it was humbling to watch young men draping themselves over their beloved brother, talking to him, kissing him, and hugging him.

At 8:50PM he breathed his last. It was a very peaceful passing, to my amazement. He was calm, even joyful for many hours. His eyes were open, and he was looking at his mom when he died, just as she had prayed for many years ago when learning his diagnosis.

My dear friend has had to walk through one of the things we mothers fear the most - the loss of a child. As her friend, I felt so privileged to be able to be with her as she faced this, yet what a helpless place for me to be in, not being able to do anything but hold her, wipe her tears, and pray for her. My heart was torn in two when the coroner came for his body as I heard my dear friend wailing, not wanting to let him go. His daddy, along with his brothers, carried him to the vehicle. I am certain it was the most difficult thing my friend's husband has ever had to do. These moments will never leave my heart.

The next day I had another privilege - to go with LeRoy's mom and dad and another dear girlfriend to the funeral home to talk about some decisions that needed to be made. None of us wanted to be there. Honestly, I don't know how funeral home directors can do their jobs day after day. My dear friend just put her head on the table and cried as I held her. That's what I was there for - to mourn with someone in mourning.

We had LeRoy's funeral yesterday. It was lovely, and there had to be at least five hundred people in attendance. To my amazement, my friend got up and spoke to everyone about her boy. I know I could never do that. She's my hero.

There is so much more I could write about LeRoy and his amazing family, but for now I'll end this post with thanks to God for allowing me to know these extraordinary people. LeRoy's mom many years ago taught me how to be hospitable. Now she's teaching me how to face death. God is too good to me - to us all.


  1. I'm so sorry for Leroy's mom, I found out last night, and checked your blog this morning. I didn't know Leroy well, but I know the impact he had on so many lives. He will be missed.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing LeRoy's story. As I read it tears streamed down my face. Whenever I think of him and his family I see God's grace in action. Like I wrote to his family in the card I sent,"The testimony of God’s goodness has always radiated from him. I cannot help but picture him dancing in heaven with our Lord Jesus!"

    My love and prayers go out to you and those you have been deeply affected by the loss of this incredible young man.