“The just man, though he die early, shall be at rest. For the age that is honorable comes not with the passing of time, nor can it be measured in terms of years.” The Book of Wisdom
Perhaps, but for the family and friends left behind by the death of a child or young adult, that it is a difficult path to follow.
14 years ago today, December 14, 2007, Henry Thomas Herzog Schueler, “Hank”, died as a result of an intracranial bleed caused by a mucormycosis fungal infection diagnosed in September 2007, following induction chemotherapy for relapsed hypodiploid acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He was 14 years, 9 months and 5 days old. He left behind his then 12-year-old sister, Anna, his 8-year-old brother, Joe, his parents and extended family, and a loving and caring community of friends in Edgebrook-Sauganash and beyond. He touched many more lives than he knew with his courage and fighting spirit. He is still touching lives 14 years later.
Today then marks the day when he will now be gone from us in heaven longer than his short, but well-lived life on earth.
Despite that difficult path, 14 years later we still stand together as Hank’s family and friends just as he asked us to do when he bravely faced the grim prospect that his own life may not be long. He wanted his family to live our lives without him not in sadness or despair or without hope, but by continuing to do all the things that he so enjoyed in life, spending time with family and friends, seeing new things and places, meeting new friends, watching and playing the sports he loved, cheering on the Cubs, and laughing, always laughing. He told his friends that too.
He knew it would not be easy to go on without him, for Anna and Joe and me, and how especially hard it would be on his mom. And he was right. Not a day goes by in those 14 years where we have not thought of him and wished he could be with us still to share the blessings of family, friends, and community. To see the beautiful world around us, to laugh and share good times with his old friends and new, to see his talents blossom, to experience all that his unfinished life on earth had in store. It was not to be as he or we had hoped.
But with the love and support of family and friends and the indescribable support of this community that we live in, I think we’ve made him proud. His image looms over the playing fields in the neighborhood he loved, his cause shared with strangers across the United States and beyond, his courage an inspiration to so many facing difficult moments, and his name ever the household word that it always was, still spoken amongst us all, his friends and family. And his name will live on in the Foundation we created in his honor and memory to give hope to other children, young adults, and their parents, who face the same health challenges he did. That is an enduring legacy.
We cannot thank all of you enough for being there for us as friends and family during Hank’s happy life, his fight for it, and for being there for us in the 14 years since he died.
Just after Hank died, I could not fathom how I could possibly live the rest of my life without Hank in it. But a wise person reminded me that each day we live on earth without him brings us one day closer to being together again. So today, 14 years after he died, is just another day on that journey.
These famous words of Henry Scott-Holland, Professor of Divinity at the University of Oxford in the early 20th Century, remind us of how close in life and in death we remain to those we love. Forever.
“Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by the old familiar name. Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. There is absolute and unbroken continuity. What is this death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner. All is well. Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before. How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!”
Until that day. Love, The Schuelers