“Were you there, Did you See”

This is the strongest writing I have ever been given to write.  The words are harsh and raw.  But there is value.  And it is not by chance that I share this today on Easter.  The power of the Blood of Jesus is far reaching and has greatest “Impact”.  The main title of all these writings is “Impact”.  It started with the original page  (  https://impactgreenleaf.wordpress.com/the-impact-of-the-life-of-james-matthew-greenleaf/ )   and all the following posts contribute to this same theme of “Impact”.   I do not wish to share this but I am hoping that there is some value to someone.  See the original page of the link above to see what my mission statement for these writings.  If the mission statement is honored in this then I have accomplished what I have set out to do.

Were You There?  Did You See?

This is the final writing that I include.  It was written in December 1999.  It was written in a dark moment.  It was written as a plea.  It was written with some anger.  It was written in response to stones that were being cast.  The stones were cast at the one I love more than myself.  This was written to defend.

Why be sad over James?  He is in heaven.  He has received the ultimate reward.  Why mourn so for the loss of this little child?  He was used by God for God’s glory and the many lives changed for the better.  These are questions posed after many months of deep grief and sadness.

The following questions I pose to you.  I am the father and I was there to watch an innocent child lose the battle of life.  What I present to you is from my heart.  I was there for a portion of all the tests and hospital stays.  I saw only a portion of the suffering.  I mention this because there was someone that was there for James through all the bad, all the hurt, all the hospital stays, and yes held him close when he breathed his last.  The mother was there and grieves much more deeply because she did see it all. 

So what are the questions I ask?

Were you there?  Did you see?  Did you hear? 

Were you there to see a child suffer and then die?

Have you ever seen a child suffer and then die?

I have and I do understand the grief and pain, the sorrow and hurt.  Yes, and I do know that he received a great reward in Glory.

Have you ever seen your child relapse to cancer and take him to the surgeons and have them put a life line, rubber tubing in his chest that feeds into his heart?  Did you know that the tubing was to be first used for the poison that feeds into the heart for the killing of cells, mostly good life cells and then also the cancer cells?

Have you ever felt your child’s hair and have handfuls of strands fill your hand?

Have you ever smelt the chemo on your child?  It gives a distinctive odor.

Were you there when they strapped him onto the cold scanning table for hours of scans?  Did you see him there when they pulled the scanning machine within an inch of his nose?  Have you ever heard your child plea and cry for those hours because it was constricting and scary?  We look back at that and remember how strong he was at the beginning to fight that.

Have you ever seen your child get weaker and fight less the doctors and chemo?  Do you know he even looked forward to going to the hospital because of a special doctor, play lady, and nurses that loved him.

 

Did you ever see your child’s face turn pale?  Low counts on blood cells change the complexion.

I share the following with you.  I wrote this when he relapsed.  I wrote it the night his line was placed in his chest.  After everyone was asleep.  When James was in our bed sleeping next to his mother.

            His name is James.  His blonde hair bounces as he trots along playing in the

            summer breeze.  His fair complexion and hair give a radiance in the glow of

            the sun.  Energy abounds in this young boy and his smile lights all those around.

            He is also given the names of kindness and gentleness.  Joy is what he gives back.

            But this is for a season only.  Fair complexion turned to pale complexion.  Energy

            that once abounded now is used for fighting and maintaining.  His names of 

            kindness and gentleness cannot be taken, but added to his name is sadness, grief,

            and suffering.   His smile can still light a darkened room but these new added

            names are shared by his family and friends.  Courage is there but cancer fights

            harder.

These words I wrote that night were the first I had ever written about James’ cancer.  It was unfinished because the words were not there.  I did revise these words and the first part was used at the funeral in ‘James’ Story’.  It is significant that the last words written, the last words given to me to write were ‘but cancer fights harder’.  Do you know that it snowed that day in uptown Charlotte.  When James was recovering after surgery, I looked out the window and saw the large, fluffy flakes float down.  Do you know that when you read a book or watch a movie that snow or rain is symbolic of sadness and or sorrow.

Did you ever have to give your child a shot?

Did you ever have to give your child a shot when he is sick from chemo?

Have you ever given your child a shot when he is sick from chemo after many rounds of chemo and he is at his weakest because it is the last day of the seven consecutive days of shots?

Have you seen the tears and heard the pleas from a young child saying “NO Daddy” to the shots and him looking to his mom as she holds him down?  What you really want to do is give him the biggest prize for enduring so much. 

You know a question was posed to us that goes like this:  ‘If you could bring James back, cancer free, would you bring him back?’  We both thought hard on this.  She could not answer this.  I could.  One of the deciding factors was that I would never want to see him go through any moment of suffering.  Now that’s impossible on earth.

Have you ever packed up the family when school is out for the summer, when many families you know are packing up their families for summer vacation at the beach, and taken them up to Durham “The City of Medicine” for the summer?

Did you ever take your child down to radiation first thing in the morning when he is at his brightest and lay him on the table and you and the nurses and doctors evacuate the room because of the doses of radiation?  Have you ever seen your child come out of sedation and see how nauseated he looks?  After several hours he starts to feel better and then you take him for the second round and do the same thing?  Have you ever done it for five straight days?  Each day seeing your child get weaker and sicker.  In the midst of it all he still played with toys while he lay on the floor.

Have you ever taken your child into the hospital after five days of radiation knowing that he is about to receive the strongest chemo he will ever receive?  They started the chemo Saturday morning and it ran through Monday.  He played some Saturday, less on Sunday, and then never again.  He ate some Saturday, less Sunday, and then never again.  He entered the hospital Friday evening.  It ended 67 days later.

Have you ever seen your child take weeks to recover and slowly make progress?  It was the week of July 18th that we saw him sitting up in bed.  When we filled the basin for his bath, he dunked his face and head under the water.  It must have felt so good to him.  This was his best week.  He had recovered some energy.  He was given the privilege to eat ice chips and popsicles.  It wasn’t food but it was progress.  Of course this was taken away because his body wasn’t ready.  It was this week that he had strong pains in his abdomen.  After a full month of recovery there is little progress in his digestive tract.  A simple procedure was ordered to take a look at the GI tract. 

Have you ever had a sinking feeling in your stomach that something is wrong?  We had that feeling since the day he relapsed.  But you choke it down because you have to.  But on this Friday July 23rd it was so much more.

The Shedding of Blood

I was not going to include this portion because of the strong content but there is too much significance to ignore it.

No one knew that after the simple procedure, the simple endoscopy and biopsy of his GI tract that James continued to bleed.  When they had trouble weaning him off the ventilator they thought it was just a breathing problem.  No one knew.  It wasn’t until the labs were drawn, when the nurse drew blood, when she saw the blood being drawn out, she could see how thin the blood was.  She knew it was so wrong.  Were you there?  I was not.  I left the hospital to go back to the apartment for a change of clothes for Terri and me.  I walked back to the hospital feeling worn out from the drain of waiting for James to come off the ventilator.  I walked around the corner heading to PICU and there is Doctor Martin and Terri coming towards me with a terrible look.  He lost almost all his blood from the continual bleed.  James’ body holds three units of blood.  They replaced three units of blood.

It was later that evening when we could be by his side that it happened.  All the blood had collected in his intestines.  I didn’t even think about that.  It would be released.  It all came out.  The large clots at first disturbed me the most.  I did not know what this was.  I had to ask the doctors because it terrified me.  I have never seen anything like it.  There was so much.  And then after the clumps of clots, the liquid blood poured out.  Do you know the nurses had to hold up the edges of the pad underneath him so the blood would not spill out onto the floor? 

            Have you ever seen your child in a pool of blood before!!!

          Were you there?!  Did you see?

          Did you hear?

          Did you feel the despair?

          God! God! Have Mercy!!!

Do you know that even with being heavily sedated he opened his eyes and looked at me?  Do you know what that looks like?

The shedding of blood were the words ringing in my ears.

Why do I share this with you?  Because I saw Christ crucified like never before.  The shedding of blood, my son’s blood from bleeding all day.  An innocent child that knew no evil.  Blood was shed that day and I knew that the shedding of innocent blood could bring life.  I was hoping that this was a sign of shedding blood to bring new life.  That is what Christ did for us.  His blood spilled out.  Innocent blood was shed for me with Christ crucified. 

James would not recover from this.  I believe if they had not done the procedure or if they would have caught the bleeding earlier, that James had the strength to recover.  But fighting two battles in a weakened condition leaves little hope.

Why is blood the price to pay?  What does it represent?  It represents life.  When we look at James’ life it is priceless.  It is the most valuable treasure when you love someone.  All the wealth in this world could not replace it.  There is nothing of more value.  Is there anything you can think of that holds more value?  The price that Jesus paid by the shedding of blood was for the great debt of our sin.  That night we received a small glimpse of what God allowed in the sacrifice of His Son and the shedding of blood.

The battle at PICU was the deciding factor in the war for James’ life.  The update I wrote at 3:00am on his webpage was simple but written in despair.  The last line was ‘Pray for mercy either way’.  I could not continue to see how awful things were in PICU.  Have you ever prayed for mercy for your child?  I did not want to see James suffer any longer.

 

The doctors called it acute renal failure.  His kidney system was conquered.  For the next month the other systems would be conquered also.

Have you ever suffered a great loss?

Have you ever suffered a great loss after a long war with cancer, chemotherapy, and an endless list of tests and medicines and procedures that are too long to list?

We asked a lot of a little brave soldier to fight two major battles in a weakened state.

Have you ever walked out of the hospital without your child?

Do you know what that is like?

Do you know the agony of defeat?  We lost.  This wasn’t a game, it wasn’t a battle, it was the war.  We suffered the greatest loss of our lives. 

I was sad for James.  I was sad for Terri.  I was sad for our kids.  But I was also sad for all those who had pulled for James.  We had people from all over cheering for James and praying for James.  I was sad for them.  For all the little ones who prayed bedtime prayers for James, for the classmates of Paul and Brittney, for the teachers at their school, for all the mothers and fathers who loved our James and for our close friends and family.

Have you ever had to make the calls to loved ones saying it was over?

‘James has finished his fighting’.

Do you know what it is like to pack your van after suffering a great loss and drive away from Duke to your home without your child?  Do you know the emptiness and abandonment we felt?  We felt like we were leaving James behind.  

Do you know what it is like to pull into your driveway and walk through the door and know that your child is not there?

It’s the next morning.  You wake and it all hits and you realize yesterday’s nightmare really did happen and your heart sinks.  Then you get up because you have an appointment with the funeral home and cemetery.  The cemetery is beautiful.  The funeral home is wrenching. 

Do you know what it’s like to go down the hall and turn the corner and see two child’s caskets?  You choose!  Terri fell to the floor.  Do you know that this was probably harder than when we went Friday morning when James was there.  I know what you might be thinking:  James is in heaven and not in a casket at a funeral home.  That’s right and that’s the point….James wasn’t there.  His little body that held our James is lifeless.

Have you ever gone to the funeral home to look on your little one in a casket?  Have you seen the peace on his beautiful face and know that that peace was achieved after a great battle had been fought?  ‘James has finished his fighting’ and now peace has finally arrived.  James, James how we loved you so!

Have you ever knelt next to that casket and sob and tell your son how sorry you were that he was gone and that he had to face such great suffering?

Yes, these words we said were for our benefit because he was not there. 

“You do not associate the words courage and bravery with such a small frame” were the words Pastor Poplin said in regards to James at the service.  He went on to explain that these words are the words that we say in describing James fight with cancer.  As parents we hope to hear these words in honor to our child for some great deed of service or for some great project that they were part of.  We hope to hear these words at some ceremony or awards banquet where afterwards we can embrace them and tell them how proud we are of them.  But to hear these words spoken of your child in memory and as a tribute is yes honoring but so wrong.  Yes, it was indeed a beautiful service but how we did not want to be there.  Saturdays are the family days when we go as a family to a park or some outing.

Have you ever wanted to open the casket one last time and hold your little one just one last time and tell how much we loved him?  These thoughts were there but thank God we didn’t.  James was not there.  Have you ever left the cemetery and again are acquainted with the feelings of abandonment?  How could we leave our precious child?  He needs us to be by his side.  But no, the cemetery is for us.  We need to be by his side to honor the brave little soldier who was not asked to fight a battle for life but was required to fight because of a disease called cancer.  ‘But cancer fights harder’. 

The tears we cry, we cry with pride in memory of James.  The hurt we feel we welcome because we knew a boy who hurt so.  The mourning we do is from God.  There is comfort in our sorrow knowing it is in memory of such a beautiful life.  James O’ James, how we love and miss you so!

If I Had Not God

This is the exclamation mark of my writings.  It ties together at least 12 previous writings (posts).  If you have seen God working in your life then you can use this same premise to reflect back.

If I Had Not God

If I had not God where would I be?  What would I see?  This would change everything if I had not God.  There would be no words of value to write if I had not God.

There are simple things like blessings that I would miss if I had not God.  There are the roses that were presented to James that I would not see that have depth and meaning.  I would just see them as flowers and miss out on how they ministered to us in our time of loss if I had not God.  I would not hear the ‘sweet voice in my ear’ that lifted me in a dark moment and I would not have even been at church that morning if I had not God.

If I had not God we would not have had the saints at our home to pray for James before we go to Duke.  I would not have known the significance of his request to remove our shoes.  I would not have seen that the ‘least amongst us’ would speak the words of God if I had not God.

Would I have seen the ‘least amongst us’ as a ‘piece of heaven’?  Would I have seen James as this?  Would I have seen Drew as this?

The day of his graveside service, as we are leaving, we see three deer on the lawn in broad daylight in the open area at the cemetery.  They stand as statues as we drive by.  I look on them as the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.  I have not seen but a glimpse of a deer at dusk since this day.  After all these years it is significant to us and holds value and meaning.  If I had not God it would be three deer only, just animals.

“Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, help me stand” would mean nothing to me.  “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want… Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:  for thou art with me” would not be words that I know if I had not God.   “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” would not be known if I had not God.

Would I see the one I love as sent from God?  Would I see her as like Mary the mother of Jesus?  Would I see her as Christ like when she is a caregiving servant to James?  Would I see Christ in her?  How could I see her as such if I had not God?

The shedding of blood and Christ crucified I do not want to see in my son.  Would I have seen Christ crucified when James was shedding blood and blood filled my eyes and my ears are ringing ‘the shedding of blood’ and ‘Christ crucified’?  No, he would have been a bleeding child bleeding blood.  I do not want to see Christ crucified in my son James.  No, I do not want this.  This is not well or good because it shows sin and wickedness.  It reveals death.  Thank God it also reveals a Savior.  I do see Christ crucified in James and now I see and know differently.  It is profound and deep.  It is personal and intimate.  It changes perspective.  Hymns and songs about the blood of Jesus have more meaning and gravity.  This is impact.

If I had not God could I have seen that blessings bless?  Could I see the sufferers?  Could I see the blessed sufferer?  Would I see the ‘light that touches’?  How could I see such things if I had not God?  Who would be the doers that did?  Would John Kasay be seen as Jesus Christ ministering to the ‘least of these’?  How could I see this if I had not God?

Could I see heaven?  Could I see heaven?  How could I see heaven?  What a question to ask “Could I see heaven?”  Could I write about our gift of James that we shared with you and that he is a treasure that we have in heaven?  Could I see heaven?  And Drew Scism?  How would I have seen Drew if I had not God?  I cannot see Drew without God.  I cannot separate it.  There is Drew and God.  That is how I write about Drew.  James and Drew connect us to heaven.

I could go through all that I have written and ask “If I had not God”.  There would be nothing to write about.  There would be no words to write if I had not God.

God allows for me to see.  He allows me to know.  Reveals.  The scales are removed and I can see.  He opens the eyes of the blind.  It is not just for me.  God is the giver of sight.  He allows for vision.  “Seek and ye shall find’ is God’s words found in His Word.  Do you seek?  Do you knock?  To say it is an amazing thing is an understatement.  No, I have to use words like:  great, marvelous, spectacular, fabulous, grand, profound, illuminating, intimate, beauty, beautiful, clear, magnitude, gratitude, panoramic, and grace, mercy, and love to name a few.  How can I put into words what God has done in my life?

This is not something to strive for.  It is beyond you.  You cannot attain it.  It cannot be obtained.  You will strive in vain if you have not God.  It is hidden from this world.  But He says “Seek and ye shall find, knock and the door will be opened”.  Some may argue that it is a fool to believe.  But no, it is not.  No, it is a fool not to believe.  Would you want to go through this life blind and wanting?  The wisdom that God reveals when He gives you sight is like going from one dimension to three dimensional.  Without God you see a line, that’s it a line.  But with God it is three dimensional.  God gives depth and perception and takes the one dimension and allows you to see completely as much as you can see.  And this is only a glimpse.  God allows for such great vision and it is only a glimpse because we only see in part and know in part.  Full revelation will come later when we can see fully and completely and clearly.  If I had not God there is little to see.  And then to know that as much as I have seen, that God has allowed me to see, is only a glimpse.

How do people live if they have not God?  How do they face each day?  How do they face tomorrow?  I see blessings.  I see the one that I love.  “Precious Lord, take my hand” reaches to the depths of my soul and ministers.  The shadow of pain can be endured.  The chains that bind are loosed.  I see the light that touches.  Doers do and God is glorified.  I see sufferers as Christ.  I meet with Christ when I meet with those that suffer.  “The Lord is my shepherd” is now my shepherd and I am a sheep that is His and He provides and He comforts and He walks with me and talks with me.  I read His words in His Word and He helps me to see what His words are.  I remember a time when I used to read God’s word and the words laid on the page.  I could not understand it.  I could not comprehend what was written.  It was beyond me.  But seeking I found and knocking the door was opened and God has taken me to places that are well beyond me.

I see the magnificent hand of God that picked us up and carried us.  What a thing to see is the Hand of God that is so vast and powerful.  And in the midst of this powerful hand is gentleness, kindness, and He carries us.  He carries us delicately as if we are fragile because we are and we are carried by His powerful hand.  I see His fingertips.  I see his fingertips and they are a gentle touch.  They are intimate and they touch us.  They touch James.  They touch the one I love and I see God’s fingerprints on our lives.  Fingerprints that leave an imprint.  God’s imprint of His fingerprints from His fingertips.  These were the fingertips that lit candles on an evening every week at our church to pray for James when James was suffering.  Their lips prayed prayers for the one whose lips were silent.  Beautiful whispers lifted to God on high.  These were the fingertips that touched us when we came home from Duke and we were without feeling.  Numb.  The fingertips touched us when we could no longer feel.  The fingertips brought soothing.  They are gentle.  They bring healing.  The fingertips choose a final outfit and it is the finest choice.  God’s fingertips are a beautiful thing and most precious.  The fingerprints of God’s fingertips are forever imprinted on my heart and mind.  It is impact.

More words could be written to ask ‘If I had not God’.  But the message may be lost.  I cannot comprehend my life if I had not God.  It’s not some mystical feeling.  It’s not just belief.  It incorporates the mind and body and heart and soul.  It is complete.  It is whole.  It is past, present and future.  It cannot be taken away.  It cannot be lost.  It is most valuable.  Loss is relative when God is with you.  And heaven is longed for.  It is relationship.  A friend was asked to define the Bible in one word and he brings it to relationship.  And it is accurate.  God’s relationship to man.  That is profound.  I have God because I am His.  He found me.  He rescued and rescues me.  Some people seek God because that want a Savior to save them from Hell.  But I find salvation is both future and today.  He saves and rescues today.  He reaches and restores today.  And I can face today.  I can face tomorrow.  The books of wisdom state “He has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end…I know that everything that God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it.”  His Word is so much greater than anything I can write.  I can only testify to what He has done in my life.  If God, then complete.

This is the link to the foundational writing that all posts are tied to:  https://impactgreenleaf.wordpress.com/the-impact-of-the-life-of-james-matthew-greenleaf/

Final Page of Caringbridge from August 24th, 2000 ( a year to the date of his passing)

A year to the date after James died we titled the last entry for Caringbridge “Final Page”

Journal:  Final Page

Thursday, August 24, 2000 at 11:41 AM (CDT)

“Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.” Colossians 3:2KJV

“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…..For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

What are our affections? Where is our treasure? Where is our heart?

Before James ever was diagnosed with cancer we spoke of heaven at times. Yes, we would look forward to heaven but it was something that seemed distant and far off. But James has made heaven very real to us. Heaven our real home.
Our treasure on earth is our kids. We strive for them to grow up as godly young men and women. We hope for them. We care for them. We give all we have to them.

But what happens when your child, your treasure, goes to be with Jesus? They say that when you die you take nothing with you. But we have one of our treasures on earth that is now stored away in heaven.

It is only because of Jesus that I can even speak or long for heaven. Jesus, our Lord and Savior! One of Jesus’ disciples asked “So how can we know the way? And Jesus answered “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” John:5,6 He also says “In my Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:2-4

I believe Jesus came with a host of angels on August 24, 1999 and took James to be with him in heaven. “But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:14KJV

When you have treasure what do you do with it? Do you hoard it away selfishly or do you share it? One of our treasures is James and we have shared James with you and his life. Children are a gift from God and we have shared our gift of James with you. But above all this and in honor of James, we share Jesus with you. God gave us James to see this world and heaven for what it really is. My hope through James’ webpage is that you can know the way, the truth, and the life…….Jesus.

I title this page the “Final Page” not because James’ story is finished. We know that his story and life will continue to be lived and told through those that knew him. It is titled this only in reference to the fact that this webpage is now complete. It was created June 24, 1999. On August 24, 1999 you read ‘James has finished his fighting’ and now a year later on this date August 24, 2000 we end this page. But when you see us and look into our eyes, know that James is there. Remember his life with us. Remember his smile. My regret is that you did not know James like we knew James. We are separated for a time only. We do wonder and stand in awe at the thought of heaven and what it must be like.

An array of flowers surrounds James’ marker, graveside, and bench today. The flowers show beauty. Amidst this display is a small bouquet of roses. It is the smallest of bouquets but was picked with much love and tenderness from our rose garden at our home. James’ mother presents this bouquet of roses to honor James today. It is similar to the bouquet of roses that were presented to James in his last hours at Duke.

The flowers are a tribute and a remembrance of James from the many people James’ life touched. They remember the brave little soldier who was not asked to fight the battle of life, but was required to fight because of a terrible disease called cancer. We, along with so many others honor our precious James today. Our family honors James for a lifetime!

We thank everyone who has loved and prayed for our family. Please keep praying as we face each day.

One life only, many lives changed, by a precious little boy named James.

Two posts from Caringbridge from April and June. June 4th to be exact. Another significant date.

Thursday, April 20, 2000 at 05:10 PM (CDT)

This is dedicated to the young men and boys we have met along the way. I mention them today because just recently we have heard of the loss of two young men that were up at Duke when James was there. I mention them today because as parents on the unit, and with the loss of so many children on the unit, we hold onto the hope for the few who do have successful transplants. Both these young men did fairly well during transplant and were sent home with what seemed promising futures.

The first I mention is Brian Kinane who at age 19 had deep blue eyes and befriended us and James when we entered the unit. He gave James a special Teddy Bear and even decorated several masks to help encourage James to get out and walk the hallway on the unit. It was Brian who introduced us to Caringbridge and prompted us to setup this webpage.

The second young man I mention is Steve Degroff who at 16 entered the unit and was released in record time in under a month. This is significant because the usual minimum stay is 45 days.

I mention these young men because of the courage, bravery, and especially the kindness that we saw. These were not the young, arrogant and rebellious teens we see advertised on television and in the movies. No, these young men exemplify humbleness, kindness, and patience. We saw in these young men a special quality. Was it because of their sickness or did God create in them this special quality because God knew their time was so limited? How disheartened we were to hear of their passing.

The last young man I mention is Paul Harrison. We met Paul when James was first diagnosed. He was in remission and volunteered to help at the hospital during the holiday season. We had no idea he would relapse some months later. His family was at Duke for his transplant just before James had his first transplant in 1997. Paul would relapse again months later. A final trip to Duke was asking too much. On June 28, 1997 Paul went to be with Jesus. I mention him today because of the testimony of his life. I heard one the strongest testimonies from Paul the day we attended his funeral. The words he left will be forever in my mind. You may be wondering how Paul could give his testimony at his funeral. Several weeks before going to Duke for the last time, he met with his pastor of First Baptist Church of Indian Trail. He shared with his pastor in a private interview what he would like to tell his peers from Sun Valley High if he did not make it. The pastor had the youth that attended the funeral to stand. The church was filled and probably half those attending were the youth (Paul was so very popular and had so much charisma). He charged them to lead godly lives. To love your family and friends. And above all to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. What an impact on those attending. He was a testimony and witness in life but in death his witness was all the more powerful. In a follow up issue from a local newspaper, the article stated about Paul: “The newspaper stated that he lost the battle of life. I don’t really see how this could be. Paul could never be a loser. He walked with God you see. I’m sure there were shouts of joy on the morning of June 28 for one of God’s strongest young soldiers entered heaven’s gates…..” ‘O death where is thy victory? O grave where is thy sting’ (I Cor.15:55) My words are very inadequate to relay the message that was there that day. How appropriate to mention Paul and his testimony this Easter Holiday.

On Saturday, I will be going to where James went to clinic. He loved his doctor Dr Barry Golembe. The pediatric oncology waiting room was special for these cancer patients. The walls were covered with children murals that depicted animals, trees and several Disney characters. All about this special room were handprints of the many children who faced cancer. James’ handprint is one of the many. This office is no longer a pediatric clinic. Its walls will someday be covered in new paint. I go Saturday to remove three of these handprints. One will be James’. The second handprint is Trevor Simpson. Terri met Trevor when James was first diagnosed. He was diagnosed as an infant and fought the disease for seven years. He is buried nearby to James. The third handprint is Shawn Moore who suffered greatly like Trevor and James. This young boy lost his leg to cancer but showed much endurance and optimism despite being disabled. He died at age 11. You may think that as parents we are desperate to cut out a piece of wall for a handprint. For us, we missed out on much of the sentimental mementos and crafts that most preschoolers do. He missed much of Sunday School while fighting his disease. Our plans before James relapsed were to enroll him in preschool in August of 1999. We knew how much he would enjoy it. We never imagined he would relapse and be with Jesus in August 1999. So if you think we’re desperate than so be it. We are very grateful to be able to have this little token of his little hands.

I cannot end this tribute to these special young boys without mentioning Nathan Keeling and Witten Schoultz. We met these young boys through their parents and learned of what exceptional lives they held. No, we did not have the privilege to meet these young boys in this life but will be looking forward to meeting them in the future.

My words are inadequate in describing these lives. I wish that you could have seen what I describe in these special ones. I know who these are that I describe because James is one of these special young boys. Yes we are so sorry for the loss but are so honored to mention these today.

 Sunday, June 04, 2000 at 08:16 AM (CDT)

It was a beautiful Carolina morning in May. Not a cloud in the sky. The seats in our van were filled. We sat up front while James and Michael sat in the middle, and Paul and Brittney filled the back seat. This was standard when we went as a family anywhere. But today we were headed to the Columbia Zoo in South Carolina. There was always excitement when we went on outings but today was more significant. James had spent the past four months in chemo, and hospital stays, and doctor visits, and shots…….we had been limited in our outings so today held even more anticipation. It was also going to be James’ first visit to the zoo. For the first time he would be able to see the wonder and diversity of God’s creations up close. What a significant age for a young boy of three (almost four) where there is that wonderment and capacity to learn mixed with the humor of seeing animals from a three year olds eyes. Paul and Brittney were excited to show James so many different things. They almost fought over him at times to show him different animals. Michael just loved being outside.

People that passed by didn’t notice that this young boy with the blue cap had no hair. They didn’t see the paleness or his line that was bandaged and hidden under his shirt. They saw a three year old boy running and jumping and playing. They saw a young boy enjoying a cold popsicle on a hot afternoon. They saw a family at the zoo.

Yes, today at the zoo we were having a grand time. We seemed so normal. The previous hospital stays seemed to disappear for the moment. The move to Duke was still several weeks away. We savored this day. Even the botanical gardens was fun.

This would be our last family outing. We remember what a complete, filled day this was. But with this fond memory is the hurt that is there also. We hurt that we cannot again share this time together, all of us. Our van has an empty place. Our dinner table has an empty place. Our house misses his laughter, his singing, and the joy of his presence. Children are indeed a gift from God. They are fearfully and wonderfully made, designed by God. We miss his big smile that lit up this house and our hearts. We miss his boldness. We miss those sweet brown eyes and his blonde hair.

Today is James’ best big sisters’ birthday. She is nine today. She misses her special brother James. He so much loved the celebration of birthdays. We so much miss him today.

2 Caringbridge Posts from March 2000

The page that ties all these posts and writings is the original page found at https://impactgreenleaf.wordpress.com/the-impact-of-the-life-of-james-matthew-greenleaf/ .

Sunday, March 05, 2000 at 07:22 AM (CST)

Last year at this time James had just finished his first round of chemo. We were devastated by the news but held on to the hope that a second transplant could possibly save his life. We prayed for a miracle. We called on God. Our family, friends and church wrapped their loving arms around us sending a host of prayers to heaven. The same people who helped to carry us through when James was first diagnosed were again there but added to these were many others. The seriousness of a relapse to neuroblastoma leaves little hope. That is what we held on to: HOPE!

Again today I am humbled. I am humbled when I think of the thousands of people who were pulling for a blonde-haired boy with big brown eyes. To know that friends, family, and people we didn’t know were praying for our precious James. There was an outpouring of love in cards, and gifts, and meals, etc….we were overwhelmed. We are forever thankful for waves of support that have even continued to this day. To say I am humbled at the wealth of support and love is really inadequate.

It would be another two weeks that James would start to lose his hair. I remember that Terri had James come sit on our bed. She wanted to prepare him for when his hair started to come out. She had a photo album from his first transplant. She showed him photos of when he had no hair. She asked him “James what do you see that is missing in this picture of you when you were small?” He looked for a moment or two and said “He has no hair?” Terri then asked “How do you think that looks?” His reply was almost enthusiastic “I think it looks great!” March 14 is when I took James to Great Clips to give James a buzz cut. He had begun to lose his hair several days before and it was a mess so a buzz cut helped to make it easier. On previous haircuts James would fuss and fight to get his haircut. But this time he was enjoying it. When it was over and he was looking at himself in the mirror his face was beaming. He was actually quite proud of his new look. James made it easier on us as parents. It was the same way when he was hurting. Terri would ask James when she saw him limping or in pain “James is something hurting?” His reply was simple “Never mind mommy.” James never complained about what he was going through.

We had no idea that we would lose James. He had such energy. He always recovered quickly. But Duke was too much. God had given us a great gift in the life of James and it is so hard to overcome the suffering and death of our precious James. We ache for him. We miss him so. We honor the brave little soldier who fought such a terrible disease called cancer. We honor him by his side at the cemetery. We honor him each day in our hearts.

Tuesday, March 28, 2000 at 07:18 PM (CST)

If someone takes your child and contacts you and tells you that they are keeping your child for twenty years, how would you deal with it? Would you just put it behind you and out of your mind? Would you wonder what they were doing, what would they look like? What is their favorite story or song? Would they remember you? And the list is endless. I believe most would think about them everyday.

Would we be living in the past or would we be longing for the future? For us what I have just described is very present! Yes we have life that goes on all around us. Yes, we have our other kids that need us so very much. We have little Michael who is our joy and laughter. We have Paul and Brittney who at age 10 and 8 are developing into young people who have grown through such a tragedy that will contribute to their character. And yes we still deal with the ache of losing James.

God has taken James. And we wonder what he is like. Yes the past is with us as we miss him so. Yes we deal with the past of the suffering and the loss. The memories and pictures of our lives together are forever etched on our hearts. And yes we do long for heaven. We do long for a reunion with our son. The future and the past are here with us in the here and now. Bitter sweet yes. God has walked this valley with us. It is our most valued treasure to know and have a relationship with our Savior. To see him ‘face to face’ is beyond words. But more likely it will be fallen prostrate at his feet in complete humbleness. Who is like God Almighty!?

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Praise Him all creatures here below, Praise him above ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen”
“O Lord, you’re beautiful! Your face is all I seek, and when your eyes are on this child your love abounds to me!”
“Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when He rose up from the grave.”?
“The sky shall unfold, preparing His entrance; the stars shall applaud Him with thunders of praise; the sweet light in His eyes shall enhance those awaiting; and we shall behold Him then face to face!”

How these songs of praise minister to hurting hearts. We again thank a little blonde haired, brown eyed boy that was such a joy to us and our family

2 Caringbridge Posts December and January

Two Caringbridge posts from December and January.

 

Saturday, December 25, 1999 at 06:39 AM (CST)

The joy of Christmas is the Christ child. Joy! Joy in sorrow? Sounds like opposites. It isn’t happiness. Happiness is temporary and tied to events or happenings. Yes, joy in sorrow. Joy is something that is deep and tied to a relationship that is grounded in God’s love. It is having the assurance that our James now resides with God Almighty.

Joy is also in the brothers and sisters in Christ who went out of their way to minister to our hurting hearts. It is the twelve days of Christmas that showed up on our doorstep on the first day of Christmas and continued as a secret up until last evening. They called themselves the ‘Secret Angels’. It ended with a drummer boy at our doorstep in the midst of our Secret Angels now revealed. Each night a white paper bag showed up on our doorstep with each day of Christmas inside.

Joy was also found at James’ graveside. It was seen in the little angels that were on his marker. It was the flowers that were left also and even cards. Sorrow yes. But Joy was there also. I share a portion of a letter with you that was left on his marker:

“Dear James,

Ever since you went to heaven, I have been thinking about you more and more. I think about where you are and what it is like, and what amazing things you can see and interesting people you must know now. I think about how happy you are, and how joyful your every moment is. What an incredible gift to have the worries of this life completely behind you. What is it all like?!! We can only imagine the wonders of heaven. My daughter wondered about the Christmas dinner in heaven. It must be glorious. I long for the day when we are all in heaven together as friends and family.

You must now know the impact that you made here on earth in your 4 years. The people in our church prayed for you day after day. They have been forever touched by your precious life. I know I certainly have been. I think a lot more people will be in heaven because of James’ story…………

When you went to heaven, you left a place so empty in all of our lives. We miss you so much that there are no words to describe it…….

One of the biggest things I would like to share with you is that both our young daughters have asked Jesus into their hearts. You see, when you went to heaven, James, they wanted to know what they needed to do to be there with you. Since they are much older than you, and have had many more questions, we were able to explain to them how Jesus conquered death. What a truth and a hope for us all……..

The one hope that keeps me going is that I know you have put all of the bad behind you, and that in heaven, you are surrounded by light and peace, comfort and love, happiness and joy. Your focus is on God, and you have eternity to be amazed at his glory. It is incredible to me that you know all the mysteries that we can only wonder about. I long for all that, too…..

With lots of love,”

This was just a small portion of five pages that were filled with specific memories and experiences she had with James.

Joy in sorrow. Joy is found in the knowing God. We thank you for caring for James and our family.

Note:  the ‘Secret Angels’ mentioned in the above update included Drew Scism, his brother David,  his caregiving servant, his father, David Lee and two brothers, and their families….What impact do you think these people will have on this world into the future?  The ‘twelve days’ of Christmas that showed up every night at our door was the fingertips of God touching us in a dark time during difficult days and lifting us up.  It was God sent.  They were ‘doers’ doing to sufferers and blessing with blessings and being blest in returned and charming the blessee’s and being charmed in returned and impacting lives and building up and being the hand of God by carrying us….God bless ‘doers’ that were doing not for their glory but for His that God be glorified.  It was love expressed.

The letter was from one of God’s fingertips that was there before James and continued to touch with God’s love…  And lives are impacted.

 

Sunday, January 23, 2000 at 04:20 AM (CST)

The ground is covered in snow. At least three inches deep. I take Paul and Brittney to the main drive of our development to the big slope. It is the largest and highest area for sliding. Already there must be 20 or more kids and parents enjoying the snow. Kids are sliding on their discs and plastic sleds. Snowballs are flying and snow continues to fall. I have to walk back to the house to get the camera. As I turn our corner, out of sight of all the kids, I look back and see only one set of footprints and there is that ache that we are so accustomed to. I miss my little buddy. James told his mommy that she was his best friend. For me he told me I was his best buddy. The last time it snowed at our house James was in wonderland. I remember walking down our street with James and saying to him ‘Look James, your making footprints’. How much fun it was for James to see his foot prints. How I miss those little footprints. How I miss my little buddy. When the snow began to fall, I saw the ache in Terri’s face because she missed her close little companion.

Perhaps there are some who cannot understand how everything we do is a continual reminder of James. When you are a family, every minute of time together is a life experience. Think back when you were younger. Do you remember the simple things like going to the grocery store? How about Kmart and the blue light specials? The haircuts, the sports events, the quick trip to the post office, making cookies with mom, coming in for lunch on a summer day, washing the car with dad, painting a bedroom, doing yard work…… there is an endless list of daily life experiences that we share with each other in a family. For Paul and Brittney they miss showing their little brother the snow. They miss James in the little things too. Paul shared a room with James. How frustrating it was for him to make a Lego set and come back later to see that James had disassembled it, every last piece. Although it annoyed him he did see the humor in it. Some nights I would come back and find that James was in the top bunk with Paul and they would be playing with little cars together. Brittney misses her little classmate. She would play school with him. She the teacher and he the student. Many nights I would come back to check on the kids to find James in Brittney’s bed with her reading him books. Yes in everything there is some constant reminder of James. But for me now I miss his little footprints in the snow.

Sweet reunion someday. Anxious anticipation of our sweet reunion. We thank God for our little buddy and best friend.