He was only fifteen years old, had a baby face, dark curly hair and a great smile. He was just older than my oldest daughter. I had seen him (I’ll call him Chris) in the family room watching TV the night before. My husband was having a rest after his round of chemo. Chris and I were talking and he told me his dreams for the future. He wanted to do so many things, one of which was being a writer. That pulled at my heart strings and gave me something to visit with him about. “Do you have anything with you?” I asked, “I’d love to read something you have written.”
He went to the room and got a couple of his stories. I enjoyed them. He was very talented. Chris was waiting to have the same procedure as my husband, a stem cell transplant, but couldn’t have it until they got his blood counts down. I’m not sure of his specific type of leukemia but his cells were out of control and the chemo he was getting was knocking the rampant cells down so eventually he could have the stem cell transplant.
G6 was a super sterile hospital ward. We had to wash at a sink in the hall and do other rituals before entering the patient’s rooms. We spent six weeks on that floor, then we had to come back every day for treatments for another couple of weeks. On one visit I saw Chris. He had had his stem cell transplant and he was walking down the hall holding frozen bottles of water. His body was rejecting the transplant. My heart went out to him. I wanted to get him something. I thought about chocolate but knew that could bother his stomach. I thought about a model car, to put together, but the way he was at the moment he wouldn’t be able to do it.
Into my head came a picture. It was a monkey. If I remember correctly it was black with white whiskers, white paws and white around its mouth. I got another picture it was of a dog puppet my sister got from my grandmother when we were kids. The dog had velcro hands and feet, that fasten around her neck and waist. I thought, yes that would be a nice gift for Chris.
Then we headed back to the house we were staying at. Rain was coming down and slush was splashing on our windshield and the windshield washer tank was empty. So I had to stop to buy some washer fluid. I went into the store grabbed a jug and went to the counter. I got the impression that I was to turn around, so I did. There was the monkey on the bunk end behind me, exactly as I had seen it. I picked him up and excitedly said, “There he is.”
The man beside me picked up my excitement and grabbed one too. I didn’t know they were making velco animals again until I saw that one.
I took it to the hospital that evening and found Chris laying in his hospital bed, with his father at his side. I gave the monkey to Chris. I told him if he wanted to scream and he couldn’t that he could hit the monkey in the head and the monkey would scream for him. He was a Screaming Monkey. Chris was groggy and apologized for that but was able to say thank you for the monkey. I said, “I’d repeat the story for him sometime when he was more awake.” I left his room and told a young nurse from back home what had happened.
“That was the perfect thing to get him. Did you see what was on his shelf?” she asked.
I hadn’t realized it but just then I got a picture of fuzzy animal slippers and something else along that line up on the shelf in his room. I said, “Oh yes.”
After that we would meet Chris going up and down the hall with the monkey hanging on his IV pole. I got to tell him the story of how God wanted him to have that monkey. I asked him if he had learned about God. He said he went to a youth group in his home town. I was glad to hear that.
I thought of Chris one day, a few months later, when I was in the drug store on our way to the clinic. I bought him a key chain not knowing if I would see him or not but I felt like I should buy it. When we got to the hospital our nurse told us it was Chris’s sixteenth birthday and that he was there that day. I was able to talk with him for a few minutes, give him the keychain, and wish him a Happy Birthday.
Chris passed away on Neil and my wedding anniversary a couple of months later. I didn’t hear about his passing until a few months after. I was glad I got to know Chris and glad I had help picking out the perfect gifts for him. ( There are more blog entries if you go up and click on May or a topic)