Life is good. I tell myself that each time I put on my son’s way-too-big-for-me sweatshirt with that saying. David wore it all the time – even during his cancer treatments. When he died at age 18 from brain cancer, it was one of the many things I kept. That sweatshirt is part of my living memorial to him. A constant reminder of blessings in spite of hardships.
David was genuinely one of the kindest people I’ve ever known. We didn’t teach him to be that kind. He just was. He always had a smile and a hug for everyone. He made the people he met feel important. He was smart and funny and weird. He was most proud of being weird. He would have turned 23 on January 15th, a day we have dubbed “Hug Like David” day, as a gentle reminder to love the world twice as much in his absence.
It is a rare day that I don’t shed a tear or two over David, but I’m not depressed. Those tears are more often from a happy memory as a sad one. They remind me of how deep and everlasting love is, and that the physical world is merely one place that love can manifest. David no longer has a body on this planet, but I feel his spirit everywhere.
Love that deep can drive a person, and it drives me every day. I can almost hear David’s voice asking me how it’s going. What did I get done today? When I’m sad or sick, it is his voice that pushes me to do just a little bit more. I can’t sit around feeling sorry for myself when David left me such a good example to live by. Throughout his cancer treatment, he greeted the world with a smile. He didn’t complain. He just did what had to be done.
You see, David wanted to help find a cure for cancer. Not for himself, but for others. His type of brain cancer has no cure, and treatments typically only extend life by a few months. David knew that an answer probably wouldn’t be found in time to save his life, but he volunteered for clinical trials because it might help save someone else.
In his memory, we founded Dragon Master Foundation, and we work diligently to bring the world of big data and its analytical power to cancer researchers. We were working on breaking down silos long before the words “cancer moonshot” were uttered. Along with other foundations and hospitals, we helped launch Cavatica.org this past fall. It is a place where researchers can work together and share genomic and clinical data. It is a level of cooperation that is unprecedented in the research world, and I think that is the part David would have liked the most. I can’t say that we have saved any lives yet, but I’m confident that we will.
Life is hard and full of unexpected twists and turns. Life is difficult and bittersweet. It can knock you down, but it will show you a different perspective from your knees. My son died, but he left a legacy that will save others. Life can be very, very short, but yes, life is good.