I was a tall skinny curious 12-year-old and sort of a nerd. I lived in this old house with my family, and I was friends with the next door neighbor’s son, Don, who was about the same age.
When I walked through the front door of the house pass the foyer area, there was the living room to the right with the fake brick fireplace, a parlor, a dining room, and the kitchen.
One of the most unique features about the kitchen was the mural on the wall. It was a huge painting of bright green weeping willow trees. The mural didn’t really depict a happy feeling but one of being lost in the woods.
The basement had four large rooms, which included the room reserved for my Dad’s pool table. Don’t touch my pool table, I heard my Dad say more than once, afraid we’d play with his pool balls and loose them.
The upstairs had four large bedrooms. I had a bedroom to myself because I was the oldest of five children. It had a walk-in closet where I used to hide from my sisters and brother.
The Secret Passageway
My mom said the 2nd floor has a secret passageway big enough to hide a bicycle, but she wouldn’t tell me where it was. Being the curious 12-year-old, I frantically searched the house and would not rest until I found it.
The secret passage was in the upstairs hall closet. After I moved all of our stuff out of the closet, surprisingly, there was a door on the closet floor. I cautiously lifted up the heavy wooden door and there was a flight of stairs. The stairs were abruptly halted by walls on every side that was covered with gray and white striped wallpaper. I felt the walls with the palms of my hands touching every inch for a secret door, but there was none.
It’s the end of July and I was feeling the intensity of the simmering southern heat while visiting my sister and her family in Raleigh, N.C. I found myself reclining on her comfortable sofa in her air-conditioned living room while holding a newborn baby boy only 6 weeks old. As I sat there smelling the top of his forehead to breathe in that newborn baby smell, I rubbed my hands softly through his silky black curls.
My sister Stephanie leaned over and whispered in my ear, “That’s a miracle you’re holding.”
I looked at her sideways because I didn’t catch on to what she was saying, but then I suddenly recalled what happened just two years earlier. I said, “Ahaha, yes, he is a miracle.” This is my cousin Jonathan’s baby.
I visited Jonathan two years earlier when he was in the hospital. Jonathan always wore a warm smile that could take the chill off of any room when he walked through the door. At age 25 and 5′ 11″ with a slim build and a head full of black locs barely touching his shoulders, Jonathan found himself in the ring fighting the toughest opponent that he could imagine, Cancer.
Jonathan was misdiagnosed several times and sent home with a diagnosis of bronchitis. He knew it was something more because the symptoms persisted and would not go away.
I wondered if it was because he didn’t have medical insurance that the hospitals kept sending him home with only medication.
With a persistent cough, strep throat, and chest congestion, Jonathan dragged himself to yet another hospital looking for some relief. When they took a chest x-ray he was told the grim diagnosis by the doctor that he had lymphoma.
According to the American Cancer Society, lymphoma attacks the cells, which are part of the body’s immune system.
Jonathan was admitted to the hospital and immediately started chemotherapy treatments. As he lay in the hospital bed distraught over the news he started calling his family and friends. To his surprise, he noticed that the ones closest to him did not come to see him right away. He thought as the minutes turned to hours and the hours turned to days lying there watching the clock, are they afraid of me because I have Cancer?
Jonathan turned to the only true and faithful friend he had and that was God. He prayed for deliverance, healing, and restoration as he recited the scriptures over and over.
Psalm 23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
Then suddenly he started to see his friends and family members come one by one peering from around the corner as they timidly tapped on the hospital door bringing balloons, get well cards, and flowers by the dozens, which brought a sweet aroma to his cold sterile room.
When I walked in the room to see my handsome cousin he was looking thinner than usual and weary from this fight. I told him you’ll make it through this. God can do it — only believe. Desperately trying to give him a glimmer of hope, I said in a trembling voice, when you come through this the world will know that you are a fighter and that it was God who delivered you.
He slowly turned his head and gave me a partial smile and said, “I know you don’t know this cuz, but I am taking chemo now as we speak.”
I looked at the IV in his arm and a chill ran down the back of my neck and down my spine. He was right, I didn’t know. When I gazed into his eyes his eyelids slowly begun to close as he drifted off to sleep. I sat there for several minutes unable to move and lowered my head in prayer. I leaned over the bed railing and kissed him on the forehead with a salty kiss and quietly left the room trembling unable to hold back the tears as they rolled down my cheeks.
Jonathan had to undergo months of grueling outpatient treatments. His cousin Rich was devastated by the news. He always felt a bond with Jonathan and didn’t want to lose his cousin to this disease. Rich noticed that Jonathan’s locs started falling out one-by-one and his hair started getting thinner and thinner. Frantically trying to find a way to support his cousin and help him in this fight, Rich made a pact that they both would cut off their long locs together. One day they both went to the barbershop and Rich had his haircut first one long loc at a time, then Jonathan.
“It’s only hair,” Rich said reluctantly as he picked up the long strands lying on the floor of the barbershop with a half-smile on his face.
After 7 months of outpatient treatments, Jonathan was told the tumors were gone. It’s been two years now and Jonathan is healthy, strong, and full of energy. He was told by the doctors that he may never be able to father children. The miracle baby is proof that God can do anything but fail.
If I had to pick one word to describe Jonathan it would be “FIGHTER.”
For more information on Lymphoma, go to the American Cancer Society (ACS) http://www.acs.org.
When I was in the 4th-grade at Kilmer School, it was a skip, hop, and a jump from my house. I will never forget my 4th grade teacher, I’ll call her Ms. S. She spoke with a German accent and was as big as any man I had have ever seen.
She told the most fascinating stories during story time. The children would all sit on the floor of the classroom in a half-circle with our arms folded ready to listen to her passionately read from one of the books she carefully picked out for us. She had a way of reading the story that left me with my lower jaw hanging open and my heart pounding in anticipation and excitement. When she read you could tell she was excited too because spit would fly out of her mouth as she enunciated her words, so I learned not to sit too close to her. When story time was over she would always leave us hanging out on a cliff grappling trying to get back to the story the next day. This is where my passion begun to grow for reading, writing, and storytelling.
Sadly, one particular day Ms. S. didn’t show up to school. The next day, nor the next day, no teacher. All of the other teachers were shhh! shhh! about it. There was a lot of whispering among them. Regrettably, Ms. S. never came back to us and no one ever told us what happened to her. I guess they figured it was too traumatic for 9-year-olds to hear that she passed away. I didn’t figure out until years later that it had to be the reason for her to leave us so abruptly. I just knew she loved us, but now it was up to us to finish our own story.
I finished my story by going to school to get my degree in journalism. I love sharing my stories about faith, hope, and love.