by Margi Brockhaus
Adam was just two weeks shy of his 12th birthday when he was diagnosed with malignant fibrous histiocytoma, which is a cancer that is very rare in children. There are only 15 known pediatric cases in the United States.
Adam was given only a 12% chance of survival. He went through three major surgeries and a year and a half of chemotherapy. And throughout that time we all came to know Adam well. You see, Adam never lost his sense of humor. And he was very much a ladies' man; a heartbreaker who loved to tease and flirt with all the nurses. A 12 year-old boy who endeared himself to every one of us. So in May of 1992 when he was taken off therapy and given a clean bill of health, we all shared in Adam's joy, and we finally thought that we had won one of our battles.
A month later he went out to California to celebrate and spend time at Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm and all those good places. One morning when he tried to get up he was unable to walk and move his right arm. He was rushed back to Children's Mercy Hospital where he was found to have a large brain tumor in his brain stem.
The tumor was an extension of the previous cancer that he had had. The biopsy of the tumor itself held almost a 20% chance of killing him, but Adam insisted on the biopsy to see if there was any type of chemo that could be used to treat it. The tumor was found to be inoperable. Not only did he get cancer that is not known to occur in children, but Adam is the first known case in medical history to have that cancer occur in his brain. When Adam discovered that he was the first person in the world with this, he said to me with his enduring sense of humor, "Well, at least I'll be remembered for something."
He went downhill very quickly after that and, except for a few days to visit friends, never got out of the hospital again. Toward the middle of September he was really starting to withdraw. He would stop talking to his mother, with whom he had a very close relationship. You see, Adam's parents were divorced and Adam lived with his mom. And although Mom and Dad were still very bitter and angry with one another, they put their feelings aside for the sake of Adam.
But their response to Adam's cancer was very different. Dad firmly believed, after seeing so many sick and dying children at the hospital, that there was no God anywhere that would let this happen to a child, while Mom continued to believe and put her faith in God. And for the previous year and a half that I worked with Adam, we had all called on God's name frequently: "God will watch over you, Adam." "God can help you through this." "Put your faith in God, Adam."
During those last two weeks, perhaps Adam was the most honest. He was very angry at God because of what was happening to him. And I think he earned the right to question God. But, at the same time, he simply said that he understood that this was an imperfect world and that these things happen. This from a boy who had had to grow up before his time, a boy who had lived through more pain and harsh reality than many of us will ever face. And that's when it occured to me. Throughout this entire time, from Adam's diagnosis over a year and a half ago until now, no one had ever mentioned Jesus to Adam. No one had ever shared the story of Jesus' pain and suffering in order to bridge the gap between God and this imperfect world.
So one day when we were alone, I asked him if he believed in Jesus. He said he wasn't really sure. He said his dad told him that there wasn't even a God. But Adam didn't buy that. He said he believed anyway. But ever since he'd been sick, his mom had stopped talking about Jesus. She talked about God, but not Jesus. So Adam told me he wasn't really sure, but that he wanted to believe, and what did I think? So I shared with him my feelings and my faith. Then he asked me, "Why do you think Jesus lets this happen to kids?" And I said I didn't know. I don't think any of us do. But I did tell him that when I get to heaven I'm certainly going to ask Him.
And then Adam told me about his grandmother who was already in heaven. He talked a great deal about her and he kept saying, "Do you think I'll see her when I get there?" And I told him yes, that I believed he would.
During the last 24 hours, Adam was in a coma more often than not. There were only a few hours that he was really coherant. But he told me before he went into the coma that he was ready to die, that he didn't want to do this any more, that his body had quit working. The only reason he really didn't want to die was because he was worried about his mom. He didn't want to leave her because he was afraid that she wouldn't be able to handle it emotionally. But I told Adam it was OK, that I had talked to his mom. And that she would miss him, and yes she loved him, but it was OK and not to hang on for her sake. She did not want him to do that.
These were things Adam's mom could not share with him, but she told me. I became kind of the go-between. Mom said this, Adam said that; but somehow it worked for them. All the while Adam's dad just sat in the corner, very angry, hardly able to speak to Adam.
The last eight hours that Adam was alive, I sat with him and watched him go in and out of a coma. But I also watched miracles begin to happen. How can I tell you what occurred in that room? Even now, it is so vivid in my mind and yet so hard to express.
At one point Adam began to giggle. And he said, "Grandma? It's me--Adam. Oh, yeah, I'll be there. It's OK, you go on back, I'll be there. He said it was my time, and I'm ready."
It was incredible, because even though I couldn't hear Grandma's answers, I knew what she was saying by the look on Adam's face. As he laid in bed, his face would suddenly brighten up. He would open his eyes a little bit sometimes and always look up. He would smile, he would giggle. He would gasp and hold his breath in excitement. It was unbelievable.
Then he began talking again. He said, "Yes? Yes, I'm ready. Really? Are you sure? She's going to be there? Oh, that's neat. Oh, yes, I've heard it's beautiful. OK. Well, you don't think I'm ready? But I am ready. Oh . . . oh, I understand. Well, then I'll go back and take care of those few things. All right."
And then Adam laid still a while. And all of us in that room just looked on this child's face and felt the presence in that room. And there was no question in any of our minds who Adam was talking to.
And then, minutes later, he about came up off his pillow and he said, "Michael! You're kidding! Really, oh that's so neat. Yeah, Michael, how ya doing?"
You see, Michael was another 13-year-old boy Adam had watched die just six weeks before. Then Adam said, "That's awesome!" as only a teenager can say it. What that "awesome" was about, I don't know. Michael was probably describing something wonderful up in heaven.
Adam didn't say anything for a little while. And then he started to cry and I reached over and stroked his face, and I said, "Adam, it's OK. Margi's here."
I asked him, "Is there anything you need?" And Adam shook his head and he said, "Oh, it's so beautiful. It's so beautiful and it doesn't hurt." And I just sat on his bed and sobbed with him.
Then he started up his conversation again. "Yes, oh, yes, I do think it is beautiful. Oh you've made it so beautiful. Yes, I'm ready. And I'm not going to hurt? Nobody will hurt? My mom won't hurt?" And his face got a little distressed, because I think God was honest with him and told him that his mom was going to hurt but that He'd take care of her.
Adam's breathing was starting to get very very erratic, and his mom sat down next to him on the bed and was stroking his face and holding his hand and telling him "Mom is here, Adam. Mom is here." Adam opened his eyes and looked up into the room and said, "You've got to tell her that we'll be together again."
And Adam's mom said, "Oh, you're right Adam, we'll be together again." And Adam repeated over, "You've got to tell her. Are You going to tell her? OK. When are You going to tell her?" Adam set his jaw and said, "No! Well, why are You going to wait? No, You've got to tell her we'll be together again. Yes, yes, I'm coming. But You've got to tell her we'll be together again."
Then Adam listened for a moment, and whatever God said to him, Adam's face began to change. And suddenly it got so hot in that room that everyone noticed it. There was a presence that we all felt. There was simply no denying it. And it was at this point that I believe God started telling Adam about Jesus.
Adam got very upset and began to cry the kind of tears that you and I once had before it became an old story to us. Can you remember? Can you recall what it was like the first time you grasped the implications of what Christ did for you? Can you remember how over-whelmed you were by it? By His willingness to be crucified, to die for you?
Well, it was that kind of grief that rolled down Adam's cheek as he said, "Oh, I'm so sorry. You did that for me, for everybody? Oh, I'm so sorry."
And then he said, "Yes God, I know . . . I know. Yes I do. Oh, yes, I really do."
Adam didn't say anything else for almost 45 minutes. Then at about 6:50 he started making pre-death noises. I don't know how to describe it to you unless you've been around a lot of children who have died. Things in your body just happen and you make noises. And then Adam asked, "Are You sure there's room for me? OK. 8:20. Yes, I'll see You at 8:20. Yes, I'm ready. Yes, tell them I'm coming." He kept repeating it over and over again.
At exactly 7:12 Adam took his last breath. But no one left that room. Usually when a child dies it takes anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes for them to get what is called the "mask of death" -- blood pools to the back of their body, their faces turn grayish-white, and the body begins to get cold.
But with Adam none of that happened. His body stayed warm. His color remained. He did not get that grayish shroud that children get. And the room stayed very warm. There was such an incredible presence.
And Adam's mom and I just wrapped our arms around each other and prayed. And I watched Adam's father finally leave his corner chair and make his way to the side of Adam's bed and get on his knees and bow his head. I didn't hear everything he said. But I did her the Name of Jesus. And, I believe with all my heart that Adam stayed in that room until 8:20.
I'm not sure why. I don't know if it was to witness how his mom would handle his passing and to make sure she would be all right, or if it was to hear his dad acknowledge Jesus Christ. But I do know that at exactly 8:20 everything that should have happened an hour before started happening very, very quickly.
I know that Adam is in a far better place. But his life has touched mine ways I have yet to discover. And the last hours of his life will stay with me forever. It is so vivid in my memory, I dream it. Adam reminds me daily that it is not our circumstance but Christ's sacrifice that gives us hope, hope in the midst of despair.
So tonight, when you tuck your children in bed, hold them close. Tell them about Jesus. Tell them there's plenty of room.
And remember Adam . . .