Wednesday, May 23, 2007

"You don't have to hang on"

"You don't have to hang on.", and with those words, a father said goodbye to his 3 year old son. A son who did hang on, long enough to watch his favorite hockey team, the Ottawa Senators, win in overtime to beat the Buffalo Sabres and clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup finals. Two hours after the game, in his parents' arms, he closed his eyes for the last time.

Three year old Elgin-Alexander Fraser had been fighting neuroblastoma, a rare cancer of the nervous system, since 9 months of age. Through treatment he fought it off, only to have it return in January in his stomach and vertebrae, and at the end his back was a mass of painful tumors. With fluid dripping into his lungs, his breathing became more and more difficult. He could barely keep his eyes open as the team he loved and so touched began to play in overtime so his parents had to whisper the play-by-play to him. Two hours after the game, they quietly sang his favorite song...incredibly it was the national anthem, "O Canada"...and his strength finally gave out.

This story will touch everyone, and it moved me beyond words. I have a son, only a year older than Elgin.

I would never want to say those words to him..."Go if you want to go now, bud. You don't have to hang on.". Those are words a father should never have to say to his youngest child. His baby. Never.

The religious out there can sigh softly and shake their heads and solemnly say that "God works in mysterious ways", but for me, that is final proof of one of two things: there is no God at all, or if there is one, it is something that does not deserve to be worshiped, praised, or adored. This should never happen.

It was this child's dying wish, almost literally, that his favorite team win the Stanley Cup. But somehow it seems rather perverse to use this child's painful suffering and ultimate death as motivation to win a stupid game.

Because this is hockey, if you are in the States, you will probably never hear this story. You will probably never see a picture of Elgin. He won't make your major newspapers or appear on CNN. Oprah won't do a show on him, and Ty Pennington and the Extreme Makeover folks won't show up at his grieving parents' door and build them a new house. But for those of us here, who have followed this story, seen this boy, and have hoped that some miracle would happen, this is more important than anything spewed forth from the idiot box. And certainly more important than any game.

I am a Senators fan. I have been waiting 15 years for this day. On May 28th, they start their run for the Stanley Cup against the Western Conference champions Anaheim Ducks. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I will be hoping in that perverse way that they win such a frivolous competition for Elgin's sake.

But I won't be watching. I will be playing with my son, or reading him a story, or watching him sleep.