Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Good-Bye Max, And Thank You

I just got the news that Max has died. Max is the little boy who came to Singapore from Ukraine to get treatment for stomach cancer. I wrote about him in an earlier blog post, Special Request, and asked for your help to raise money for his treatment. Word got out and people donated tens of thousands of dollars to Max's family to pay his medical bills and give them hope.

We could be cynical now and say that all that money wasn't enough to save him and despite our efforts and those of his family and his doctors, Max died anyway. We could be despondent and say it was all just wasted hope.

I'd have to disagree. I believe that the money you all donated gave Max and his family more time with each other than they would have had otherwise. I believe your donations and the words of support you sent out to them strengthened their faith in the goodness of people. And I don't think it was wasted hope. Hope is in itself a gift of positive strength, regardless of the outcome.

Here are some things I've learned that I hope you've also learned:

1) People are capable of extreme, irrational kindness toward complete strangers. Most of you didn't know Max or his family. You just heard about him through the e-mail grapevine, but you donated money to save this little boy's life anyway. I knew from the very beginning that the money would be found. I wasn't at all worried about that. I had complete faith that you weren't going to let Max die because of money. You proved me right and my own faith in people has been strengthened. I hope yours has as well.

2) People, even young children, are capable of immense strength of spirit, even as their bodies break down. I didn't get to meet Max in person while he was here. It seemed our chemo schedules worked against us and when he was feeling well, I was sick and vice versa. But I've seen photos and videos of him and heard stories about him. From these, I saw a brave, cheerful kid who managed to smile and make other people smile, even as he was suffering the immense pain and discomfort of cancer and its treatments.

3) People can live through terrible tragedies and not only refuse to be crushed by them, but draw strength from them to help others in similar situations. I've been amazed at the time, effort, and heart that Sean and Helena Wren have devoted to Max and his family. Sean and Helena lost their own daughter, Jazzy, to brain cancer when she was just three years old. They didn't know Max's parents when all this started. They just heard about a mother seeking treatment for her son with cancer, and they took it upon themselves to help Max and his mother. Thanks to Sean and Helena, Max and his family received not just money to pay for treatment, but a great deal more that money can't buy.

I'll remember Max and his smile and the lessons he taught us. I hope his family realize how they've touched a bunch of people who have never even met them. I hope the strength and love that supported Max over the past few months will help support them now. I thank Max and his family for the brief glimpse I had of them.


Francesca Giessmann said...

I am sad ... and agree with your points... It gives me some comfort that he had gone home and his mother will have the love and affection to face the days ahead...
a warm hug.. from a stranger that cares deeply... for Max and you

Anonymous said...

How proud must Max's family be of the amount of hearts and lives he touched? And how proud of their daughter,Jazzy, must Sean and Helena be that still there is a ripple effect of her passing.
In my comment on a previous post I said I wasn't religious, but I had faith -faith in people helping others..........and the way people responded to Max and his family shows just what a good place this world can be.
Rest in peace little Max and thanks for making me remember not to sweat the small stuff.
Sasha xxxx

Anonymous said...

Helena and I have had a really bad day. I am so sad for Max's mum and dad because I know all to well what they are going through right now. Words cannot describe there pain. But you all made such a huge difference to there lives, they are all together now because of all of you. I sent Halyna and Andriy this poem this morning that I read at Jazzy's funeral ten years ago. I am going to miss Max a lot, even in his darkest hours he was always such a gorgeous kid and it was a huge privilege to play just a small part in his short life.

Don't think of him as gone away
His journey's just begun
Life holds so many facets
This earth is only one
Just think of him as resting
From the sorrows and the tears
In a place of warmth and comfort
Where there are no days and years
Think how he must be wishing
That we could know today
How nothing but our sadness
Can really pass away
And think of him as living
In the hearts of those he touched
For nothing loved is ever lost
And he was loved so much

Sean & Helena

Anonymous said...

Life shows me heartbreaking things that are completely beyond my understanding. Max's death is one of those. All I know is that we must respond to suffering with compassion. When I see or hear of compassionate and kind people my heart is touched with hope. The Dalai Lama said his religion is kindness. Thank you, each of you who practices kindness.

Anonymous said...

I just clicked onto Jazzy's link and now I can't stop sobbing.

As Sasha says, Max, Jazzy and their incredible families are a reminder not to sweat the small stuff.

It is just heartbreaking.

Angela xx

Anonymous said...

I only knew Max through your online blog, Shin, and I was so sorry today when I read the news. This little boy has touched so many of us who never even got to meet him. I read the updates here on your blog and thought about Max's mother a lot and couldn't fathom how she got through every day. Sean and Helena are amazing - Max and his family were so blessed to have their own real life guardian angels here on earth. I looked at my daughter today and I felt such love for her and such gratitude for what I have. I am so sorry for this family and for any parent that loses a child. It's our worst nightmare.