When we first heard you had cancer, you have no idea how many people began praying for you. Then again, you might have an idea. Either way, there were a lot of us.
We were praying night and day. Day and night. Every single morning at breakfast. Each dinner. You were in our hearts. You were in our minds. You worked your way into our souls.
That might sound a little creepy, but it’s true. You are a fighter.
And now you’re starting school. Your first day of seventh grade. And I am thrilled to hear it. Because, you see, when I first got your grandmother’s letter about how you were suffering from an aggressive cancer, I read her words and wept. Because at the time, you see, I was going through a very difficult period in my own life, physically.
The doctor wasn’t sure whether I had cancer or not. They wanted to check me out. Do a bunch of tests. It scared the Shinola out of me.
I am a wimp. A big baby. I am nothing compared to you, Bryson.
Because there you were. Showing me what real bravery looks like. You were facing the devil. Head on. You were fighting.
I found myself checking you out on Facebook a lot. I read all the updates, and comments people were writing to you. I read all the words of encouragement. All the prayers.
I saw pictures of you with your head shaved. Your face was puffy from the medication, and you looked pretty tired. But you were always smiling. I don’t know how.
You gave me strength, Bryson. Really. Just knowing what you endured, and all that you suffered, you imparted actual strength to me.
So when your grandmother wrote to me yesterday, asking me to give you some words of advice before you started the seventh grade, I chuckled. Because I felt the strong need to tell her, and you, that I am not qualified to give you advice.
I am a weak human being. My faith is weak. My mind is weak. I am plagued by doubt. And by the presence of my own ego. Advice? No sir. I have no words of wisdom.
It is you, Bryson, who should give me your words. It’s you who have inspired me to be braver. Bolder. More adventurous. More excited about life. More present. Less selfish.
You have shown me, and countless others, how to look upward, how to survive, how to hope, and how to live a rich, full life.
Therefore, please remember, as you start your first day of class, to be gentle with those of us who do not understand. Those of us who do not know what life is about the way you do.
You see, Bryson, you know much more than your peers ever will. It is a great burden you have been given. For they cannot possibly understand the stripes you have earned. They will never get it. You are at a different stage than the rest of us. You are in a different league, so to speak.
You see things the rest of us will never see. You know things I might never know.
So forgive us for our stupidity. We know not what we do. Forgive us for our insensitivities. Our foolhardiness. Our squabbling about idiotic, earthly things. Our preoccupation with headlines.
Show us how to love, and how to be. Teach us to confront that which we fear. Show us how to be kind. Be patient with us.
You are younger than me by many years. But you are my brother. And I will continue to learn from you, Bryson. For your life is the gift. It is the gift that was given to this world. A gift you’ve given to me and so many others.
Congratulations on being cancer free. I hope your seventh grade year is a good one.