Saying Good Bye to a Little, Smiling Friend
By Jim Vail
March 10, 2013
Some things are not supposed to happen in this world.
The Sandy Hook massacre was not supposed to happen. A gun man shooting and killing twenty little first graders last December should not have happened.
The Beslan school massacre in Russia where 186 children were killed in 2004 was not supposed to happen.
And little fourth graders are not supposed to attend a wake to see their dear friend and classmate laid out in a casket, who will no longer play, read, joke around or grow up.
Can you imagine the grief of a family and friends who see their little 10-year-old son, their little brother or their little classmate say good bye to this world?
You cannot. We can try, but we cannot.
The great Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn said it best - 'A warm man does not know how a cold man feels.'
When we heard about the Sandy Hook massacre, our lives continued. We watched, we discussed, and maybe we cried. But we were not the family and friends where it happened, who truly suffered.
When a tragedy strikes, you cannot be in that person's shoes, no matter how hard you try.
And then it hits you hard.
I can't imagine anything more horrible to happen in my life.
Anothony Arroyo was a little student at Columbus Elementary School who was always smiling, joking around and having fun. He was a cute little guy who my son Leo was friends and classmates with beginning in kindergarten.
But two years ago while in the second grade he was diagnosed with brain cancer.
A little child diagnosed with brain cancer? I couldn't believe it, and I didn't want to think about it. And my life went on.
It went on, of course, with the hope in the back of my mind he would overcome it. He would treat it and beat it.
And then my son comes home with the news that little Anthony died last weekend at the precious age of 10.
The cancer prevented him from attending school. He was home schooled, and fighting the cancer with chemotherapy. So he had a shaved head and gained weight from the drugs.
Leo told me Anthony visited their school one year ago for the Christmas assembly.
Little Anthony taught Leo how to play the game Battleship. I remember running all over town looking for the game to buy for Christmas. I had no idea why he wanted it.
Little Anthony taught one classmate how to tell time after his friend taught him.
Little Anthony loved to joke around. He introduce Leo to Family Guy.
Little Anthony was always smiling, and jumping and playing.
That was before he had brain cancer.
His best friend Eric would drop by Columbus weekly, Leo said, to update his former classmates on how Anthony was doing. When he hadn't dropped by for a few weeks recently, Leo knew something was wrong.
And then the news came.
You are not supposed to see little school children attend a wake to see their fellow classmate laid out in a casket.
I haven't been the same since.
Now I cry, and try to go on, knowing a little child who was once so alive, that shared his life with my son, is suddenly gone.
I cannot explain it. I am in those shoes. I feel it.
They say 2,000 children die each year from brain tumors in the United States.
So the likelihood that a child will die from brain cancer is about as unlikely as dying in a terrorist attack.
But it happened, again. Only this time, it happened to me.
I knew this little boy through my son.
Rest In Peace - little Anthony Arroyo. May your memory never be forgotten by those around you.
You were too young.
Anthony Arroyo, 2003 - 2013!