Me: "Who has the best seat in the house, me or daddy?"

Adam: "Well, Daddy's is nice, but yours is best. Your's is squishier."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


"Will you come with me to see him one more time before we go?"

Kathy, my sweet friend and I stood in the doorway of the funeral chapel, and she was asking me to walk with her to the front of the chapel to say goodbye to Seth. The viewing had been going for four hours, and it was time to go. The funeral would be tomorrow, and Kathy would see Seth once more before the burial, but before leaving, she wanted to see her boy. I smiled and said yes, and took her hand in mine. Inside, I was sinking. How do you take that walk with a mama?

Seth was 27. He had lived 27 years longer than anyone ever expected him to.

Seth came into the world with many birth defects, a blood disorder, and a fragile system. His mother prayed and asked God that, when Seth died, it would be in her arms. Born without an airway, he was operated on shortly after his birth. He received blood transfusions weekly for the first few years, and then every three weeks for the rest of his life. Multiple surgeries on his hands were done to move fingers into the place of missing thumbs. Over the years, hospitalizations were frequent and scary, and there was always the awareness that Seth was living against all the odds.

But that was not all that Seth was. He was a funny, creative, and sensitive. He gave you a hug the first time you met him, and every time thereafter, and it didn't take long before you paid more attention to his outlandish mohawks than you did to his unusual stature and scarred hands. Seth joked with me, "I mean no disrespect, but you know how most guys think about sex all the time? Well, that's how often I think about dieing." For all his challenges, Seth really lived. He had more friends than a lottery winner, a knack for teasing, and a nickname for everyone. And though he knew he wouldn't live long, he even had a sense of humor about that.

Seth got pneumonia and was hospitalized over the weekend, just days after a boat trip where he had been knee boarding, and he had had a great week. Hospitalization was just another familiar bump in Seth's road, or so it seemed, but then rather suddenly Seth's organs started shutting down.

Kathy's prayers were answered. Just a few hours after being admitted to the hospital, Seth died in his mother's arms.

I held my friend's hand as we stood beside Seth. Kathy beamed at her second son, "Doesn't he look good?" She told me about how the moment he passed away, his face had relaxed into a soft smile like the faint one he seemed to have now. She reached out and touched his hands, folded over his chest, and stroked his little scars gently. She touched his hair and told me about his recent addition of blue dye to the black and blond mohawk. She adjusted his white cotton sleeve and patted the neck tie he wore that belonged to his father. Then Kathy whispered her love to her son, and sweetly leaned in to kiss her boy on the cheek.

Tears rolled down my cheeks, but not hers. I felt as though I was feeling the waves of her grief, but I don't think I was. The waves I felt were my own, waking off of my friend and coming back to me. I hurt for another mother who can't quite feel it all yet. She said goodnight to Seth, "I'll see you tomorrow, Buddy." Tomorrow there would be a family viewing, and a prayer, before the last goodbyes.

I left the funeral home and the sky was on fire with a fine Sacramento sunset. A great song came on the radio, and I blasted it and sang along. Seth would definitely have approved; though he looked very dapper, neck ties were never really his thing.

It was strange to merge back into reality as I drove, watching people pump gas and load groceries into their cars. I saw Trader Joe's market, and realizing we needed TP at home, I pulled into the parking lot, belting out the last strains of Paralyzer. I grabbed a few items from the shelves, and went to check out. "Just getting off work?" The clerk asked in a friendly, end of the day voice. I paused. Do you talk about where I just was in the checkout line? There was no one in line behind me, and the clerk had a kind face.

"I was actually at a funeral." Well, viewing, but that's just semantics. That look fell heavily across her face, and I immediately talked her out of it. "No, it was wonderful." I gave her the 30 second version of The Life of Seth, and she warmed with an expression that could only be labeled as "Gratitude". We stood there and talked about Seth, how he defied the odds, how he went out with a bang, and how we needed to appreciate life more, live more fully and show more love. She seemed to miss not having had the chance to know him, and I reflected that Seth was still inspiring the best in people, even if he had never met them.

"Wow." she said with a soft smile as she handed me my receipt. She lingered on my eyes like a fine, old friend.

"Yeah, and then you have to buy toilet paper." I smiled, embarrassed that after all that, I had had to return to mundane tasks. "Yes, I guess life keeps going." She agreed. I headed home. Tomorrow will be a hard day, but I am glad I'll be there. I have a lot more to appreciate before life keeps going.

Visit a website tribute to Seth's life at, and consider making a contribution to help this family with the costs of his services.

1 comment:

rebekahmott said...

What a great story about a boy. I may have not known him but, wow after reading these blogs I wished I did.