Ten years ago today our daughter called. “Come to the hospital.” Her son, our grandson, Sully, was nearing the end of his life at the age of fifteen months. We spent the day, family, friends, hospital staff, saying “good bye”, holding and hugging Sully, holding and hugging each other. Room 14 on the BMT unit at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.
We watched Sully for thirteen months wage a fierce and courageous battle against leukemia. During his short life we watched this little man defeat death more than once. Sully’s fight, his spirit, his sweetness, and his smile, blessed us all. Sully was God’s gift to us.
The prophet Isaiah wrote, “and a little child will lead them” (Isaiah 11:6). Oh how Sully led and taught us.
The pictures are from July 25, 2008, nine days before Sully took his last breath. These pictures are evidence of Sully teaching us that no matter how painful life can be, there is reason to smile. There was a toughness of spirit within Sully which was a gift from God. Grumble and complain, Sully did not. There were cries and screams of pain, which broke our hearts. Yet a moment or minutes later Sully was smiling and playing patty cake or waving his hand or “I-I” or peek-a-boo or throwing a kiss.
Sully loved and enjoyed people—people, reason to smile. Sully taught us that the Lord did make this day. The Lord—reason to smile. Sully taught us not to waste life wallowing in the difficulties. In the midst of all the struggle, the pain, and the grief of those thirteen months, the one suffering the most, little Sully, was the one bringing us joy with his smile, his grunts, his kisses, and his laughs. He taught us to smile and to live with hope.
Life becomes so filled with the seriousness of what amount to small things, ultimately unimportant things. We spend our days and nights consumed with the urgent, with wants of toys and pleasure, and with energy draining efforts to get, to achieve, and to have. We forget the important things. With his sweet spirit Sully taught us to remember the important—a good attitude, a smile, a “thank you,” a “let me help you,” people, and above all, God.
The prophet Jeremiah writes of his suffering in Lamentations 3. As I understand his words he lays his suffering at the feet of God; he blames God for it. “I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me” (Lamentations 3:19-20). If anyone had a right to speak these words Sully did, but he smiled; he loved; he gave joy. I know his little mind could not form the thoughts as we can, but with his spirit Sully taught us. He taught us that with all the suffering and the questions his suffering brought, it all ultimately comes down to this—trust God. Out of the depths of suffering the prophet went on to write, “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Sully helped us understand these words.
Sully helped us understand the words of Jesus in Matthew 18:1-4. “At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” And so you are Sully, and so you are!
Ten years ago, remembering, loving, and missing you Sully. Thank you for being our teacher. Thank you for leading us. Thank you Lord for your gift and for the hope we have in Christ.