Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Love Like Liam

Yesterday was Liam's memorial service. Both a mourning of a death and a celebration of a life.
I was privileged to attend.

It was at St. Francis of Assisi Church on West 31st Street in Manhattan, across the street from the firehouse (Engine 1/Ladder 24) where Liam spent so much time, the firefighters gave him his own locker, complete with uniform.

The firefighters were outside the church, playing the bagpipes. Liam received a firefighter's funeral honors, and indeed, was named an official firefighter.

I idiotically walked through the side door and ended up in the family room. There were about 30 people there. After saying hello to Gretchen and Larry, I realized that I might be in the wrong place and asked someone to show me where the programs were. I was ushered into the main hall.

The church was overflowing with people. The request was to wear orange (Liam's favorite color) and ties (Liam was passionate about ties, and felt every day was a good day to wear one.) Men wearing bright orange ties, women wearing orange tops and shawls. Apparently, Liam's Army found that Forever 21 sells orange shawls and they were completely bought out. I wore my orange Fred's Team shirt, the one I wear when I run the actual marathon, with Liam's picture on the back (it's the picture on the right side of the blog).

There was singing from "The Lion King" and "Rent," as well as some psalms. One of Liam's nurses and Dr. LaQuaglia, Liam's surgeon from MSKCC spoke, as well as Robert Woodruff from ABC News. Gretchen spoke last.

We all heard about what a remarkable little boy Liam was -- so inquisitive, so fearless. How he bore all of his treatments -- and Dr. LaQuaglia let us know that Liam endured seven major surgeries, 25 procedures requiring anesthesia, and 111 other tests -- with no complaints. How he was so concerned for others that even when he himself was not feeling well, when his nurse told him that she, too, was feeling ill and needed to go home early, Liam pulled her down to him so they were face to face and gently kissed her on the forehead. How Liam wanted to go to a Halloween party so badly that immediately after he finished a high-dose chemo treatment, he put on a Superman costume, went to the party, and volunteered to get on stage and sing his A-B-Cs with the musicians.

As much as they could, the Witts made sure that Liam was a boy first and foremost. He loved school and went nearly every day. He loved to scooter (and frequently got in trouble for scootering in the hallways of MSKCC), and was always looking for the next science or craft project. He loved playing on the iPad, and once downloaded 27 cooking apps before his parents realized he had memorized the iTunes account password. He loved to throw himself in the pool wearing nothing but swim goggles.

Gretchen put it best during her eulogy -- she said, "Liam was OUR son." And by that, she meant that he was everyone's son. Everyone who met him, be it in person or through Cookies for Kids' Cancer or Gretchen's blog, fell hopelessly in love with him and felt that he was theirs. That made us fight so hard for him, and grieve even harder.

Liam lived. And he lived every moment of every day. His teachers told us that he would frequently ask, "If not now, when?" What better call to action than that, and what better words to live by?

Wherever he went, Liam made people feel at ease. He was so quick and easy to love whoever he met, and you couldn't help but love him right back. The day I met him, he declared his love for me within minutes, and he meant it.

Gretchen asked us all to love like Liam -- openly and completely. There is no more fitting legacy for a boy who was the very embodiment of love.


Anonymous said...


Thanks for sharing this link - but unfortunately it seems to be down? Does anybody here at marcirunsthemarathon.blogspot.com have a mirror or another source?


Marci Glotzer said...

Which link are you referring to?