On Saturday, I had to attend the funeral of a seven-year-old. His name was Luke Hansen, and I met him this summer when he was one of my campers for Vacation Bible School in Hurley, South Dakota.
At the time I met him in mid-July, he was already four months into cancer treatment. In March, he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain stem tumor. Immediately, he began treatment: radiation, steroids, physical therapy, the works. For us adults, going through all of this would be rough. And at times, Luke hated what he had to go through to get better.
Yet if I hadn’t been told that there was something wrong with Luke, I never would have guessed. He sang the loudest, ran with the bigger kids, talked all the time, and was just your average seven-year-old, except with leg braces and limited mobility on one side. He was the coolest little kid, so full of life and energy. When he showed up to VBS on the last day with “Team Luke” bracelets for the staff, I was touched, and gladly accepted membership to the Team.
From that moment on, Luke became my Superhero. I subscribed to the Caring Bridge website, keeping tabs on everything going on with Luke. I cheered him on when I heard that he was able to play in a couple of baseball games, I wished him luck when he started second grade, and I became concerned when he wasn’t able to go to school because he was too weak.
Being so invested in Luke, I knew I was setting myself up for disappointment. Luke was able to do anything, and even though I was hoping he would be able to beat his disease, I knew every time I looked at my Hulk-green “Team Luke” bracelets that soon he wasn’t going to be around.
That day came the morning of Wednesday, 24 November. I got the email update that Luke had passed away. I’m glad I got it after I had arrived at home for Thanksgiving break, first because it meant that I could be in Hurley for the funeral, but also because I knew if I had gotten the news while driving, I would have had to pull over.
Luke’s funeral on Saturday was wonderful. Over 100 people showed up to send him off, offering so many memories that the basket was overflowing. The doors to the public school had the Incredible Hulk greeting everyone as they entered, and autographs and well-wishes from his sports heroes filled two tables. Luke looked as handsome as ever in his white casket, decked out in his favorite Twins jersey (no surprise there). Many wonderful memories were shared, including a touching poem by Luke’s older sister, Jasmyn.
As I sat back and let the tears roll, the topic of lessons came up. Someone mentioned that Luke taught her some important lessons, including to always be a cheerleader, and to learn the value of numbers. Important lessons as they are, Luke taught me an especially important one: live with no excuses.
For eight months, Luke had death looming over him. And yet, somehow, it didn’t faze him at all. He ran, he jumped, he climbed, he loved, he sang, he lived. And here I am, almost 21 years old, still making excuses for why I can’t do things: I’m not talented enough, it’s too far out of my comfort zone, I’m too old to do that, I’m too invested in what I’m doing to completely rid myself of it.
But Luke showed me that there can be no excuses in life. Life is way too short to focus on what you can’t do. Instead, focus on what you wish you could do, and do it. If it works, you have a new skill. If it doesn’t, then put it behind you and try something new.
Luke was, and always will be, my biggest Superhero, and I hope that someday, I can be like him when I grow up.