"Movin' kind of slow, aren't ya,'' Bryce Campbell said, as I worked sore knees and a fake hip into the tricky-angled back seat of the limousine|
"Don't get old, Bryce,'' I countered, laughing back at the 15-year-old who, for the previous 75 minutes had me in stitches.
I paused, realizing what I had said."Get old, kiddo. Get old, and make fun of me all you want.''
Bryce didn't get old, he passed earlier this week. But he was wise beyond his 15 years and knew what I meant when I told him to get old.
Cancer claimed Bryce. Rotten disease. It beat him up physically for years before God called him home. It tossed a dedicated and loving family on its side, though the Campbells never lost hope or wavered in their love for Bryce or each other.
Illness -- which physically knocked a great kid down many times -- never robbed Bryce of his sense of humor and fun-loving spirit.
I was privy to Bryce and his amazing family just once. It was a carefree afternoon in the later stages of Bryce's battle, a light-hearted two hours of food, high-living (the limo ride) and fun. I have not laughed as hard since.
"I've got this amazing young man you need to hang out with,'' Brad Baltzell said in a phone conversation. "Amazing family as well.''
He was right.
Brad heads Tudi's Tribe, the local group that looks in on kids struggling with health issues. Tudi's Tribe gives them a day, a week, a trip or whatever the situation calls for.
On our day, it was pizza, a limo ride for as long as Bryce wanted, a pass around Niabi Zoo and time with the bison that roam the John Edwards' farm near Geneseo. It was Bryce's call, I was just along for the ride.
Man, what a ride.
I sat next to Bryce, and we talked sports, life, birds and blueberries. I learned more about birds in two hours than I had in a lifetime. Bryce, in the coolest way possible, knew his birds and loved his blueberries.
He asked questions, great questions, about our surroundings and life, but he never let on about the battle he was waging. There was an ease about Bryce the entire trip. Him poking fun at my aches and pains only was a portion of the quips and quotes that came from the day.
We fist-bumped a bunch.
Midway through our trip, I found myself watching Bryce mingle -- at a safe distance -- with a snorting bison, the one that reportedly had the crankiest disposition.
But there they were, the young man in the home stretch of life that should have lasted at least 60 more years and the cranky bison whoignored the bread tossed by others and was eating only what Bryce tossed his way.
When Bryce turned and walked away, the crusty bison turned and walked away. They bonded. Bryce had won over the bison.
Thing is, Bryce had a way of winning over everyone. No matter how long you knew him.
Columnist John Marx can be reached at (309) 757-8388 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
East moline, IL Details
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