The routine was the same each night for the past few weeks but this night Spencer and his mom didn’t go home. There was a special room for families of the terminally ill. Spencer slept on a couch and the grown-ups sat, drank coffee and hugged. The television provided a faint background sound as they waited. They talked about Matt’s struggles and his bravery through the past year. Each of them had their own last moments with Matt so that he could say good-bye and his survivors could have closure. Spencer was sound asleep, exhausted from the last few days. The adults in the room would often glance over to him with concern and a certain amount of pity.
A few days before, Matt had his talk with Spencer as Spencer’s mom watched silently at the back of his dark and quiet hospital room. Matt had been trying to put together the words that would prepare his son for what was to come. How can a father explain death, life, love, girls, growing up and tell a son so many important things in just a few moments? They talked about God, and heaven, about trying his best, and being honest, and about being a man. They talked about being good for his mother and remembering that dad is proud of him and would always be watching. Janice Howard cried and smiled all at the same time as her husband gave his words of wisdom to young Spence. Spencer didn’t quite understand everything his father was telling him but it didn’t matter. He did understand that whatever his hero was telling him, it was important. He listened carefully and fought hard not to cry when Matt started to choke up. Spencer couldn’t hold on any longer and began to break down. Children understand much more than adults give them credit for and Spencer just gave his father a squeeze and took a deep, but stammered, breath. Then, with a dry mouth he tried to swallow and then bravely forced out some words, “I’ll be okay daddy, don’t worry.”