In Weakness, He was Strong
It’s time for me to confess. Confess probably what most of you already knew or noticed, so really I guess it’s more of an admittance than a confession. As the darkness of 2011 rolled over into 2012, I sat in a recliner in my bedroom with three of four kids asleep on mattresses in the floor. Since Hg was two months old, we had maintained a tradition of all sleeping in the same room on New Year’s Eve, pulling in mattresses, so that we would all wake up in the new year together. That year, the tradition was skipped for the first time. Eli and Vic were in Memphis at LeBonheur Children’s Hospital waiting for the holidays to pass so that Eli could have the first of what would amount to seven brain surgeries in five years. I had arrived home from being at the hospital the day before, broken, but was met by friends and family offering encouragement and support. During those dark first hours of 2012, I stared at my computer screen reading, learning, formulating.
As the information began to clog my brain, I whispered a vow. Not to our Divine Creator, but to the aggressor that stood over my shoulder reading along with me. I promised him that not only would I jump at every seconds-worth of opportunity presented to strike back, but that I would create opportunities to strike back.
I’ll give you an example that best demonstrates my actions. At the end of Eli’s third in-patient chemo treatment at St. Jude during his initial protocol - a process that drove his body to the edge of death and then reeled him back to life - I had him to get out of bed and strike a “Tebow” pose for a picture. Some of you will remember it. He didn’t care anything about a picture; didn’t know who Tim Tebow was, much less a “Tebow” pose.
It was popular at that time in 2012, and I knew that when any blog followers who were hurting, or struggling, or discouraged (all tools of the devil) saw a picture of the frail and pale bald kid in a hospital room gathering all his strength to defy the intentions of his afflictions, they would be emboldened to face their own obstacles. Eli did not have the cognizant maturity to understand the power he had to take a swing at his aggressor just by encouraging others with a show of strength, whether he felt strong or not. So, I took those opportunities for him. That afternoon, while he played video games from a hospital bed waiting to be discharged, I had him to get out of bed and kneel in the floor. He could not stand without leaning on something, so you can imagine how easily he could kneel. But, I was not deterred by his physical weakness, nor his half-hearted protest. I helped him out of bed, and to get down on his one knee. I steadied him by holding his right hand until he got the one hand on his forehead in place. He could not hold that stance without my help for literally more than two seconds. So, when I let go, I lifted my hand out of photo-range and took advantage of those two seconds and snapped a picture. Quickly grabbing him, I helped him up and back into the bed to his video game.
Except for instances where I thought the rawness of reality would further awareness or drive emotion toward positive action, I mostly tried to show pictures of Eli looking strong, so that the sight of him would be encouraging to others, imply defiance against his aggressor. It wasn't always possible, but when I could, I did. Many times when he was obviously weakened, I would motion to him to sit up straight for the two seconds I needed for a picture or to stand with his legs evenly apart and straight for a stronger stance. If he had to fake a limp smile because he didn't feel good, I would whisper and motion to him "no teeth" which would straighten his mouth to what looked more like a carefree grin in the face of evil. I always felt like the visual story I shared of Eli was our most useful weapon because of how it helped others, so I orchestrated a lot, really, in an effort to take a swing at Satan every chance I got.
For the last year, Vic and I have been (off and on) trying to figure out what we want to do with the money that was donated in memory of Eli when he passed. To Eli, the cancer thing did not define him. He never really thought much about it beyond that it meant people gave him toys and he traveled a lot. If asked to describe himself, I don't think he would have ever mentioned it. It was normal to him.
So, when deciding (and to be honest, it's not totally detailed out yet, so still taking shape) we wanted to strike a balance between what made sense with the amount of money we have; what made sense within our lives to deal with; what best represented Eli and his life on earth, and what best gave back to the people that he loved and that loved him. We wanted it to be active, not a passive stone marker, (which we will do on our own eventually) but something with the potential to have a similar immeasurable impact and reach as did Eli's life. We wanted it to be encouraging, motivating, and supportive - all the things so many people were to us for so many years (and continue to be). So, soon, we hope to be announcing "The Eli Williams 'Bloom Where You're Planted' Scholarship." As I said, the details are taking shape, it will be pretty specific as to the requirements, so we are still working that out. I had hoped we would have those details ready by now, but we just don't, so we don't know when we will be ready to award. My hope is to award something for the end of this school year, but no promises. One issue is that there is not quite enough money to accrue enough interest to award a scholarship, so that means that we will need to figure out how to grow it and award it at the same time. So, we are hosting a Memorial Cruise on August 5th as our first attempt to raise a little to feed the scholarship fund. Anything done in relation to this cruise goes to that. We are excited about the opportunities that God continues to wring out of the evil with which Satan inflicted our family. I know in my heart that he regrets it every day, and I intend to continue making him regret it every day until I see Eli again.
The cruise this first year falls on the exact date of Eli's death. It will start at our church building parking lot in Madison, Alabama, and end at McFarland Park in Florence, Alabama, the site of Eli’s last car show. Eli and I traveled this route countless times going to St. Jude over the years. We traveled west, east, and south in pursuit of a treatment, but never made it north, although we tried.
This picture, taken at that last car show, which was two weeks from his bed-ridden date, and three weeks from his death, is another example of my guerrilla warfare tactics. There’s a wheelchair just beyond the photo's edge.
Thank you for your continued interest in "The impact of the Legacy of Eli." We are prayerful that this scholarship idea is the right decision and that it take shape and grow into something beneficial to others in this life and for the next.