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GROUND ZERO PLUS 1104 DAYS,--New York, NY, Monday, September 20, 2004--Davey is dying. He is almost eight years old and a brave and courageous kid. On Sunday, the Angel of Death kissed the Angel of Life in front of Davey. He didn't blink. In fact, he smiled.

The Angel of Death kissed the Angel of Life in front of Davey...and he smiled
The Angel of Death kissed the Angel of Life in front of Davey...and he smiled

I was one of a few hundred watching Life and Death embrace the body and spirit of the small, stout-hearted boy whose body is wracked with leukemia.

Destiny has dealt Davey (not his real name) a tough hand. He's one of 3,250 children each year afflicted with leukemia. Each year, the disease adds 30,580 adults to its roles. Davey's disease was diagnosed in May, 2001. Several blood drives for bone marrow transplants were held for him by community and family members. This wasn't a fund drive, this was a Spiritual Drive, the collection of faith and belief in a boy's soul, and the feeding of thirsty loved ones who needed to embrace his zest for life and the message he renders to all who cross his path.

Leukemia's survival rate is estimated by the National Cancer Institute to be about 64.8 percent. But, based on Davey's medical problems and his specific type of Leukemia, outside of a miracle, the Angel of Death walks hand-in-hand with the Angel of Life throughout each precious day of Davey's life.

That's why the ceremony this past Sunday was so vital to Davey's life. It was about securing his soul on earth and beyond.

Davey belongs to a strong Irish-Catholic family, with roots that reach deep into the soil of his homeland far across the sea. Community is a big part of Irish culture. So is belief.

Davey receives the gifts of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation
Davey receives the gifts of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation

Yesterday, after receiving special dispensation from the Catholic Bishop of his diocese, Davey accelerated his destiny with Life and Death by receiving his first Holy Communion, followed by the sacrament of Confirmation. He had already been given the Sacrament of the Sick, an annointing by a priest for the seriously ill.

Davey was on the fast-track of spiritual strength.

Davey normally would receive First Communion next spring with his class in school and be Confirmed in the eighth grade. Under Catholic doctrine, Baptism and Confirmation are 'Initiation Sacraments': Baptism, according to the Church, helps one resist temptation and avoid sin; Confirmation deepens the baptismal gifts and adds additional "gifts" of the Holy Spirit including Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety....

Davey took the name of Saint Peregrine, the "Wonder Worker"
Davey took the name of Saint Peregrine

It is the custom in the Catholic Church to take a Saint's name while being confirmed--a kind of "spiritual buddy" you hold as a model for how you want to live. Davey chose Saint Peregrine called "The Wonder Worker", the patron saint of those who have cancer.

The background of those who follow this saint include being cast to sea and landing where ever the winds blow you. Then, as a seed flying through the wind at random, the disciple of the saint brings to others the message of faith.

Davey is a lot like a seed of faith. He brings faith to the living through his inevitable death, reminding everyone around him how fragile life really is.

Davey's illness has ravaged most of his "normal life." Instead of enjoying the fruits of youth, Davey's been in and out of hospitals innumerable times, battling his "white blood" disease.

In Greek, the word "leukemia" means "white blood." White blood cells--that normally are balanced to fight infections--become abnormal Terrorist Cells. They attack healthy red blood cells, virtually bullying them out of production. It is like having Osama bin Laden inside a child's body, ravaging the child's immune system.

Chemotherapy helps retard the growth of the abnormal White Cell Terrorists, but in acute cases, little hope exists that the cancer will be reversed.

This is Davey's lot. He walks all 1440 minutes of each day on the razor's edge of Life and Death.

Davey is a true Sentinel of Vigilance wearing an ear-to-ear smile...and face paint
Davey is a true Sentinel of Vigilance wearing an ear-to-ear smile ... and face paint

But you wouldn't know it by Davey's attitude.

He's a true Sentinel of Cancer Vigilance. Despite the War On Cancer Terrorism raging in his body, he thrusts his shoulders back, walks with his own interpretation of John Travolta's Saturday Fever strut, and when you talk to him, he breaks into an ear-to-ear smile that melts every pore in your body. He finds happiness and joy despite a world filled with rife.

He's a breath of fresh air when it comes to winning the war on Terrorism. He's the unsung hero of Terrorism.

Headlines are full of news about heroes battling the physical War On Terrorism in Iraq, the World Trade Center and various parts of the globe.

What is rarely reported is the fact there are 187,285 Soldiers of Leukemia Vigilance walking the soil of this nation, each of whom daily battle the deadly disease with an aplomb that defies anyone facing a Terrorist firing squad or about to have his or head decapitated.

Davey represents a small percentage of the nearly 200,000 who are affliced. He is in the elite category--the Children of Leukemia. And, these Children of Leukemia have a message for the rest of the world--Enjoy Life To The Fullest. Fear not!

Kids like Davey know they are about to die. But more importantly, they know they are alive.

They are living in the NOW of the gift of life, not worrying about the future and its uncertainties.

If they are afraid of death, they show no signs of it. They defy Terrorism's purpose of injecting Fear, Intimidation and Complacency in its victims and loved ones. Instead, the Leukemia Kids of Vigilance stand up to the Bully of Cancer Terrorism by living life to the fullest, with more fearlessness than one can fathom.

The rites were performed at St. Columba Church in Chester, New York
The rites were performed at St. Columba Church in Chester, New York

Yesterday was one example.

Davey went to the Church of Saint Columba in his home town of Chester, New York to strenthen the shield of his soul.

Awaiting him was a bulging congregation of friends, relatives and family to witness his First Communion. Some secretely wondered if it would be his first and last. The vast majority prayed that Davey would have many communions, however, reality barks that Davey's days on earth are numbered.

Father Thomas J. Curley conducted Davey's First Communion ceremonies. In his homily, Fr. Curley reminded everyone that life was fragile, and reminded the attendees that Davey symbolizes how to live the "gift of life." He told the story behind Davey's saint's name, Saint Peregrine, and reminded the members of the parish they were "seeds" too, whose primary mission was to go forth and bring the joys of life and living to those whose souls might be numbed or deadened by the Terrorism's of Life.

He spoke about how we are simply visitors on earth, and that we have a mission to build the world stronger and safer for future generations. Davey has become for him, he noted, an example of human bravery, and a reminder that we must never forget to live in the fertile richness of each and every of the 1440 minutes we are given each day.

In a way, Davey is very much like the people who died on Nine Eleven. The slogan: "Never Forget" applies to Davey as well as the nearly 3,000 who died on September 11, 2001, so that we might appreciate life, and find ways to live it with greater peace and security.

The priest performed the ceremony of offering Davey his First Communion. He following it with Confirmation usually given to "mature Christians." Despite his youth, Davey is far more spiritually mature than most of the people watching him enter the "official halls of the Church".

Davey receiving his First Communion
Davey receiving his First Communion

I related to the accelerated ceremonial rites of Davey being rushed through the steps of becoming a "full member" because of the looming face of death. I had been Davey once.

When I was on my way to Vietnam as a U.S. Marine in the first wave that landed in that country over three decades ago, I had not designated any religion. I was either an agnostic or an atheist, or simply an egotist who believed life and death was just a matter of breathing or not breathing. Whether there was any afterlife was not an issue with me.

I had never been baptized into any religion, and, because of a troubled childhood, had little faith in any Higher Power.

But as I approached the Jaws of Death, I began to wonder: "What if there was something eternal after life?" I also was fearful of dying without a body bag. I had heard that they placed all the bodies in bags by religious preference. Catholics, Methodists, Jews, Buddhist, Muslims, etc. got the first wave of bags so they could be stacked and then blessed by their respective priests, ministers or rabbis.

'No Preferences', which I was, may not get a body bag if everyone ahead of me had a religious preference and I didn't.

The thought of dying naked without a body bag frightened me more than death itself.

I took an accelerated course on becoming a Catholic. When you are about to face death, the Church allows certain short cuts. I wasn't interested so much in saving my soul as I was dying and having a body bag. I know this isn't very spiritual, but is the truth.

In my own way, I am a brother to Davey
Recalling my own reception of the Sacrements, In my own way, I am a brother to Davey

Taking a fast track to become a Catholic, I chose to place the Angels of Death and Life on both my shoulders--just in case.

In my own way, I am a brother to Davey. We both "rushed" our First Communions because we were both walking into the Face of Death. The difference was Davey is almost eight and I was twentytwo when I chose to become what I term, "A Body Bag Catholic." There is another big difference.

Davey is surrounded by Sentinels of Vigilance. Hundreds of family members, friends and loved ones surged around Davey yesterday.

They were the living supporting the Child of Death and Life.

I thought of the Principles of Vigilance, and how we all must make a vow to fight the Beast of Terror in all his nefarious forms. One of those forms is, of course, cancer. Cancer Terrorizes the human body from within. It is far more devastating than any blowing up of a Twin Towers, or bombings in Baghdad.

I know. I had colon cancer and live as a survivor, knowing that at any moment one of those cancer cells rattling around in my body can come to deadly life and cripple my body until death suffocates life.

My wife is also a cancer survivor. She survived breast cancer and battles two other types. We know that each moment is precious, and sometimes forget that by wallowing in our selfish concerns about not having enough of this or that, or wanting more, or wishing we had...when, in fact, life itself is the greatest of all gifts.

I followed Davey around with my digital camera and captured his Sentinel of Vigilance Spirit. Each time I took a picture, I knew I was capturing a piece of his soul, and repairing those scars on my own when I slip into Terrorism's quagmire of Fear, Intimidation and Complacency that makes me wonder why life has treated me unfairly and yet others around me appear to have or do or enjoy so many of the "riches" of life I don't have.

There was a flood of friends, young and old, to celebrate his Spiritual and Physical life and ...
There was a flood of friends, young and old, to celebrate his Spiritual and Physical life and...

Davey reminds me this kind of thinking is nothing more than selfishness, self-pity, self-aggrandizement. As Davey strutted about, I saw him not as a small, bald, almost-eight-year-old boy, but as a giant human being, throbbing with courageous life.

The flood of friends and relatives there to celebrate his Spiritual Life along with his Physical Life were feeding off him as I was. They saw his Courage, Conviction and Right Actions for Future Generations beam as though we were all ships in the fog searching for the harbor.

When he smiles, the sorrow of the soul was cast bright with the seeds of life. I felt my own insides glow.

...along with relatives and loved ones witnessed Davey's Courage, Conviction, and Right Actions in his house of love and life
...along with relatives and loved ones witnessed Davey's Courage, Conviction, and Right Actions in his house of love and life

Earlier, before going to the Church, I had been at Davey's house and watched him take his chemotherapy medicine. There were two vials on the table, loaded with anti-cancer liquids that would give him strength to sustain the war of Cellular Terror. I watched him take it.

I wondered why each day I don't consume something to battle my Beast of Terror. Then I realized that I do. I take the Pledge of Vigilance. I make a vow to try my best to stand above the Fear, Intimidation and Complacency that tries to destroy my Vigilance Immune System and render me into a state of Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.

Davey had Spider Man to do that for him. Spider Man is his 'main man'.

He also took a long ride on a Harley with some of his father's buddies.

Davey's dad is a New York City police sergeant. Many of his friends are cops. They were there in force with their wives and children.

Clowns blew up a balloon of his favorite hero, Spiderman
Clowns blew up a balloon of his favorite hero, Spiderman

Davey's family is large. His father has three brothers and three sisters, a total of seven kids plus all their children.

There were clowns blowing up balloons, painting faces--even Batman showed up on a motorcycle to say hello to Davey.

Another favorite, Batman came to the joyful event
Another favorite, Batman rode his bat-cycle to the joyful event

Davey is life.

I knew that there were many in the crowd who had given up on life, believed life was a rut, and the difference between a rut and grave is only the depth.

This is Terrorism's greatest victory. It is called Complacency. It is when we feel we are "victims" of life, and wish we had life to live over because we look back and see all the pain and problems. We don't look at the "gift of life" as such, in its rawest and most basic nature.

The priest reminded us that "life was a gift," however short it might be, and what we did with it today was the fruits of the gift.

Davey is living life. He carries the Angels of Life and Death on his shoulders fearlessly.

As I clicked the last picture of the day, I stood a little taller. I became less afraid of the Angels of Death and more appreciative of the Angels of Life roosting on my own shoulders.

I knew that Davey is my Sentinel of Vigilance. He is my living example. I have many Sentinels who are not of this earth any longer. Some 3,000 of them hover above Ground Zero, the Spirits of Vigilance I have long served.

Davey is standing on the shoulders of life
Davey is standing on the shoulders of life

But, I forgot to remember that there are Living Sentinels of Vigilance. They are not ghosts or invisible, but standing right in front of me.

Davey is one.

He is standing on the shoulders of life itself, telling everyone to take the Pledge of Vigilance in his own way.

I know he takes that Vow of Vigilance each day.

For him to have the Courage, Conviction and take the Right Actions he does each day to face the Angel of Death he carries around was a herculean task, one that if an eight-year-old could handle, so could I with all my "baggage."

I saw Davey kiss the cheek of both the Angel of Life and Death...then smile...
I saw Davey kiss the cheek of the Angel of Life and Death...and then smile.....

As we drove away, I looked over my shoulder at Davey staring up at the towering figures of the adults around him.

I knew he is as tall as the tallest. I knew that because I saw him kiss the cheek of both the Angel of Life and Death, then smile, wink and swagger through the maze of people with a knowledge that far surpasses anything I can imagine.




Go To Story From September 18: "Nine Inning To Ground Zero Is Nine Innings To Vigilance"




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