My heart is breaking at the death of a young man I never met. Over forty-five years ago, my parents were newlyweds living in a small town in south Georgia. They met lifelong friends who had two small children. When my parents moved three hours away, the friendship continued. Doris and my mom wrote letters to each other back when that still happened. Their family visited our family. We visited them. Braves games and Six Flags and just hanging out are some of the memories I have. Since my mother passed away, Doris has continued this lifelong friendship. Reaching out and supporting me through both happy and difficult times.
The grandson of this wonderful family passed away yesterday. When he was a junior in high school, Keaton was diagnosed with brain cancer. Even through his treatment, which included surgeries and chemotherapy, he played football. For the past two years, I’ve been following his story on Facebook via his mom and grandmother. Watching with amazement at this courageous young man who didn’t let brain cancer keep him from enjoying high school to the fullest. Football games, homework, high school dances. He did it all.
Since learning of his death, I’ve been searching for the perfect picture book to honor him. I thought maybe a story about football. But I couldn’t find one I liked. Through a web search using the words picture books and courage, I found one.
Wilma, Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became The World’s Fastest Woman by Kathleen Krull and illustrated by David Diaz – A biography of the African-American woman who overcame crippling polio to become the first woman to win three gold medals in track in a single Olympics.
Just like Wilma Rudolph, Keaton plowed through showing others what one can do with determination and pure grit. A few weeks ago he was chosen as Georgia’s Male Positive Athlete of The Year. No one deserves this honor more.