History and book lover, avid filmgoer, beloved son and brother. Born May 25, 1996, in Vancouver, died Aug. 25, 2012, in Vancouver of Ewings sarcoma, aged 16.
When you have never had children, you may not be quite prepared for the colossal impact a very special young being can have on your life, and the blessings that come with him.
In spite of his short life, Nigel touched everyone who knew him in ways that will never be forgotten. What a legacy!
You could not find a bigger baseball fan – Nigel’s team was the New York Yankees. For his 16th birthday, his mom and dad took him and his friends to Seattle for the Yankees game with the Mariners. Nigel was determined that the last year of continuous chemotherapy treatments he had endured would not keep him away. He was always aware of others and their feelings, and so found the enthusiasm to make this particular birthday memorable for everyone. It was to be his last.
His resolve was just one aspect of Nigel, who impressed everyone with his quiet humility and active interest in so many areas of our world.
I attended documentary films with him, and was endlessly struck by his understanding of social issues and his desire for fairness to be extended to the entire human race.
Nigel’s love of humour, games and books was, quite frankly, awesome. Few adults could beat his knowledge of geography, history and current affairs. His last reads included books on the search for ancient Peru, on Rome’s first emperor, Augustus, and on Haiti’s tumultuous history.
We played Scrabble games in silence after his radiation treatments. I treasured that time, as words were never needed – Nigel was on a special journey. I called him a brave lion because nothing dissuaded him from believing he could and would beat his disease.
You had to wonder how Nigel’s dog, Henry, saw the end, when Nigel’s last days were spent in palliative care. Henry regularly barked a welcome to every visitor at home, but at Nigel’s side, as family and friends came and went, his devotion was expressed with an understanding look and a head snuggled close against his boy.
Nigel’s qualities of compassion, kindness and intuition are part of his amazing legacy, added to his love of the great universe of imagination.
We exchanged well over 300 e-mails on endless subjects, and one of the last was his excited response to never-before-seen photographs of outer space in all its beauty.
“Wow!” he wrote. “It’s completely mind-boggling to think how vast the universe is and how little of it is observable.”
One young man’s impact altered forever the lives of so many teachers, friends and, of course, his treasured family.
Thinking of how the universe that awed him is now his, we know he will embrace it all, as he did in life and as he himself will be embraced.
Ann Coombs is a family friend.