By Rodney Hays
Last week hundreds of local residents gathered at Baker Elementary to say goodbye to a young boy who had been dealt more than his share of heartache and pain.
Aidan Peterson died on Aug. 11, just 10 days shy of his seventh birthday. At just 19 months, Aidan was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in 2008. After several years of treatment, Aidan was considered "cured" in October 2011. But earlier this year, Aidan’s family received bad news yet again. This time he was diagnosed with a rare blood cancer, completely unrelated to the Leukemia. His only real hope of survival was a bone marrow transplant.
In February, Aidan’s mom Candice Lawson Gaudet organized a bone donor drive and thousands of people responded. Six matches were found, but the bone marrow came too late for little Aidan.
At last week’s service, Gaudet said she felt like she was the most qualified to give a eulogy to the son who taught her a lot in a just seven short years.
Despite being sick most of his life, Gaudet said Aidan never looked at himself as being "sick."
"He continued to live life with vibrancy and love and laughter even though he had to push his body harder to do all the things he wanted to do," she said. Gaudet talked about how Aidan would say, "I have some sick cells, but Aidan is healthy."
That attitude could teach a lot of people, young and old.
"Think about that for a minute. Take it to heart," Gaudet told the crowd last week. "That is perspective from a 6 year old that many of us never have. How often do we complain that we are sick with this or that? How often do we let a cold or flu ruin our week? [Aidan] had the perspective to think very holistically: mind, body, and spirit. Aidan himself was never sick a day in his life. He had some sick cells. His lungs got very sick at the end. But Aidan was always well. And he always will be."
Gaudet spoke about how Aidan tried to live a very normal life. He tried to go to school and when he couldn’t attend, teachers at Baker would talk to him via Skype. The school supplied a tablet to Aidan so that he could keep up with his classmates while he was in the hospital.
Through it all, Aidan had a sunny, positive outlook on life. He tried to teach others what he had learned about life in short time.
His mother told about how Aidan, who she called "80", once taught her about the reason we are all here.
One day back in the spring, Aidan and his mom were looking out a hospital window at all the people below just "doing life," he said. He looked up at his mom and asked her if she knew our real purpose here on earth.
She told him she thought she did and asked him what he thought our purpose was.
"On planet Earth, we only have one real purpose," he said. "To learn how to love. Then one day, when our spirit is ready, our future selves are in heaven, and all we do is fly and love. God told me that."
Gaudet said she believes that 100 percent. Our purpose is to love without limit or condition, she said. "Aidan made sure I knew how to do that before he went home. And I know for sure that he knew how. Aidan knew how to love to infinity and beyond," Gaudet said.
He also had a pretty clear picture of God, Gaudet said.
As Aidan and his mother watched television on the day of the Boston Marathon bombing, he was inspired. He told his mother that most people picture God as a "grandfather with white hair and a beard." But Aidan thought God was more than that, more than just a "place holder."
"God is really a pure white light that is only love and good energy. And that love and energy is in everything that exists," Aidan told his mom.
"And I said, ‘wow, 80, that’s deep. How did you happen across this information?"
His response: "Oh, that’s just something my spirit knew before I came here."
Gaudet also encouraged people to become bone marrow donors. Only four out of 10 patients needing bone marrow find the donor they need. To learn more about becoming a donor, visit www.deletebloodcancer.org.
Aidan is gone from this earth physically. His little body is no longer being poked and prodded and scanned. He won’t spend one more long day in a hospital. He is no longer in pain. But he is not far from here in spirit. And he continues to teach people well beyond his 7 years, including his mother.
"Aidan loved to learn, but he really loved to teach. Aidan taught me so much about faith, and I know he will continue to do so for as long as I’m willing to learn."