Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I have put off writing this entry, because every time I talk about it, it just makes it more real, and that's still pretty difficult. You may have seen in past blogs some pictures of Justin with an adorable Filipino boy named EJ. EJ's mom, Janet, watches Justin twice a week, and soon after she started, I encouraged her to bring her 5 year old son. EJ is Justin's best friend... I've never seen two children so separated in age and development have so much genuine fun together and love for each other.

About 3 weeks ago, EJ was feeling sick when he was at our house, so the next day his parents took him to the doctor. They were told he had mumps. But a couple days later, his condition was getting worse, so they took him to another doctor, and he was diagnosed with diphtheria. I must admit I've only heard of diphtheria in relation to vaccinations and had no idea what it meant to have it, so I quickly researched and found that yes, he would need to be treated in a hospital, but if caught early, it was easily treatable and he would just need a lot of rest. There are still a lot of unknowns about all the details, but the toxins from the diphtheria reached EJ's heart, and he died less than one week after his diagnosis.

When I received the text about his death, I just kept hoping it was a mistake or a bad dream. For two or three days, every time Justin picked up a toy to play with, I would burst into tears because it reminded me of EJ. While our minds are still filled with tons of questions and unknowns, I'm trying to focus my energies now on supporting EJ's parents and older sister and remembering our incredible friend. Here are some of my favorite memories:

~Justin's face whenever he saw EJ... he would instantly light up no matter where we were or what was going on. He would shake his arms with excitment! :)
~EJ's incredible ability to play with Justin... other children come over to play and just kind of play with the toys and ignore Justin... he is still a baby, after all. ;) But EJ would intentionally play with Justin for hours - it was really amazing.
~Whenever Justin was taking a nap, EJ would sometimes come find me in the library. He would just stand and watch what I was doing, and then I would give him my cell phone so he could play games.
~EJ didn't speak very much English, so if I saw him on campus, I would ask him if Justin was sleeping, by motioning with my hands and leaning my head to the side. EJ quickly learned the words I was saying, but every time he saw me, he would say, "Ate Julie, Justin sleeping" and do the motions with his hands and head.
~EJ loved to watch Brian work on his computer. He would point at different icons on the screen, and when Brian would open it, he loved the action and movement.
~EJ wore a pair of bright yellow galoshes. When he was running around campus, you could see him from far away because of his yellow galoshes.
~EJ made everyone on campus smile. He always had a smile for anyone he saw.

While the funeral service and preceeding visits to his family's house were extremely painful, they were also filled with blessings. EJ's family lives in what we call a squatter area.... many small houses made of wood and scrap materials, very crowded living conditions, etc. One night while they were having a service outside, I was able to sit inside with Janet and we just talked about everything. It was so incredible. We cried together, and then we started telling stories, and that quickly brought laughter. When I first visited after EJ's death, I had developed some pictures of Justin and EJ and gave them to Janet. She was so appreciative and then directed my attention to a shelf behind me... the shelves were already filled with pictures of EJ, Joana (his 8 year old sister) and Justin... I can't describe the emotion I felt... I had never seen these pictures before... Janet had taken them with her cell phone at different times at our house...in each one the love EJ had for Justin was so evident.

So while we're still grieving, and our little apartment here will never seem the same without EJ's brilliant laugh, we're assured of where he is now and that we will see him again someday. Please keep EJ's family in your prayers. Of course, they are having a difficult time. And give an extra hug to the children in your life today... they really are blessings God has entrusted us with... make sure they know how much you love them. :)


Anonymous said...

Great Video. Sad he's gone...:-(

Krissi Dallas said...

Oh my gosh, I cannot even imagine ... thank you for the reminder at how short and precious life is. Praying for yall through this difficult time ...

Sara said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. What a precious little boy!

Brian and Julie Woolery said...

Ladies, thanks so much for your prayers and concern - you all are such great friends. I'm so thankful for you! :)

Jill Rathburn said...

Tell Janet and EJ's family that they continue to be in our thoughts and prayers. Our hearts break with them. Love, Mom

CP said...

I have only briefly met you mate when you were Australia at a youth camp i think. Mate when i read about EJ and what happend i cried my eyes out here at the computer. My 3 kids are safely tucked away in their bed's sleeping yet many children still face the terrible reality of these deseases. I am so sorry for the loss of this blessing to the world. Prayers and thoughts are with you and especially the family, i can never imagine what it must be like. Peace to you and your family.
Caine Pennell