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A Wish for the Living

November 27, 2008

Sometimes, it takes one little boy to wake us up from our selfishness.

The world’s collective fear and uncertainty over the economy was jolted by an 11-year-old boy with a puffy face. When asked what he thought were the best things in life, Brendan Foster said, “Just having one.”

Brendan Foster’s lifetime was short. When he was eight, he was diagnosed with leukemia. In early November, the doctors gave him two weeks to live. But that didn’t stop him from enjoying his life. “I had a great time,” he said a week before his death. “And until my time comes, I’m going to keep having a great time.”

Brendan’s last wish was for the bees. The 11-year-old, nicknamed the B-Man by his family, asked those who heard him to “sprinkle wildflower seeds to save the bees.” He had heard bees were in trouble.

When I watched the short segment on ABC News and CNN, I was inspired like others by the young boy’s generosity of spirit. Brendan, interviewed by a television station in Seattle, said that on the way home from a doctor’s appointment, he noticed “this big thing full of homeless people and then I thought, I should just get them something.”

“They’re probably starving, so give’em a chance, food and water.”

This simple wish inspired hundreds of others to help. A food drive was held in Los Angeles while Ohio school kids collected cans and people in Pensacola, Florida gathered goods. In Western Washington, Seattle TV station, KOMO, asked viewers to help the Stuff the Truck food drive in Brendan’s honor. Six and a half truck loads of groceries were donated and more than $60,000 in cash was raised to benefit Northwest Harvest and Food Lifeline.  

Brendan’s mother, after her son died in her arms, said proudly, “He’s done more than most people dream of doing just by making a wish.”

When Brendan had been asked what made him sad, he said, “When someone gives up.” This young boy with leukemia wisely told Elisa Jaffe from KOMO news, “Follow your dreams. Don’t let anything stop you.”

In a time when so many of us fear for our livelihoods, Brendan Foster acknowledged that the best thing in life was just having a life. Forget your standard of living or your health. Just being alive is reward enough.

B-Man’s wish for the living has not gone unheard. A retired pilot asked his pilot and flight attendant friends to sprinkle wild flowers, from Bali to Brazil, on Brendan’s behalf.

Brendan’s grandmother, Pat, said that Brendan told her in his last days that he was visited three times by angels. “He tells us that when he’s an angel, he’s going to keep doing the good work.”

On this Thanksgiving, we can be thankful for those who offer such joyous giving.  We can be thankful that we are alive and think of the B-Man somewhere high in the distance, “doing the good work” above us.

Then, we can try to make him proud.


“Brendan Foster: ‘I had a great time’,” Nov. 21, 2008, Elisa Jaffe, KOMO News, Seattle,


 “Dying boy inspires goodwill in people near and far,” Nov. 10, 2008, KOMO Staff, KOMO News, Seattle, Washington


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