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The Final Update

December 5, 2009

Diana, Scott, and the Biorkman family were transformed by Noah’s life and though Diana said she felt “a peace that was very difficult to explain” after his death, surviving the coming years of loss and heartache will demand a super-human test of inner strength. Still, a few days after the death of her boy, she was simply thankful, still amazed at the miraculous life of her son.

                     

Three weeks before Christmas, Diana Biorkman sent her “Final Noah Update” to her friends and family, summing up their early Christmas celebration and thanking her friends and family for their support in Noah’s final days.

            December is the final month of the year and a difficult month for finalities. I couldn’t help but remember that on December 2nd, it had been 25 years since Judy’s beloved grandmother, Bubbe Belle, died suddenly, less than a month after our engagement. And it was less than three weeks until the birthday of my brother, two days before Christmas. If he hadn’t been in a car accident when he was 13, he probably would have been celebrating with us today.

            Children are not meant to die young. When Judy and I went to Noah’s viewing, the casket was open so we could see Noah’s five-year-old body, peaceful, lying with his little bear, the stuffed animal that gave him so much comfort in his days of pain. During his funeral, as we listened to Diana’s moving speech about Noah’s life, my mind was transported back to interviewing Diana for a job at our company. She had just graduated from Michigan State University and had also worked for two years in the MSU key shop and so had some knowledge of our business as well as products we sold.

I still couldn’t forget a few years later when I got a call late in the afternoon, Diana’s voice quivering in fear, telling me about a near-fatal-car-accident she had just survived. We had rented a truck so she could travel with our Gardall rep, Mike Maxim, and filled it with Gardall fire safes. They spent two days traveling through the metro Detroit area in a truck with thousands of pounds of safes, demonstrating, promoting, and delivering safes to many of our customers. As they were driving on I-696, just over on the lane to their left, a sports car rammed into another car and suddenly slid underneath their truck. Mike, driving the rental truck, did every thing in his power to keep it from tipping over or hitting another car and having dozens of safes crashing onto the highway. Diana sounded dazed and amazed that somehow, Mike had brought the truck to the side of the highway and even though many safes fell and hit against the walls of the truck, the back overhead door didn’t open and no one, not even the sports car driver who caused the accident, was badly injured.

At the funeral, I realized that Diana was a survivor then and now. I didn’t know if an angel was looking over Diana and Mike on the day of the accident, keeping them and the other cars from the horror of death. But what I remember that day was an indelible gratitude that she was okay and that everyone else had been spared.

 Mike quit the safe business a few months later and Diana began to sell doors instead of safes and then we hired Scott Biorkman from a door company to install them. It didn’t take them long before they dated and eventually married and were eventually blessed to have a baby named Noah, born on July 8, 2004. After Diana and Scott left the company, she stopped by periodically with her little baby to visit some of her IDN-ex-co-workers. But the day she brought Noah to work in March 2007 after doctors discovered Stage 4 Neuroblastoma in his little toddler-body, everything changed. We got involved by raising money to help with their health insurance expenses and then the doctors told Noah’s parents he only had a few months to live. That just meant Diana and Scott would search for another doctor with better answers which led to Dr. Yanik at U of M’s Mott Children’s Hospital whose experimental treatments brought remission in August that year. For over a year, it seemed as if Noah might actually have found a miracle remission but he suffered a relapse in September 2008 with lesions in his right arm and right leg and then went through six different trials to defeat his cancer. Everything was tried to beat the disease but eventually, after a storybook year of home runs and cards from all over the world, cancer eventually won, stopping a five-year-old boy’s life.

Diana, Scott, and the Biorkman family were transformed by Noah’s life and though Diana said she felt “a piece that was very difficult to explain” after his death, surviving the coming years of loss and heartache will demand a super-human test of inner strength. Still, a few days after the death of her boy, she was simply thankful, still amazed at the miraculous life of her son.

She wrote about the family Christmas that they chose to celebrate on November 8th, how Santa came to their house with two large sacks of presents which was filmed for Channel 4 News in Detroit. She wrote about the amazing flurry of Christmas cards sent from all over the world and how a few hundred cards a day turned into thousands of cards and presents from all over the world. Patty, Diana’s friend and “project coordinator,” brought dozens of presents daily from around the world for Noah to open. At first, he was overwhelmed by how many cards and presents he received and the flood of people who helped open them but soon “realized that they were all here for him.”

Diana listed some of the items Noah got: “a letter from President Obama, two letters from Governor Granholm, 10 United States flags flown for him from all over the world, medals of honor (including one man’s Bronze Star), honorary places in most of the military operations from special ops to Seabees in the navy, a bomb named after him, signed memorabilia…Over one million people thought of Noah and sent him a card.” They kept cards from each country, amazed that “a five year old could bring together not only the United States but people from all over the world.”

Most importantly, amidst all the hoopla of hundreds of post office boxes and the gifts and the donations and the hope and prayers displayed from children and adults everywhere, it still came down to the love between a child and his grandparents and his mother and father. “He was sweet and loving,” Diana wrote, “ready to go,” spending hours “saying goodbye to the people that made an impact on him.” “He would tell me,” she continued, “that he loved me whenever or wherever the thought occurred to him. He would yell it across the clinic, across the living room, or lying in bed with him.” Mother and son lived the lyrics to John Mayer’s song, Say, and its repeating lyrics, “Say what you need to say.” They had open dialogues “that not many people can actually say they have with another person, let alone a five year old.”

Her “little angel” changed all of their lives for the better and though Diana “misses him every day,” she knows she said everything and did everything she could. She knows that Scott and her family and friends gave and received all the love they had. So what else can you ask for? Diana wrote she had no “regrets or guilt,” no “what ifs or if only I had done that.” 

At the viewing, Diana told Judy and me that the little angel ornament on the top of their Christmas tree vibrated the last few days of Noah’s life, but after he died, the shaking stopped. She believed with all of her heart that her little angel had actually become a real angel and was floating above them.

Who can say what is real or fantasy? Noah’s mother feels peace because her son had a wonderful life, filled with love and excitement and a home run hit just for him and an early Christmas with a special visit from Santa and cards and gifts from all over the world just for him. And his mother feels peace because she still feels Noah’s presence, alive in her soul.

During the viewing before his funeral, a special video was shown with photos of Noah from birth to just before his death, with the background song, “Hello Goodbye.”

And so I hold your hand in mine

For the hardest thing I’ve ever had to face

Heaven calls for you

Before it calls for me

When you get there save me a place

A place where I can share your smile

And I can hold you for more than just awhile

Noah, hello, good-bye

I’ll see you on the other side

Noah, sweet child of mine

I’ll see you on the other side

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