With Love to Eric...

Chery MacNeil

On May 24, 1996 Eric MacNeil passed from this earth leaving a legacy of love to those left behind. From the moment that he first laughed, his joy lit up the room and infected everyone around him. People tell me all the time that the thing they remember most about Eric was his big, charismatic smile and infectious laugh. To my son, Eric, life was a party, an event to be lived each and every day of his life. And as brief as his life here was, he touched thousands of lives with his joy and energy.

Just three months after his marriage to our beautiful daughter-in-law Sharon, Eric was diagnosed with Non-hodgkins Lymphoma. He had a mediastinal tumor the size of a grapefruit that was crushing his heart and lungs. After 6 months of chemotherapy the prognosis was good, but before radiation started, Eric relaspsed and the tumor began to grow wildly in his chest. He was given more chemo and his own peripheral stem cells and bone marrow were harvested in preparation for a bone marrow/periphreal stem cell transplant. After 5 more months of chemo and 3 weeks of radiation, Eric entered Albany Medical Center for his transplant. While the transplant was successful in terms of his growing new bone marrow, the procedure left him weak and his body devastated. He never recovered. On April 23, 1996, we found out that he had relapsed again. There was nothing that could be done.

For one month, he slid downhill, and then he passed from this world. The one question everyone asked was, "Did he die peacefully?" No, he left this world with a fight, walking to the bathroom and then to his own bed 6 hours before he passed. Can you imagine the strength of will it took to do that while your lungs and heart were being crushed, the life being choked out of you? My son was an incredible person.

As his wife, my husband and I gathered around him that evening, we took turns comforting him, watching and waiting with him. But his love and concern for all of us throughout his illness was even more accute that night and it amazed me. He was struggling for every breath and yet he reached out to each of us. My husband had undergone a difficult diagnostic procedure earlier in the week and was in great pain. At one point, Eric took Randy's hand and told him to go home and rest. "I know you love me Dad, take care of yourself," he said.

And as his young wife sat next to him crying, he reached over and said to Sharon, "Just let it out, Bunny. Just let it all out."

When his pain increased, he called for more pain medicine. The nurse was authorized to give more but seemed to have difficulty dealing with a 24 year old man. I finally told her that I knew that the doctor had authorized the medicine, an hour had passed since the first dose and he needed more. The doctor had said if the first dose doesn't work in half an hour, give another one. As the nurse came in to give him the morphine, Eric looked at me and said, "I love you, Mom." These were the last words he said to me.

After he got the medicine, his body relaxed and he moaned softly then finally slept. At 2:45 AM, he left us.

Eric knew that his fraternity brothers were in town that weekend for their annual picnic and his death was a kindness to all of them. Everyone wanted to come see him and he didn't have the strength to visit and was embarassed by the devastation of his body. He died in the early hours of the day everyone was expected to arrive. Because his service was on Memorial Day, all his fraternity brother's were able to attend the service and participate. Before he passed, Eric called and talked to everyone who was important in his life. The day before he died, Eric talked at length to Wendy, his sister and our daughter. He told her and she told him, how much they loved one another. Carefully he planned what meaningful items to give to people so that they'd have a little piece of him with them. He gave loving and tolerant attention to all of us. Most importantly, Eric encouraged Sharon, Randy and I to continue everyday to live our lives and to move ahead as if he wasn't ill. This was very difficult for us, but his message was loud and clear. "You all have to live on without me, and that is what I want each of you to do. Live your lives fully and you'll remember me!"

His service was attended by hundreds of people and most of these people stood in line after the service for hours to hug and speak to each one of us. To me, it was an All-you-can-eat Buffet of hugs to last a lifetime. Each person that spoke to us shared stories of Eric and the joy he brought to their life. That was his legacy. He could Light Up the World for those around him.

Since his passing, we've experience beautiful and unexpected things. Rainbows that appear on beautiful, sunny, rainfree days, reassuring dreams, small rabbits and dragonflies that visit and sit with us for extended periods of time and other hard to explain phenomena. I believe that Eric sits with us, each and every day, sending love and spreading joy just as he did here on earth only now he has God to help him do it in an even bigger and more spectacular manner.

I love you Eric,


Chery MacNeil

You can send email to Chery at: [email protected]
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anniversary date 05-24-96
date of post 04-20-97

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Crisis, Grief, and Healing: Tom Golden LCSW