11/12/2012 11:00AM ● Published by Christie Gibson
Gallery: Taylor Nelson [2 Images] Click any image to expand.
With Thanksgiving in November, followed by Christmas and New Year’s Eve in December, this time of year is full of special social and family gatherings. For many families it is an annual tradition to meet up and gather together to celebrate a festive meal and reflect on the passing year’s events; sharing memories and enjoying time together. For one local family, there will be an empty seat at the table, but be certain, no lack of memories when regarding this past year and the accomplishments of a special boy from Crestview.
Just a few short months ago, students were thrilled to finally be taking that walk across the stage to obtain that hard earned diploma. In June of 2012 my son graduated from Crestview High school, and like so many other families, we gathered at the high school stadium with great anticipation. It was hot ,but there was a cool breeze in the air. We sat at the top of the stadium. As I searched the sea of red robes and caps I noticed someone pushing a wheel chair. Wait. I recognized him. It was my friend Jennifer’s husband Erik and he was pushing their son, Taylor, in the ceremonial procession. I shuddered, a chill went up my spine and tears started to fill my eyes. I knew that it meant that the happy, polite blonde- haired boy I had seen just a few weeks prior at the movies had taken a turn for the worst.
Many students dream of graduation. For Taylor it was an important goal and a struggle. He had cystic fibrosis(CF). CF is a genetic disease that causes the body to make sticky mucus. It clogs the pancreas so that kids have to take enzymes whenever they eat to digest food. It causes infection in the lungs and sinuses. It can also affect the liver and bones. In his early teens, Taylor was diagnosed with CF related diabetes. The CF had also affected his liver and caused CF related cirrhosis.
Yet there he was. I continued to watch them and I noticed that Taylor was also on oxygen. He had a huge smile on his face. I knew that graduating was important to Taylor. He wanted to be treated like a normal kid, go to school, and graduate with everyone else. Most of all he wanted to make a difference with his life. I thought about how a few months before graduation the church had played Taylor’s recorded testimony in church. He was so positive. He was reaching his goal and although he was in a wheel chair, it didn’t matter.
Taylor had made it to graduation. As each student’s name was called, a small cheer from family and friends could be heard throughout the stadium. Then the announcer read “Taylor Nelson” a small roar went through the crowd then it rose. Taylor mustered up all his strength and walked across the stage to receive his hard earned diploma. Everyone in the stadium was on their feet. He had received a standing ovation with everyone acknowledging his huge accomplishment. Tears ran down my face as I thought about how very special this moment was for him and his family. All the studying, hospital visits, and extra effort it took for him to make that walk across the stage. It was inspirational.
I did not go down on the field to see Taylor after graduation. He was on the transplant list to receive a new liver and lungs. I had watched the documentary 65 Red Roses, about a girl with CF who got a lung transplant. I knew that any time now Taylor and his family would get the call that organs were found and they would be traveling to Birmingham for the procedure. I would go and sit with them and wait for the good news that all had gone well, and then they could begin the long road to recovery which would be difficult but, they were used to difficult and they were an amazing family. They could do it. Unfortunately, Taylor never got that awaited phone call and on June 13, 2012 Taylor ‘s battle with cystic fibrosis ended. Although I knew that Taylor was very sick, he was a fighter and I just never thought it would end so quickly.
Taylor wanted to make a difference with his life. He did, and it continues. His testimony can be viewed online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SYC4yib5Jk&feature=related. Even though he was struggling so much physically, Taylor’s faith and hope became a shining example for those living with CF and without.
Taylor inspired a community to make a difference for others with cystic fibrosis by raising awareness and funds for research for a cure. On November 3, 2012 more than 500 will gather at Main Street Medical in Crestview for the Race for Lace 5K Great Strides. This year’s event is dedicated in memory of Taylor Nelson and his valiant fight against CF. Taylor is an inspiration to me because my daughter was born with CF. She is now 13 and she knew and admired Taylor. She has made a commitment continue to be a fighter and an inspiration just as Taylor was. Thank you Taylor for your positive attitude, inspiration and desire to make a difference with your life. We miss you and look forward to honoring your memory on November 3, 2012 and beyond. For more information about CF and how you can help find a cure visit www.cff.org.