Silver Lining…..Friends

The Best Summer was ironically created by the fact that Cory had three bone marrow matches pull out on him. It postponed and postponed and postponed his transplant. And worried and worried and worried his family.

He remained in remission (praise God) the whole time, so his transplant wasn’t compromised, and he became stronger and healthier every day. His hair and his goatee started to grow back in, his muscle mass was evident again, and his color was Cory Color again. He had energy and smiles. He was beautiful and happy.

He also had precious Time with close friends and close family.mary, cory, venessa

Above: (Mary, Cory, Vanessa, and Jason…it was the summer of ’13)

In the words of some of his collection of big-hearted people who called Cory “Best-Friend”:

Mary Parker: “My favorite memory of Cory is him being at my graduation from college. I remember sitting there, and being terribly bored, but looking up to where my family was sitting, and seeing him sitting there. It meant the world to me that me took the time out of his summer to come sit through a three hour graduation. He was the only person besides my immediate family that even bothered to come. I will never forget that, ever. We had a lot of fun that epic summer, but that’s the one that I hold closest to my heart.”

Vanessa Bauer: “Attitude was everything. I had read about how keeping a positive attitude was the best thing for friends and family of someone with cancer. The crazy thing was, Cory was always the strong one, keeping me together, holding me in place. Even when he was sick and struggling, he told me often not to worry and that everything would be okay. To him, there was no option to complain or whine or throw a fit (as I surely would have done).

It was unlike me to be spontaneous, and it was Cory who showed me how.The summer fell between his last chemotherapy treatment and his transplant and we decided to go all out. We wanted to make every minute count while he was “free”. We did everything we possibly could in that time, only separating when he had to go to the hospital for tests. I remember one day we went and did some light day-hiking. He flinched when jumping across a creek and said something along the lines of, “Oh yeah, I had a spinal tap and bone marrow biopsy earlier today” like he had forgotten and it was no big deal. I had done my research, I knew how serious everything was, but Cory didn’t allow himself to be worried about it, so I tried not to show concern either. There was no reason to dwell on the “what ifs” at that time. We just did what we could to have fun.

We played card games and board games and listened to music and  teased each other relentlessly. We drank coffee all day, and Cory’s favorite beers when we weren’t drinking coffee. We planned out all of the things we’d do following the transplant and his arm surgery. We laughed a lot. We hung out with friends, made a lot of pizza and ate all of the food in his grandparent’s house. The time to have fun was now because all we really knew was that the next 6-12 months wouldn’t be pleasant for him. After my initial questions, we never addressed the transplant as anything but a hindrance; a speed bump in his plans. In our plans. There was never a doubt in my mind that Cory would beat the odds and come out on top. He was the bravest and strongest man I knew and if anyone could beat the odds, there was no doubt it would be Cory.”

cory annaAnna Dailey: “Cory, it’s pouring rain and there is no high ground, where do I set my tent?” “Cory, I can’t start this fire- here’s what I have to work with.” “Cory, I hear animals and I’m scared.” We were thousands of miles away at times during that summer but Cory was always just a phone call away. He never said he was busy or needed to call me back. He never got off the phone until my worries or problems were comforted.

The year before that summer we had BIG dreams that we talked about, obsessed about, constantly. We were going to travel the world, money or no money, with gear or bear, it didn’t matter- but it WAS going to happen. We made dramatic changes, and working very hard all year to make this a reality. We sold all the belongings in our apartment, saved every penny we could manage, slept on the floor, found our cats homes, and made due with only the necessities in order to reach our goal. We wanted to be on the road as badly as we wanted to breath. We ached to be lost in the middle of no where. We were very passionate about our plan… and We Made It Happen!

We were then to meet up at Burning Man – Cory, Vanessa and I. We 3 had the most magical time at Burning Man- there is no other word I can think of to describe it. We 3 have the most intimate connection, have gone through so much, an unbreakable, unconditional friendship, we fought The fight together, we cried together, we had a true love and respect for one another. Cory, Vanessa, and I. For those of you that don’t know, Vanessa is the only reason I know Cory. Vanessa is the reason I have him in my life. I owe everything to her for this.”

ashlyn coryAshlyn McFall: “No matter what the circumstances are, no matter what crappy treatment we knew he was facing. We. Had. Fun.  Concerts, movies, walks in the woods, and just sitting around doing nothing- I’ll never forget any of it. Hanging out at his grandparents house, at Vanessa’s house- where ever we could. We made the most of what we all considered his “free” time culminating (I think) in the Bunbury Music Festival.

Cory and I went to the festival the year before, but having the rest of the group with us made it that much better. Jimmy and Sarah came, as well as Vanessa’s brothers and some friends. We sang, we danced, we laughed. We were a rag-tag bunch bent on enjoying some music with each other and a handful (or 100 handfulls) of hipsters (;. I’m so thankful for the time I got to spend with Cory and everyone else last summer. I have memories to last a lifetime and then some. We certainly did it right.

cory terriTerri McDonough:”I hadn’t seen him for quite some time but it was just like old times. We talked and debated about things a lot (just like old times). It was always the same. He would try to end it by saying “whatever,” to which I always replied “fine then I win.” Of course that just started the whole thing over again. We liked sharing our old memories the most I think.

One day when he was out of the hospital we decided to go to a park and grill out. We had tried doing this once the summer we had first met (that didn’t go so well) but luckily this time we had a better idea of how to set a fire to actually grill. Cory played around with my camera. I still have the random pictures he took, and after that we went for a walk towards the creek. When we left he asked if he could drive my car home. I never let anyone but my brother drive my car but with Cory I didn’t even hesitate and threw him the keys. On the way back a My Chemical Romance song came on so naturally both of us started belting it out and laughing. That was the last time I really got to hang out with him outside of the hospital.

During that summer we never really talked about him being sick. We just talked about our memories we shared, what we had planned for the future and places we wanted to go. I’m very blessed to have gotten to spend that summer with him and I’ll cherish those memories forever.

jason coryJason Kaiser: “I picked them up sometime after 5. In my excitement I had planned to sleep in my van for ease, but in my excitement forgot to grab a blanket. Of course Cory provided. That is a statement I can make more times than just about any other. Cory was a provider. He was a fixer. We’ll touch on this more in a moment.

We arrived at our destination sometime later and set up camp. We had pizza, and an endless supply of conversation. We were ready. The mosquitoes were ready too, though they seemed to be interested only in Vanessa. Cory and I both remained unscathed.  It was a crowded night on the campgrounds. Filled with Ohio’s most colorful characters. This only added to our amusement. The root beer didn’t hurt either. (root beer was the astonishingly clever  codeword for the beer we smuggled in.) The heat only seemed to intensify as the nightt drew on.

At some point in the night a Man, whose sobriety is questionable, warned us of some ravenous and troublesome raccoons that were loose on grounds. They never graced us with their presence that night. Someone else did, though! As were chatting, eating our pizza and enjoying our root beer we heard a strange sound. A high pitched whine.  At first I wasn’t sure where the sound was coming from, then we all saw it at the same time…

A lost, crying child standing in the dark. Scared and alone. We all froze for a second. Me especially.

Then Cory shot up. Instinctively went up to the kid and asked what was wrong. He couldn’t find his daddy. Cory introduced himself, asked the kid`s name and if he remembered where his camp was. He didn’t. Cory began making conversation with the scared child, trying to calm him and maybe gain some helpful clues as they headed in the direction that would likely lead the little lad home. Of course it all ended well. Cory led the kid back to his oblivious parents. And returned, smiling as always commenting on how ridiculous the whole situation was. But that’s the kind of person Cory was. Where I froze and hesitated  Cory sprung into action.

It was just as true in that moment as it was at the end of his beautiful life: It was never about Cory. It was about everyone else. He was nothing without us and we were lost without him.

Me again: 

These, my friends, are a Few Good Friends

They played with him when he could play; They talked with him when he could talk ; They walked and hiked with him when he could walk and hike; They ate with him when he could eat; They sang, danced, and laughed with him when he could sing,dance, and laugh; They invited him when he could come; They camped with him when he could camp; They planned with him when he could plan.

Then…

They kept him company when he couldn’t play; They talked to him when he couldn’t talk; They sat with him when he couldnt walk or hike; They held his hand when he couldn’t eat; They listened to music beside him or played music for him when he couldn’t sing,dance,or laugh; They came to him when he couldn’t come to them; They reminisced when he couldn’t camp; They hoped and prayed for him when he couldn’t plan.

I loved them before because Cory loved them. That was enough. I love them now because I know them. I am better for it and ever-grateful for their giving Cory their Time, Laughter, and Love in his last days.

Because at the end of the day….

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