A Short Season
We set out to write A Short Season with one goal: spread Josiah Viera’s message of hope.
We didn’t know how it was going to happen or when it was going to come to fruition, but all we knew was Josiah’s story is worth telling—and people needed to hear it.
My hope for this story is that it impacts you as much as it has impacted me.
Read Excerpt: He's My Treasure
Seeing “Birds on the Bat” draped across my little boy’s chest was a sight that will never blur and a memory that will never fade. It’s hard to describe the excitement, the joy, the humility, the love of seeing your own grandson sit in a major league clubhouse, in his own locker, wearing his own jersey.
We had just finished getting him ready for the upcoming exhibition game, and as soon as I tied the last loop on his shoes, he ran off with the team and headed for pregame stretch. I took a seat in his locker and kept a minute to myself. Maybe I was a little hesitant to head back out into the pounding Florida heat, or maybe I needed to stop and see the glory in that moment. Sitting there, I felt some of my own life was wrapped up in that little man God sent us. He has more spunk and tenacity than most people I know, including myself, and was finally where he belonged: among the greats.
I sat in Josiah’s locker, absorbing all that a major league locker room had to offer, and looked at Josiah’s bat bag hanging in the clubhouse of legends. Holliday, Carpenter, Wainwright, and all the guys we spent hours each night watching on TV were within an arm’s length away, and I couldn’t help but think that God made Josiah with the same purpose and mission as the rest of the big-leaguers in this room.
While I sat and took in everything Josiah had fought through to make it to this point, a clubhouse worker walked in. He was starting his daily routine of tidying the room and restocking each locker with towels before the players returned, and he saw me sitting alone. He had a casual smile resting on his face below a pair of thick meaty-framed glasses, and as he neared Josiah’s locker, his smile grew. He looked in my direction, and we shared a mutual welcome. Continuing down the row of lockers with a big shopping cart full of towels he nodded his head looking around the clubhouse and joked, “Man, you can make a lot of money selling the treasures in here.”
We both giggled, and before he could return to his crate of towels, I leaned over the chair with a big smile and said, “No, sir. There is nothing here worth more than my family and that little man. He’s my treasure.”
Read Excerpt: Josiah’s Diagnosis
The day we heard the diagnosis our lives changed; or rather, we changed. The people we thought we were had left and we had become someone else—something different. The days were heavy and the nights were long as we wrestled with the diagnosis; or, it wrestled with us.
We studied everything. The newest research, the potential treatments, even alternative therapies and a better timeline, but we only found the news we were trying to spare ourselves from: rapid aging, a steady decline—death.
It was hard to comprehend anything after that. Once we understood, our lives were numb and dulled to the point where we only saw the outside world through a fog. I don’t know if you can say we were sad, or angry, or upset, but we became different people. Food was just a necessity, work was just a place, and visiting our little boy in the hospital became our identity. We no longer looked in the mirror and saw who we once were but rather who we were forced to become.
Read Excerpt: His Monster
With every stride, I stared at the ground, trying to avoid looking at the families in each passing room, and I couldn’t take my eyes off the floor. The scratched walkway of the cold, white floor seemed to tell the story of everyone in that unit. I saw each mark, every indentation highlighted from the fluorescent lights above, and I felt the emptiness of everyone walking over it.
To me, each scuff held a story. I imagined each one to be some frantic emergency only later to be wiped clean and forgotten, then coupled by hundreds more. I imagined the medical staff and the patient—their panic and crisis. I saw the families and their fear for what was about to happen. With each step the floor revealed the life it contained, and I couldn’t help but think the scars on the floor would most certainly match the scars on these families’ hearts. I heard all the prayers. I saw the families on bended knee. And for some, I knew the only answer would be the silence of a passing child.
I saw the scuffs and I saw the scars, and I started to wonder, would that be our fate? Would this be the last place we ever see our little boy? Would Josiah become another scratch, another life to merely fade away and be forgotten by the world?
The nurse came to a stop, and we read the thin, black, neatly printed “Viera” on the temporary dry-erase board that was ready to be wiped clean at any moment.
“He’s here,” she whispered.
The nurse must have made a mistake. Josiah was sick, but not this sick, right? He had only ever been here after surgery until they always scheduled him back to room 282 the day after. He can’t be here; he fought too hard to end up like this.
Jen got to the room before I did, and when her eyes met mine, words escaped us. I drew a breath into my lungs and turned to look at Josiah. Jen held her little boy’s hand while a stream of wires and tubes ran throughout his seemingly lifeless body. He looked so battered I thought the tick of the minute hand was all that would measure how much time he had left. He was weak, the weakest I’ve ever seen him, and the very sight of my daughter holding onto all Josiah had left made me crumble. It all finally became real. This was not a mistake.
This was Josiah, and this was all we had left.
The nurse took us through a brief orientation: Don’t touch this, don’t worry about that; this is what that’s for, that’s what this is for; and call this person for that. All very confusing and quite overwhelming for a family member seeing their child like this for the first time, but it was standard procedure. She explained the sirens and the noises on the floor—something the nurses and staff had become numb to over the years—and explained what happens during an emergency and where to go to wait.
We were thrown into controlled chaos, and even with the countless number of emergency calls I had answered over the years, it was no help. When your family is on the wrong side of a hospital bed, everything is the unknown.
Then a machine wheezed to life. Josiah had been hooked to so many machines the past year, wires and tubes had become an extension of his own body. But this one was different; this one scared us. The machine pushed air into his lungs then promptly sucked it back out—all day, all night—in and out, in and out. It gave him his breath, but in return it collected his life. This monster seemed to be the only thing keeping him lingering in this world, and with every minimal breath it gave, like a vacuum, it sucked it back out, leaving him as empty as the push before. It was his life support; and it was the only thing alive in the room.
In and out, in and out.