KEEPING THE FAITH: How a child’s death inspires Crane’s Class of 2023

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By Bradley Pettit

Journalism teacher at Crane High School

Every day is sunny and warm, and your dreams come true. Your family is healthy and you feel blessed beyond measure. “Your cup is overflowing”, as the Psalmist says.

Then the weather changes. Wild winds howl through your sunny day, blowing bruised clouds that drown your soul in tears. Your cup is now empty, your rain gauge full, and it all started with the words “Mom, I have a headache”.

Pontine glioma is a very rare, rapidly growing brain tumour. This form of childhood cancer affects approximately 300 children in the United States each year. It’s fast, uncompromising and extremely lethal.

Marco Lomeli was diagnosed with pontine glioma on April 29, 2011. He was only 6 years old and he would be gone just over a year later.

“The first day he said he had a headache,” recalls his mother, Laura Lomeli. “The next day it looked like his eye was droopy. Then his face was different. When we took him to the doctor on the fourth day, he was tripping over his own feet.

Terra Willis was Marco’s homeroom teacher in first grade. She remembers a boy extremely full of life, even after he fell ill.

“Marco has always made people laugh. He loved sports, Oreos and the song Who Let the Dogs Out. He loved playing the role of barking dogs.

When asked where Marco would be now if he had lived, Willis was certain.

“He would be a leader on the football pitch and in the classroom. He was very, very smart. After he had a stroke, things got tough for him. Even so, he still knew the correct answer. Especially in math. »

Willis remembers being amazed by Marco’s perseverance after returning to school from a hospital stay.

“He was in a wheelchair, but he was determined to walk. As I pushed him down the hall, he told me that he would walk again one day. Sure enough, he transitioned from a wheelchair to a walker to holding my hand for support as we walked to the classroom together.

Willis said Marco constantly surprises everyone and that she and her students celebrate every achievement he makes.

“Towards the end of the year, we called Marco on stage. We wanted to pay tribute to him for the determination and courage he showed in his fight against cancer. He had learned to walk again by then, and seeing him strolling to the stage was nothing short of a miracle.

As the children clapped and the adults wept, Marco knelt on a red silk pillow. Then CISD Superintendent at the time, Larry Lee, raised a sword high in the air, lowered it to touch both of Marco’s shoulders, and knighted the little boy who had been so brave all along. his harrowing journey.

Shortly after this beautiful moment, Marco got really sick. It was time to rally the troops.

“We had the words ‘Team Marco’ printed on some wristbands and t-shirts,” Willis said. “Every student in the class received one of each. Marco chose the wristband he wanted me to wear, and I’ve worn my Team Marco wristband every day since then. I’ll never take it off.”

Next, Willis organized a group photo that included Marco and his students, with her on one side. Later, after Marco’s death, Willis and his students recreated this photo. The two photos were then shared side by side, commemorating their season in the sun with Marco.

Had he lived, Marco would now be a senior at Crane High School, eager to take the stage with the class of 2023.

Marco’s sister, Maria Lomeli, is a CHS varsity cheerleader. She often thinks about what it would have been like to go to high school with her big brother.

“I know he would have been hugely popular. I would have loved to see him in the halls and watch him play football while I cheered him on from the touchline. He was and still is my hero.

Ivan Martinez, who was close friends with Marco in elementary school, agrees that Marco would have been a football stud.

“We would be tearing up the pitch together,” he said. “Like brothers.”

New football head coach Michael Pittman was at Crane when Marco was battling cancer. He left coaching at the Post for a while, but when he returned, Willis reminded him that 2023 would be Marco’s last year. They got to talking and agreed that they had to find a way to honor the boy who had inspired them all those years ago.

“I spoke with a few of the seniors who knew Marco, including my daughter, Jaylen,” Pittman said. “Their contribution gave us some ideas. One of them dedicated a jersey to his memory.

AJ Rodriguez, Keaton Sena and Manuel Aranda – all seniors on the football team – were classmates and friends of Marco. Each week, they will wear a jersey in his honor during the Friday rallies. During the games, the jersey will be brought by the team captains to the draw. After that, he will stay on his sister’s megaphone for the rest of the game.

When discussing the jersey number to honor Marco, Pittman came up with something entirely appropriate.

“We chose to honor Marco with the number 23,” Pittman said. “He would have graduated from CHS with the class of 2023. So that number is perfect.”

Pittman, Willis and seniors decided that football players should also wear decals on their helmets to honor Marco. The decal is made up of a yellow ribbon representing childhood cancer, with a heart and angel wings for Marco.

Marco’s mother encourages anyone who hears her son’s story to develop a Marco mindset.

“His faith was strong, even when things were really bad. And if Marco could hold his head high and hold on to his faith, so can we.

Willis agrees.

“He was such a bright light in this dark world. And so I am Team Marco and always will be.

Marco may not be able to physically walk the stage with the Class of 2023, but those who knew him know he will be there in spirit. Her mother said she and her family are comforted by these words from the Bible: “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”

“We know he’s in a better place,” she said. “And we know he’s looking down on us and smiling.”

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

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