Tim dealt quietly with his pain. April, to cope with her own, volunteered for the Make-a-Wish Foundation, which had sent Ryan to Hawaii before he died. The foundation kept a list of wish requests, and whenever a child from Fallon appeared, April took the boy or girl on. She bought them gifts and organized parties. She came to know the children’s parents but never told them about her son.
That fall, a girl died of brain cancer before getting her wish. The mother sent a funeral notice, but April could not bring herself to attend. Recently, the mother called, and April, sensing she wanted someone to talk to, invited her to lunch. I asked if she would mention Ryan this time, but she said no; the woman was grieving, and, besides, how could she explain everything that had happened? The case was not for money. It was not even to force a company to admit fault. A parent who loses a child never wins. It was only to answer a question that anyone would ask. So she would spare the woman her story, and she would listen, because what could she say that wouldn’t leave a parent to wonder?
This story originally appeared in High Country News. It was supported by The California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships, a program of the Annenberg School of Journalism at the University of Southern California.