Let’s talk about Josia Cotto.
Niasia and I were best friends since 1992. People often thought we were sisters because we were always together and even shared a last name. Side by side through thick and thin, so it was not even a question the day she married her soul mate that I would stand beside her as her Maid of Honor. And as married couples do, they started a family.
I remember the Christmas morning voicemail when she said “Merry Christmas Mo! Guess what? I’m going to be a Mommy!”. And just as I was there on her wedding day, I was there feeling her tummy and planning her baby shower. Josia made a grand entrance into this world and I was eager to shower him with hugs and kisses. I was there whenever I could. At every birthday party.
When I graduated college and moved on my own, I lived a short distance away from my life long friend and her family. But as time went on, the space between us grew as I was living my life as a single girl on her own and let a small dispute between us separate us for three long years. Thanks to facebook, I was never completely out of touch with her and got to see Josia “growing up” through photos.
And then, in late august, I got a message that changed everything. Niasia sent me a message telling me that during a routine eye exam, doctors found a tumor in Josia’s brain. Her message shook my soul. But even then as I read on about us being sisters and connecting through this difficult time, I believed that Josia would be a miracle. I also learned that Niasia was pregnant with her 2nd baby.
The news was hard to swallow. I felt remorse. I felt regret for all the time we lost. But I also felt this was an opportunity to reconnect and rebuild the bond that weakened over the last few years.
I got to see Josia after the news that his tumor was reduced by 50% at the baby shower for his little baby brother Noah. I marveled at the strength and poise that my sister had as she carried a new baby and cared for her sick son. Things only got worse as time progressed. I watched in horror as they updated on facebook the many things that Josia was fighting at such a young age.
His tumor, Pontine Glioma, is very rare and very aggressive. It was on his brain stem where the brain meets the spinal cord, right behind his eyes. It was the size of a lemon. The doctors gave him 6 to 12 months to survive because the tumor was inoperable. 6 weeks shy of his 7th birthday, and 10 months after he was diagnosed, Josia took a turn for the worse. He lost his ability to speak and to walk. And when he fell into a coma, it was only a matter of hours that he had left to live.
The news of his death shook me to my core. A 6 year old boy suffering for as long as he did with brain cancer was too much for me to bear. I have mourned family members before and never in my life did I grieve as I did for Josia. The boy with a heart of gold. He loved everyone he ever met. He wanted to serve people. He was incredibly smart. And he was just the kind of kid that would have lived to do amazing things. As I fell to my knees sobbing uncontrollably, my heart ached with regret for not spending as much time with him as I could have, had I not let something so small keep me at odds with his mother.
As I sit here and reflect, I know Josia’s life was not in vain. So many people were touched by his presence here on this earth and I truly believe his spirit will live on to touch the lives of others. I find solace knowing that he fought a good fight and is no longer suffering. I also find solace knowing that this little boy touched my heart in a way no one has ever been able to before.
No one ever thinks it can happen to them.
But I see life differently now. Every time I reach a milestone, I thank the Lord. I thank him because little children, like Josia, will never live to experience all the things we take for granted as adults. Josia may be gone, but he will never be forgotten.
Read more about the little man: