Laurie Strongin's 'Saving Henry'

Henry picked out the most beautiful white roses he could find, and we arrived at the auditorium in plenty of time. Henry joined Bella's mother, sisters, and grandparents to watch her dance. I had left – it was a date, after all – but Bella's mom, or "Little L," as Henry affectionately called her, summed up Henry's expression as "mesmerized." I'm not sure if she was describing how he appeared during Bella's performance, or afterwards, when she shared the same seat with him for the remainder of the recital.

On October 25, 2002, Henry's seventh birthday, he and Jack, his younger brother, were treated to a private performance at our home by a magician named Turley. Henry's white blood cells had failed him again, necessitating yet another prolonged period of isolation from friends, school, movie theaters, ice cream parlors, amusement parks -- just about everything and nearly everyone that made life worth living. Turley was able to draw laughter and awe from the boys, but despite being the master of making a triple scoop ice cream cone with jimmies from stale milk and ants, Henry knew that a birthday party with no friends isn't much of a party at all.

Later that evening, Henry whispered in my ear, "Mommy, it's my birthday and I really want to see Bella." He added, "Don't tell anyone. Definitely don't tell Dr. Wagner." Henry knew that I would understand that a date with Bella could more than turn the day around. I asked Allen to take Jack upstairs and get him ready for bed. Within minutes, Henry and I were in the car. Destination: Bella's house. I knew that the risks associated with seeing Bella were nothing compared to the rewards. If we snuck in a visit with Bella from time to time, Henry would keep fighting, and one day he would get better.

For hours, Henry and Bella sat on her couch and watched TV, played games, talked, and laughed. I took a few pictures for Henry to add to his collection and to record yet another chapter in the amazing love story of my spirited son and his sweet girlfriend.

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