Rex Fleming's Journal
Great Day at Cook Children's Hospital
Written Aug 20, 2013 1:32am"The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."
--- Mark 12:31
If Rex Fleming taught us anything, it was how to live out the verse above. As I've told people before, I can't count how many times he told Jill or I to go through a drive-thru and get some food for someone holding up a sign on the street. Or that we should pay for a night in a hotel for homeless people. Or that we should go take food trays to those without anything when we would have leftovers.
All of that leads me to believe he was happy earlier today as he looked down on us and saw what was going on at Cook Children's Hospital. Today was the day Jill and I had been pointing toward for a couple of years. We knew whether Rex survived his battle with cancer or not that we wanted to help other pediatric cancer patients at Cook Children's in some way, and we did that today.
As I've written before, Rex always had to have some electronic gadget in his hand (usually one of our iPhones or his own iTouch), and today we gave out give iTouches and five iTunes gift cards to kids at Cook Children's Hospital. Officially, the money for those came from the P4X Foundation, which is just getting off the ground.
In reality, the money for those came from you and your generosity and your love for our boy. Because of your generosity toward us and our foundation, we were able to go to Fort Worth and put smiles on the faces of kids who are going through things no one -- much less a child -- should ever have to go through. And we were able to hug the necks of parents who are facing the same fears, anxiety, stress and worry that Jill and I dealt with from Nov. 22, 2010, through Nov. 25, 2012. Those were great smiles and great hugs.
One of the recipients today was Tatum Flaming of Abilene, and it was great to see Tatum and her mom, Mandy Flaming. On our way home from Fort Worth, Mandy texted Jill and asked her for some of Rex's favorite games so they could be sure to add them to her iTouch.
The looks on the kids' faces when they found out what they were getting was priceless, and even moreso when they learned that they could actually keep the i Touches for themselves and didn't have to share them with anyone else. Of course, that didn't stop the big brother of one of the little girls from trying to steal her iTouch!
The smiles we saw on the faces of the kids were great to see, but we also needed to be there to see the sad look in the eyes of a few of the parents. Jill and I knew the look because we'd seen it our own eyes for two years. It's a look of stress, worry, anxiety, anger, pain, etc., all rolled into one painfully agonizing stare.
We were able to meet the parents, talk with them for a few minutes and hug their necks. And whisper in their ear that somehow, someway they would come out of this on the other side and they would be able to get back to living. It might not seem like it right now, but it will happen.
We are grateful that our parents, Danny and Deona Fleming and Len and Linda Wishousky, were there, as well as family members Bruce and Sandy Dulaney and Fred and Debbie Harendt. And we were grateful that our friend Kelly Moore -- the president of Fort Worth Christian Schools and the president of our foundation -- was there to lead the proceedings and explain to everyone gathered there just what we're doing.
And we were blessed by the presence of our friend Bill Allcorn, who is the inspiration for this whole thing. Bill's father, Stan Allcorn, is the pastor at Pioneer Drive Baptist Church (where we are members), and Stan is Jill's boss. Bill is a terrific young golf pro playing on the Adams Tour, and he came to us earlier this year about an idea he had called "Biridies 4 Rex" in which he would donate a portion of his earnings for every weekend birdie he made at each tournament he played in this season. He's also gotten a couple of other pros to join him in the effort, and they've raised quite a sum of money for the foundation.
We were blessed to raise quite a sum of money in April, and some people might wonder what we're going to do with it. Well, we'll have more information on that later, but the iTouch giveaway is just a start. We'd like to be able to eventually help parents of pediatric cancer patients at Cook Children's pay their bills for a month or two if needed. We'd like to be able to give money to Hendrick Medical Center in honor of a few people here who played such a big part in Rex's care. We'd like to be able to give back to Rex's school, Taylor Elementary, in a few different ways. We'd like to be able to give money to the Rehab Center where he underwent physical therapy after each of his surgeries. We'd like to give money to Make-A-Wish to help a child's dream trip come true. There are so many other things we want to be able to do, but they all take money, and right now we're talking through some ideas for another fundraiser in the spring that we hope will blow the doors off the Chik-Fil-A Night total and help us begin working toward doing all of these things to help kids with cancer and their parents.
So be watching Facebook and this CaringBridge site for upcoming details.
Would ask once again that you remember to pray for Callie, Landry, Tatum, Zach, Dominic, Feryn, Franklin, and Shirley as they each walk this journey with cancer. Pray for healing and pray for a cure to this beast.
I'd also like to ask that you pray for the family of Ronnie Lorenz. Ronnie went home at 3 a.m. Monday morning after a heart attack almost three weeks ago left him with without oxygen to his brain for several critical minutes. But his struggle is over, and he's now healed and whole.
Ronnie was an avid golfer, as was another great friend of our family, Larry Nichols. Ironically, those two old friends died on the same day, nine years apart. I talked earlier Monday evening to my friend Brady Nichols (Larry's son and Ronnie's son-in-law) and wondered if they had already teed off on the ultimate golf course? Brady said he thought they had and that they had made all the 3-foot putts.
Ronnie's memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at Highland Church of Christ in Abilene. Please remember his widow, Darla, and his daughters, Robyn and Brooke, as well as grandchildren, sons-in-law, parents, other family and friends as they grieve the loss of this wonderful man.
My family has known the Lorenz family for many years, but over the last two years -- and especially the last couple of months that Rex was alive -- whenever I would see Ronnie and he would ask about Rex, he would begin to tear up when I would answer his question. He was a loving father and grandfather, and he knew in his heart how badly our parents and Jill and I were hurting inside throughout this whole thing. He would simply look at me and through his watery eyes remind me of the greater place that awaited Rex ... and all of us.
Today Ronnie has seen that place. He's seen the face of Jesus. Hopefully he's seen Rex. And in spite of our tears, hopefully we're reminded that a greater place awaits us, too.
Onward ... and Looking Upward.
Giving Back to Cook Children's Hospital
Written Aug 18, 2013 1:55am
"Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”--- Luke 6:38
As I was looking at this page, it's hard to believe that it's been more than four months since I updated this journal. A lot has happened in that time, and I know that many of you have kept up through Facebook.
However, for those of you who haven't, let me quickly fill you in:
• On April 30, we hosted Rex Fleming Night at Chik-Fil-A near our house in Abilene and raised more than $15,000! We recorded the two largest sales hours in the store's history as they served more than 800 customers in two hours. We estimated the crowd to be around 2,000 people who came out in support of our cause. We also gave them some great entertainment as our friend and country music artist Aaron Watson gave up some precious family time to sing for about 45 minutes toward the end of the night.
• We have begun the process of establishing the P4X Foundation, a process that could take about 9-12 months to compete (government red tape!). We've put together a board of directors and have already taken in about $25,000 in actual money and pledges.
• We're planning on turning Rex Fleming Night into a bigger event in 2014 as we're in the early planning stages of a concert / golf tournament / concert event at the Abilene Country Club. Aaron will again provide the entertainment and the proceeds will go to both the P4X Foundation and the Rex Fleming Endowed Scholarship Fund at ACU.
• The scholarship fund at ACU already has $19,500 in its trust, and the school hasn't really begun to fund-raise for it yet. A big chunk of that total ($10,000) came from fellow sports information directors and media relations professionals around the country, who donated the money last winter in honor of Rex. We need the trust to reach $25,000 before it becomes an active scholarship at ACU. We anticipate it will be active for the fall of 2014 with the scholarship going to a student-athlete (male or female) who plans to major in pre-med, nursing or medical research. We would love to look up one day and find out that one of the people who cracked the code on cancer went to ACU on the Rex Fleming Endowed Scholarship.
• The month of September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month, and to that end, our foundation has purchased 1,300 football helmet stickers for the teams all three local universities and five high school teams to wear on their helmets during the entire month. ACU, Hardin-Simmons and McMurry universities will wear the stickers, as will Abilene High, Abilene Cooper, Abilene Wylie, Abilene Christian and Fort Worth Christian high schools. The sticker is gold (for pediatric cancer awareness) with the P4X logo across the ribbon in black. I know our friends at Cooper might not like having the black and gold sticker (Abilene High colors) on their blue and red helmets, but hopefully they'll forgive us!
• On Sept. 7, ACU will play McMurry in football and the game has been designated "Pediatric Cancer Awareness Day benefitting the P4X Foundation." $1 from each ticket sold will go toward the Rex Fleming Scholarship Fund and the trainers from each school will wear shirts with our foundation logo on the front and an enlarged version of the helmet sticker on the back. The day before, several of us will gather in the ACU campus center and sell lunch tickets to students with $1 of each $5 ticket going to the P4X Foundation. ACU has been so generous to me and our family throughout this entire ordeal, and that generosity continues.
• We originally intended to call Rex's foundation the "Rex Fleming Touching Lives Foundation," but after some research found that we needed to change the name. Seems that former TCU and San Diego Chargers running back LaDanian Tomlinson has a foundation called "Tomlinson's Touching Lives Foundation," and we decided to make the change on our name. We settled on P4X Foundation simply because the P4X logo has become fairly recognizable in our area. When Rex was alive and battling cancer, it stood for Pray 4 Rex. Now we've changed it to Play 4 Rex, and that slogan is on the ribbon of the helmet stickers. That slogan is in deference to Rex's passion for sports. But it can also mean to do whatever you're doing in life the way Rex did: with passion, with purpose and with love.
• We had a hard day on Friday, Aug. 9, when my sister, Laurie Briner, her husband, Maj. John Briner, and their two kids, Harry and Catie Beth, moved from Abilene (Dyess AFB) back to Great Falls, Mont. (Malmstrom AFB) where John is now stationed. We were blessed to have John, Laurie and the kids here during most all of Rex's journey and fight against cancer, and they were a great blessing to all of us. Rex loved his cousins (and his aunt and uncle) and they loved him. In fact, the day before they left, the went to the cemetery to say goodbye and Harry knelt in front of his gravemarker for some private words with his big cousin. We've all had a hard enough time dealing with our own emotions over this, I'm not sure how Ashley and Harry and Catie will deal with them. But they will because we'll help them and they'll be OK. But we miss our family being all together and are already looking into a trip to Montana sometime next summer.
• Finally, on Monday (Aug. 19), we are going to begin giving back to Cook Children's Hospital with our first trip there to hand out Apple iTouches and Apple iTunes gift cards. That's in part what all the money raised is going to be used for, although we'll expand our ability to help people with each dollar that comes in. The hospital has selected five children to receive the first gifts, and we'll present those on Monday so be watching this site and Facebook for photos. Rex loved his iTouch (and our iPhones) while he was undergoing chemo treatments, and Jill and I thought that would be a great way to give back, by giving pediatric cancer patients at the hospital a way to listen to music, play their own games, watch movies or text their family and friends while they're undergoing their treatment.
• We've gotten off to such a great fund-raising start that we've begun to think about different ways we can offer help to pediatric cancer patients and their families, and we've come up with some ideas that we believe will really make a difference in the lives of families who are hurting and who are in the midst of battling this awful disease.
• I'm sure I've forgotten something, and if I think of it between now and Monday I'll add it when I update again after Monday's visit to Fort Worth. Please be watching for details on the golf tournament next spring and ways you can help us continue to tell Rex's story. His was a life worth remembering, and his is a story worth telling.
As I've done for just about all of these journal entries, I'll wrap up by asking you to remember to pray for other kids we've encountered on our walk with cancer: Landry, Tatum, Callie, Franklin, Feryn, Dominic, Cade, Christopher and Zac. Please be in earnest prayer for Landry, who didn't have a good report on her latest MRI. Doctors found two spots on her brain and haven't really been able to yet put together a viable treatment plan for those spots. Her parents, Shannon and Kory, have become friends of ours, and they have been on this roller-coaster for the last four years. Needless to say, they are experiencing hard days right now.
I'd also ask that you continue to pray for my step-mother-in-law, Shirley Terbush, who is battling mesothelioma, but is doing well in spite of some sickness from the chemo treatments. We are going out to Phoenix see Shirl, Jill's dad (Frank) and other family at Thanksgiving and are looking forward to a good trip.
Finally, I ask that you pray for Ronnie Lorenz and our great friends, Brady and Brooke Nichols. Ronnie is a lifelong friend of our family who suffered a heart attack two weeks ago that left him without oxygen for several crucial minutes. A few days ago the family made the decision to move him into hospice care and begin preparations for his journey to heaven.
I've known Brady since we were about 5 or 6 playing little league baseball together, and he and I have some pretty frank discussions about cancer and death. His father, Larry Nichols, passed away nine years ago after his own battle with cancer. Larry and my father were great friends who shared a love for their sons, baseball and a quick one-liner. Brooke is one of the greatest women I know. Have known her since she and my sister were childhood friends. She's always quick to help her friends in need. She was there for our family (still is, in fact), and I've seen her step in when needed for so many others.
Now, though, she's having to endure the hardest part about death as she simply sits and watches her own father lie in a hospital bed waiting until God calls him home. It can be an awful time, so pray for Brooke, her sister, Robyn, and their mom, Darla, as they watch their father and husband slip away. Be in prayer for grandchildren, sons-in-law, other family and friends as they deal with Ronnie's loss. And say a small prayer and ask God to take Ronnie home quickly and without pain. He'll be greeted there by family and friends who have gone before him, and he'll be happier and healthier than he's ever been. Hopefully a lanky redheaded 10-year-old boy will be there to greet him as well.
Thanks for continuing to pray for our family as we are about to approach 9 months without our son. It's hard to believe it's already been that long. In some ways it seems like yesterday; in other ways it seems like 9 years. We miss Rex daily, but we have been able to return to a fairly normal life. We've laughed and cried (sometimes within the same 5-minute period), and we've ached for our son. But mostly we have the memories of a precious life that filled our hearts with joy on a daily basis.
And so we carry on, trying to spread that kind of joy to kids and families who need what Rex had in abundance: love, passion, goodness, a desire to help people, a love for Jesus, and a love for family and friends.
Onward ... and looking Upward.
Written Apr 10, 2013 1:38am"I'll live to tell the story."--- Rex Fleming, the night before his first brain surgery (Dec. 1, 2010)As I looked at Rex's Caring Bridge page today, I couldn't believe it had been almost four months since I last posted anything. I had planned on posting more, but time moves quickly and life has moved on in some ways. In other ways it still seems like we're still trying to wrap our head around the fact that our son is no longer here with us.But we're all trying to make the best of the situation, and so we move on. Because we have to, and because we know that's how Rex would want us to live.As we have said, we are now charged with telling Rex's story of how he lived with cancer and how his two-year fight changed a family, touched lives and reached a community. We have already had our chances to do so, one of which was March 20 when I spoke at ACU's Daily Chapel about Rex and in support of the Relay For Life in Abilene on April 26. If you have a chance to go out to ACU's soccer field that day and participate in this year's Relay, please do so. You don't have to walk all night, but maybe a few laps in honor or in memory of someone you know who has been touched by cancer.We have another opportunity to reach people on April 30 when we host a fund-raising event for the Rex Fleming Touching Lives Foundation at the Chick-Fil-A in north Abilene (on Highway 351). We'll be there from 6-8 p.m., and a portion of the store's proceeds from that night will go to the fund.But we aren't stopping with that. We're selling raffle tickets for $5 apiece and we already have some great prizes lined up, including a gift basket from Chick-Fil-A that includes a year's worth of free food from the restaurant, an Apple iTouch, an Aaron Watson gift bag and other great stuff.We'll also have Callie Cochran's Lemonade Stand at the store that night with the proceeds from those sales going into Rex's fund.The fund will help us purchase iTouches and iTunes gift cards for a child or two every month or so who is going through chemo treatments at Cook Children's Hospital in Fort Worth. We'll use this money as well as the money from the Birdies 4 Rex fund that our good friend Bill Allcorn has started. You can learn more about that fund by going to its Facebook page.We'll also be selling the "Go Deep" window decals that the Abilene High booster club had for several cars the day after Rex's funeral in December, as well as the small "Go Deep" helmet stickers the Eagles wore that day in honor of Rex and his favorite play. So many of you have asked both Jill and I how to get a sticker that we thought it would be good to have some to sell and add that money to the fund.It's going to be quite a night, and we hope you can come out and enjoy a good chicken sandwich and lemonade, enjoy a lot of good fellowship, help out what we believe is a worthy cause, and maybe hear some good country music.We've been blessed to become more than acquaintances with Aaron and Kimberly Watson through this journey. The Watsons lost their daughter, Julia Grace, in 2011 and we have bonded over our shared grief. If you haven't met the Watsons, they are unbelievably generous people who are as normal as anyone else, despite the fact that Aaron is one of the rising stars in country music.He and "Momma" as he calls Kimberly have quite the trio of children, but as he always says when we talk, "there's one missing." We know exactly how he feels. But neither one of our families has been wallowing in self-pity or despair. There's too much life left to live ... and too much good soup to eat and too many good breakfasts to share.Anyway, Aaron has graciously told us that he and his family will be in attendance on April 30 and that he'll do whatever we need him to do. We'll talk later about what that might entail, but we'll probably have CDs and T-shirts and other good stuff from Aaron to sell that night with the proceeds going to Rex's fund. And I'm thinking we might get him to sing a couple or three songs if he's up to it.One other note: I would encourage you to continue to remember that we have established a scholarship fund in Rex's name at Abilene Christian University. If you want to give to that fund, the scholarship will be given to an ACU student-athlete who will be going into the medical field as a doctor, nurse or researcher. As I've said before, wouldn't it be cool if one of the doctors who one day helps crack the code on beating cancer started out at ACU on the Rex Fleming Endowed Scholarship?We have been blessed by your continued prayers, your continued love for our family, and your shared memories of our beloved son, Rex.His life was a short 10 years, but the legacy he left behind will last a lifetime. It's our job to make sure that happens, and with your help we'll be able to do it.