Letter from Miles’ Dad
It is with tremendous sadness that I inform everyone of the passing of my loving son and best friend Miles.
The happiest and most fulfilling period of my life began on November 20, 2008 — the day my son was diagnosed with brain cancer. It ended today, with his death. During this time, I had the honor of supporting one of the greatest warriors that has ever lived. I am as proud of him, as any father who has lost a son to military battle.
Over these past few years, because of Miles, I’ve grown more as a person than in the 46 years prior. By watching him, I learned the true meaning of the word considerate. I witnessed, first hand, a life dedicated to selflessness, from a guy who could teach Mother Teresa a thing or two. Thanks to Miles, I experienced unconditional love.
You’ve heard the old cliche, “everybody loves that guy.” In Miles’ case, no truer words could be spoken. I don’t know anyone, and I mean ANYONE, who ever said a negative word about Miles P. Austrevich.
His teachers loved him. His family loved him. His doctors, nurses and caregivers loved him. Strangers loved him and acquaintances loved him. His mother, stepfather and I loved him. The magnitude of this love is a testament to his greatness. There’s a million ways to describe Miles. I heard the best way this afternoon, from his grandfather Larry. “Miles was not normal.” Those who met him, will agree, that’s about as accurate a description as you can get.
For over four years, he chose to battle this horrific disease with dignity, while making the best out of the horrible hand that life had dealt him. He never backed down from the fight or gave up hope. He lived each day, always thinking of others before himself. I can count, on my fingers, the number of times I heard him complain since being diagnosed.
He was committed to trying to beat this disease, while always remaining realistic. His discipline was astounding. He followed a strict nutritional guideline, endured strenuous rehabilitation, despite excruciating hip pain and the need to use a cane. He kept a smile on his face, even though he lost much of his hearing from the ravaging effects of chemotherapy. This was the cruelest side effect, considering his unbridled love of music. Miles, looking at the glass half full, chose to get excited by the option of orange hearing aids, his favorite color.
When it came to keeping his treatment protocols and medication doses straight, Miles could run circles around many of his nurses and caregivers. Although he was brilliant, I did not measure his intelligence by the fact he got a 34 on his ACT, only to retake it and get a 35. Nor do I measure it by the fact that he was accepted to four Ivy-Leagues and enrolled at Yale.
What proved to me that he was a genius, was his insistence that I ”let go of the anger,” that consumed me, when nurse after nurse, and institution after institution, continued to put his life in harm’s way with a simple, avoidable mistake- using chloraprep. Only a 19 year-old kid with superior intellect, comments: “We gotta make the best out of something bad, and swallow the anger. Let’s talk with the hospital and use these mistakes, to help other kids in the future.”
Miles was an angel, who was compelled to comfort a doctor who had just delivered him bad news. Rather than simply enjoy the thousands of jokes people sent him, he suggested to do the same for other kids fighting cancer. He generously laughed at my dumb jokes, and honored me by playing along with many of our stupid bits.
I can go on and on and write for hours, sharing with you the love I have for my little monkey. If I did, I’d make the world a better place, simply by sharing Miles.
I’ll say goodnight with a story, as well as what I asked Miles’ favorite teacher to do. Jeff Solin was the first person I texted after Miles’ quick passing this afternoon. He was the first friend who came to visit this morning. Miles continued receiving guests the moment Jeff left. Friends, family, teachers and caregivers came to say their goodbyes in a steady stream, over a few hours. Some had flown in from out of town. With each person, Miles used every ounce of energy to sit up in the bed, thank them and remind them how much he appreciated their stopping by to say hello. He kept doing so, until his body gave out.
As the last person left, I commented it was great that everyone invited, got to see Miles. I joked with his mom, Adriene. “As messed up as I am, and screwed up as our relationship is, we did pretty damned good.” Everyone had a chuckle. His step-dad Rick, Adriene and I, enjoyed a few minutes of alone time — then he was gone.
This perfectly sums up Miles — unbelievably considerate, until the very last moment. He refused to leave us, until everyone was able to say goodbye.
I will now suggest to everyone reading this, what I did of Jeff. Take a moment on this holiday, to grab your children and loved ones, and hug them as tight as you can. Appreciate them. Then, think of Miles, and you will feel his tremendous love.
I want to thank all who helped cushion this rough ride these past four years — Adriene, Rick, Pat, Larry, my brothers and sisters, Paul, Jeremy, Dale, Green, Willy, Toomey, Shydner, T. Sean and all our extended families. All should know that Miles went very quickly, and fortunately, felt little pain.
I’m comforted, knowing my little monkey is no longer suffering. If age was measured by quality, and not time, Miles lived to be 100.
I’m the luckiest man in the world,
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Here is a short video we made of Miles at the Grand Canyon, during a trip we took in between stem-cell transplants, when Miles was at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles.