My little prince

Publish date 13-10-2020

by Max Laudadio

Yes, almost two years have passed since Niki left. It was September 30, 2018. He was 8 years old, and for more than six he had lived in and out of the pediatric oncology department of the Pavia hospital.

Niki was a dear friend of mine. I met him by chance when he was 2-3 years old, his mother stopped me in the street and, after the first pleasantries and a few smiles, she asked me if I could do her a favor, to go and greet her son who was waiting for her by car. I never refuse an invitation from a child, even if it comes from some family member and not directly from him, and so I asked permission from my daughter Bianca who was with me and I went.

Niki was sitting in the back seat of the car, with his older brother making him play while his father read the newspaper while waiting for his wife to return. When he saw me he smiled big, his eyes lit up, telling at the same time incredulity and happiness. A few moments later he opened the door and ran out to me, jumped around my neck and squeezed me so tightly that his thin arms nearly choked me. I felt the warmth of her skin mixed with the unmistakable smell of the hospital on her clothes, and every time she moved her head, to hold me tighter, she tickled my neck with her hairless skin resulting from various chemotherapy. He remained in that position for minutes, until his mother, with great difficulty, managed to detach him from me. Niki, however, continued to look at me with the love she reserves for her parents because, despite her young age, I was her idol.

After a few minutes spent with him between chatting, photos and laughter, Niki got back in the car, rummaged under the cushion of his safety seat, and took a small fabric monkey. When he came back to me, he looked at me proudly, and gave it to me saying: "Quetta is yours", without being able to pronounce the S. The mother looked at him in shock, and tried in every way to distract her son from such intent, she knew that that little stuffed animal represented much more to Niki than it really was, and she feared that she might have second thoughts with the arrival of night. That monkey was his lucky charm, his companion during chemo, his faithful friend when he slept, it wasn't just a toy. But he didn't want to hear reasons and demanded that I take her away with me. At that time I was far from the faith and I could not give a reason for facts like this. Today, as you may already know, I define them as God-incidences by borrowing the definition from my dear friend Francesco Lorenzi, singer and founder of The Sun, and I recognize them instead as simple "invitations" from the good Lord which, if accepted, always bring wonderful news.

Since that day, Niki and I have become friends, more than friends. He entered deeply into my heart, and I learned to love him both in the hospital and in those few moments when he was allowed to go out, even if with the passing of the years and the evolution of the disease these were reduced. Niki was special, she was able to fight the disease with the strength of a real gladiator, combining this with the joy and spontaneity that only children can live. It was he who consoled his mother, father, brothers, and all those who went to see him. Maybe he was also a bit vain, because he didn't accept visits when he was sick and vomited up the liters of medicine he had in his body, he only showed up when he was fit, when he didn't feel ugly. But with me it was different, he always allowed himself, for better or for worse, and welcomed me into the room with the same face he wore at our first meeting. There were times when I went to visit him often and others less, but over the years our friendship has been indissolubly welded, like between soulmates.

The last few months have been difficult, Niki accepted only her mother in the hospital, with the exception of her family and me. So, almost every day, I went to the hospital to spend the day with him; to play with it, to sing, to make him laugh, and to do a thousand other things once again, but mainly to make him understand that I loved him. I prayed a lot, so that he would heal, so that he would have the opportunity to try to become great, so that he could demonstrate the strong and just man that he would surely become, but also so that I could be able to understand why children die. A few days before he greeted us, I wrote him a song noting the story of the Little Prince, and only so that he would deeply understand its meaning and sing the refrain with me: "The essential is invisible; everything else is an invention, a mirage, an illusion. It doesn't matter where it is, it's a rose inside you ". My Little Prince returned home teaching many important things to those who knew him, and proving that it is not time that determines the goodness of our passage on this earth but rather our actions and our feelings. His attachment to life, the strength with which he faced it, the kindness and love he gave, the joy he lavished, the friendship he showed, are tangible proofs of his existence, and no one will be able to never erase them ... not even death. True, the pain also remains; excruciating, excruciating, often unbearable, amplified by his physical absence next to us, but this cannot force us to reduce his short and intense life to a sad memory, it would not be right, and we would be ungrateful!

None of us will ever really understand why children die or have to suffer, but one thing is certain, I have learned to trust God and have chosen never to betray him, even when things don't go the way I want them to and even if they bring painful tears. , and do you know why? Because he, first of all, suffered and died for us. Do you want to know what happened to the monkey? He is always with me. As will my Little Prince.

Max Laudadio
NP august-september 2020

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