FILE PHOTO — Kyle, right, Kara, left, and Noah Markstrom, center, pose for a photo at a Centralia restaurant.

He was only six years old.

He spent two of those years fighting brain cancer.

Yet Noah “Buggy” Jon Markstrom, who attended Fords Prairie Elementary in Centralia, touched many lives in a short time — family, friends, nurses, doctors, and strangers.

His obituary, written beautifully with love seeping from every word, brought tears to my eyes as I read it last week.

Noah “Buggy” Jon Markstrom

I never met Noah, but I know his great-grandmother, Jean Bluhm, a member of the St. Helens Club and another lover of history. When I heard about Noah’s struggle, I began praying. When I asked about him later, Jean slipped off a pale blue rubber wristband and handed it to me, the words “Noah Strong” stamped in bright yellow letters.

I don’t wear wristbands, so I slipped it over the cell-phone holder dangling from my rearview mirror, where I could see it often and pray for him when I did.

My heart breaks for his parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents.

I choked up when I read this paragraph in his obituary:

“Noah was very fond of his momma and never teased her like he did his dad. When Dad would ask him why he didn’t tease Mom, he would say, ‘Because Momma is so beautiful.’ She was the love of his life. He absolutely adored her. Noah’s last words were to his momma, ‘You are my sunshine.’”

Any mother’s heart would melt with those words. As I sniffled, the phone rang. My stepdaughter called on her way home from work. I blubbered on the telephone and read her the obituary. She cried too. She’d had a rough week at work, but Noah’s short life and his parents’ grief put it into perspective

I’ve been praying for Noah’s family every time I see his bracelet.

My prayer list has grown a lot this week as I’ve learned of friends and family members facing health challenges — a young woman preparing for more cancer surgery, a friend and a family member both undergoing tests to see if they have cancer, an elderly woman with dementia moved against her wishes, a friend recently released from the hospital still battling health challenges, a brother-in-law scheduled for heart surgery, a sister-in-law recovering from a broken pelvis, another brother-in-law with dementia, and a teenager hospitalized with MRSA (a nasty staph infection).

I prayed for another friend who lost her vision, and shots helped her recover enough sight to read with a magnifying glass.

So often I pray for help, but do I thank God for all the good things?

It’s easy to take for granted the simple things — the ability to see the reds, greens, and golds of falling leaves, hear the birds chirping in the trees, feel the soft fur of my daughter’s cats, smell the cinnamon and apples wafting from a warm pie, and taste the Thanksgiving feast most of us will enjoy next week.

While praying aloud with a friend on our walk, I asked God for his comfort, courage and strength for those who are suffering and I thanked God for all His blessings in my life. I prayed for my husband, grown children, and all those on my prayer list above.

We never know what tomorrow might bring. It’s important to appreciate what we have when we have it — in case we don’t have it later.

From the obituary, it sounds like Noah’s parents, family members and friends treasured their time with this precious boy who never complained about frequent hospital stays and the poking and prodding done by medical professionals.

Even in death, Noah’s legacy will continue. His family asked for donations to the Pediatric Brain Tumor Research Fund at And they’re starting the Noah Jon Markstrom Foundation at to provide college scholarships for people pursuing careers in pediatric medicine.

My parents always supported St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which searches for cures, treatment and prevention of catastrophic childhood disease such as cancer. For years I’ve listed St. Jude as recipient of a portion of my purchases through (0.5 percent) via its program. Last month Amazon emailed saying St. Jude received a quarterly donation of $409,260.26. To date the online retailer has given $7.4 million to St. Jude and $145 million to all charities.

Noah fought the good fight and he’s resting now in the arms of Jesus. His legacy lives on through the lives of those who remember him and those who will study pediatric medicine and treat children in the future.

And those who thank God for their blessings while they have them … in case someday they don’t.


Julie McDonald, a personal historian from Toledo, may be reached at

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