Jack’s Story: A Letter to My Brother

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Each day a different guest blogger will be featured who will generously share their personal experience with childhood cancer.  Stories are always more potent than statistics.     

By Jack Donovan 

Dear Gabe:

I’m really missing you because it’s the start of the school year, and you should be here with me.  I’m in 7th grade this year.  You would be in 4th grade at St. Peter with me.  Our little sister Grace is at our school now, too.  She is in kindergarten, and our classes are “Buddies.”   That means my class and her class all go to church together every Friday, and the big kids help the little kids.

I think about you when I’m at mass, and I always pray to you during intentions.  (That’s when we pray for someone or something special.)  I pray that you enjoy Heaven and that you don’t get too lonely without any of your family.  We all wish you were here with us.

I see my friends with their brothers, and it makes me thinks about you a lot.  My best friends are Gabe (the same name as you), Anthony, Blaise, and Joshua.  They all have brothers.  Sometimes, after school, when I see them go home with their brothers, I get teary.  I miss you, and I feel lonely knowing you should be here with me.  During the day we would do homework and play together after school.  At night, we would sleep together in a bunk bed.  I hope you would have top bunk!  I would also like to build Legos together and collect comic books together.

Bowl brothers.
Bowl brothers.

Things I remember about you are that you would only eat things I ate.  You didn’t like to smile.  You were very serious.  When you did smile, it was a very cute face.

I also remember that sometimes Mom and Dad had to leave me when you were in the hospital getting surgery or chemo.  I remember that you had a tube going into your chest.  I remember you always had an IV in the hospital, and everywhere you went, the IV pole had to go with you. You normally shared a room with another patient.  Sometimes we would put a curtain around us.  Sometimes we would play with them.

I was too little to understand anything like I do now.  Now, I know that you needed a bone marrow transplant, and that that is very serious.  You died without it, but you also could have died from it.  I wish I could have given you my bone marrow, but we were not compatible.  Now I know what a scary time it was when you were sick and what a sad time it was when you died.

Gabe as Robin and Jack as Batman, Halloween
Gabe as Robin and Jack as Batman, Halloween

I like to remember you by always talking about you.  I like to go to the cemetery and pray for you and visit you.  I feel very peaceful there.  I always leave a toy for you by your grave.  There are things there that I left when I was only five-years-old, like trucks from Happy Meals and a Hot Wheels car.

Now, I’m 12-years-old, and they’re still there.  Sometimes I carve a stick for you with my pocket knife and leave it there.  I think about you when I go camping with Boy Scouts.  I think you would be a Cub Scout, and you would sometimes go on the really cool Boy Scouts campouts with me, like when we went to the Warren Dunes or when we went caving in the Maquoketa Caves.  You would probably enjoy lake swimming, just like me.

I wish you didn’t get leukemia and pass away, but I try to make you a positive in my own life.  You can’t always be negative when something bad happens.  I need to be positive for those who need me, like other families who have lost someone and are having trouble coping with it. Once, when a family lost their daughter, I went to see them and to try and help them.

Jack and Gabe hanging out at Children's Memorial Hospital
Jack and Gabe hanging out at Children’s Memorial Hospital

Sometimes I wonder what you would want to grow up to be.  I’m going to honor you when I’m young and when I’m old.  You have really shaped me into the person I am today.  I saw you suffer, so I know I can be strong.  I try to honor you and remember you by being nice to everyone and by helping people in your name.  Someday, I would like to build you a memorial.

I love you, Gabe.

Your Brother,



Gabe’s mother, Randee, originally shared his story in 2013.  You can read about Gabe HERE.


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