Sandra Dick: Let there be smiles to mend broken hearts

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The cancer gods were unbearably cruel to Jak Trueman. Everything to live for and then, in a blink, he’s gone.

Like everyone else, I followed Jak’s story and felt that wave of sadness that starts in the pit of the stomach and shoves its way into your heart, making it break a little at the unfairness of it all.

The prognosis was bad but with every Facebook update there was, surely, still hope for a happy ending. After all, every picture was full of beautiful smiles: remarkably, in their darkest days, Jak, his family, girlfriend and their pals, in a brilliant lesson in how to deal with the worst that life can throw at us, remembered the good bits, and they smiled.

Jak was 15. For those us with boys that age – my oldest is nearly there – it feels like the most complicated age so far.

They tend to tower above you, with giant feet that seem to not quite know when to stop growing. They growl in strange manly voices, dump smelly socks under their bed, wear the same T-shirt day and night and have a knack for sussing out when you’ve just restocked the fridge.

One foot in manhood, the other just a couple of years from that first pair of Start-rite toddler shoes, they strut off to high school with shirt tail hanging out and arrive home with messed-up jotters full of chaotic scribbles and daft doodles where you desperately want to see proper notes.

They still want a hug from mum but only when no-one’s looking. They worry about their hair, their looks and their weight just as much as any teenage girl, but quietly, behind closed doors, so no-one will laugh at them.

So sensitive and caring, they cry during the sad bits in Up only to then slope to their rooms to secretly watch Breaking Bad on Netflix. It’s just part of their endless and perplexing capacity to infuriate one minute, make you dissolve with love the next.

I doubt very much that there’s a single mother of a teenage boy who didn’t crumble when they read that brave, thoughtful, caring Jak had organised for flowers to be delivered the day after he died. His handwritten note read: “To mum, I love you and I will look after you. All my love, Jak.”

His funeral is today. Later there’ll be a chocolate fountain, marshmallows and flapjacks. Mourners will wear his favourite team’s royal blue and no doubt it will be a struggle to keep smiling through.

Jak’s Journey – the name of the Facebook page set up to draw attention to his rare cancer and raise funds to help research, maybe even cure it – is, in life, complete.

For his family, buoyed by the support from thousands of strangers, wrapped in the knowledge that Jak touched so many lives, the next stage of this desperately sad journey has just begun.

Let there be smiles.