By Leslie Slape / The Daily News | Posted: Sunday, January 3, 2010 10:45pm http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tdn.com/content/tncms/assets/editorial/b/99/2fd/b992fda6-f822-11de-8ccd-001cc4c03286.image.jpg?_dc=1262493891
When Sherod Nichols was about 3 years old, he emerged from the bath and noticed in the mirror a big scar running down his back. He was born with a genetic disorder, Neurofibromatosis type 1, that causes tumors to grow along the nerves.
“What’s that?” he asked his older brother, Andrew, 5, staring at the scar where surgeons had removed tumors.
“That’s where doctors cut your T-Rex tail off,” Andrew quipped.
Sherod was never the same since. The mighty Tyrannosaurus became his alter ego. Toward the end of his life, when he was bound to a wheelchair, he asked Make-a-Wish Foundation to give him “a pair of T-rex legs.”
“But if they can’t score them, I’ll go to Florida,” he said.
Sherod, 16, died Dec. 29 of a malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor that had spread to his lymph nodes. Doctors discovered it in summer 2008.
Shortly before the diagnosis, his family presented him with “Ray,” a stuffed T-rex made especially for him. Sherod and Ray became inseparable. They were together when doctors told him he had cancer, when they told him it was terminal and throughout seven months of chemotherapy. When nurses wanted to talk to Sherod, they learned to talk to Ray first.
Ray attended Sherod’s 16th birthday party in September at the Monticello Hotel, dressed in a miniature tuxedo. He and Ray were buried together Saturday.
A few hundred attended Sherod’s graveside service at Longview Memorial Park, covering his coffin with roses and daisies. Shekinah Christian Center in Longview was packed for his celebration of life.
“I don’t even recognize half the people here,” his mother, Karinsa Viramontes, said afterward. “But he has touched so many.”
She said her family, friends and everyone at Foster Farms, where she works, have given them support.
Many of the people Sherod touched spoke at his service, including Scott Shelton, who became close to him during the 2008-09 school year when Scott was a senior at R.A. Long and Sherod a sophomore. Sherod was manager of the football team and Scott was an offensive and defensive lineman.
“I never met anybody like Sherod in my life, and something tells me I never will,” Scott said.
Sherod was in charge of the team’s air horn, he said.
“Every practice, he always tried to get me by blowing the air horn in my ear. One day, he got me. I was so pissed off. But that was Sherod – always joking around.”
Friends and family recalled Sherod’s mischievous sense of humor, his high spirits and optimism, his gift for taking control of a room, his complete lack of fear and his open heart.
“He was always the person I could talk to,” said his brother, Andrew. “He was my first best friend.”
“He brightened our lives,” said his uncle, Eric Holmes. “Your high-spirited soul has gone on. Your body is left with us. But the tale of your life will live on forever.”
Sherod said he was visited regularly by a beautiful red-haired angel, said churchmember Jody Dieter, who gave the eulogy.
“Sherod told his mother the angel told him when it was time for him to go, she would escort him.”
On cue, the song “Angel” by Sarah McLaughlin began.
Then Dieter read some cards Sherod wrote to his family, including his little sister, Lizzie:
“This is your star shining way up in the sky. Every time you look up, I see you.”