Terminally ill cancer patient rallied behind ‘1,000 cranes’

Saturday, September 15, 2007 | 7:49 p.m. CDT; updated 11:19 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Scott Laws

HARRISBURG — Inside the Laws family’s Harrisburg home, situated on the bank of a small lake, Sherryl Laws described how her son, Scott, enjoyed discussing calculus with his friends at the dinner table as a high school student.

Mr. Laws died Friday, Sept. 14, 2007, at Boone Regional Hospital after an 11-year bout with colon cancer. He was 30.

Mr. Laws was born June 18, 1977, in Jefferson City. He grew up in Columbia, graduated from Hickman High School and MU and went to work at Microsoft Hotmail in Silicon Valley, Calif., in 2000.

“He loved computers,” said his mother, Sherryl. “He loved his friends because they were like him.”

Mr. Laws was not only geared for computers. As a high school student, he spent several summers in Romania on mission trips associated with the Evangelical Free Church in Columbia, which at the time was planning to build a church in the city of Craiova.

In high school, Sherryl Laws recalls, one of Scott’s friends gave him a list of reasons why he couldn’t bring himself to make God “the center of his life.”

Mr. Law’s quick response: “Well, you should.”

As a sophomore at MU, he spent a year in Romania as an exchange student, becoming fluent in Romanian. His language skills became so good that, at least once, he was mistaken by a Romanian for a local, his mother said. “He loved Romania,” she added.

Mr. Laws was diagnosed with cancer on Good Friday of 2004, after years of undiagnosed stomach pains, which began at the age of 19. Soon after his diagnosis, doctors performed surgery to remove a tumor from Mr. Laws’ colon. Doctors believed that the cancer was in check. This past Christmas, however, tests revealed that the cancer had not been cured or gone into remission but had metastasized significantly. Doctors said Mr. Laws’ illness was terminal.

His mother retold how her son consoled his 92-year-old grandmother about the news: “He sat down next to her and looking her in the eyes said, ‘I’m not afraid to die. I know where I’m going, and we’ll see each other again.’”

Mr. Laws moved from California back in with his parents in May due to the progression of his illness. On July 16, nine friends and co-workers flew from California to visit him, bringing 1,000 origami paper cranes with them. They folded the cranes by hand over a period of two weeks as a symbol of support and hope, inspired by the story of a young Japanese girl battling Leukemia in 1945, titled “Sadako and the 1,000 Cranes.”

That gathering represented a peak in his energy level. Since then, his energy had leveled off, said his mother as her voice cracked and eyes filled with tears.

Mr. Laws and his family spent seven days aboard an Alaskan cruise last month, a trip, his family said, he always wanted to take.

The church in Craiova is finally being built but, due to dwindling funds, has a foundation and walls but no roof. Sherryl Laws hopes that contributions in her son’s memory will raise enough money to put a roof on the church before winter arrives.

Mr. Laws is survived by his parents, Keith and Sherryl Laws of Harrisburg; two siblings, sister Julie Byrum and brother Tim Laws, both of Columbia; grandmother Velda Ogar of Mexico, Mo.; grandmother Leola Laws of Perryville; and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins.

Services will be held at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Evangelical Free Church, 600 Silvey Road. Donations may be made to the Craiova Romania Church Building Fund, in care of the Johnston Evangelical Free Church, 9901 NW 62nd St., Johnston, Iowa, 50131.

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