"There’s a little flame inside us all, Some shine bright, some shine small ..."
On Sept. 15, 2017, possibly the brightest light in Northwest Georgia, one that shone quite large, left this earth to illuminate another place.
"May you live each day with no regret, Make the most of every chance you get ..."
Patrick Blake "The Phoenix" Sharrock was the embodiment of these lyrics. "Patrick understood the word ‘others,’" says Pastor Brent James, who officiated, along with Pastor Billy Christol, at Patrick’s funeral. "He was an amazing and brilliant young man, always ready with a joke, always smiling, always finding a way to make someone else’s life better."
"One day there will be no more pain, And we will finally see Jesus’ face ..."
James first met Patrick through the Whitfield County Miracle League, where he volunteers and where Patrick played ball. "Patrick is in a better place now, where there is no suffering, but Heaven is also a better place with Patrick there."
"This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…"*
"Patrick was always positive, even when things were going bad," his school friend James Williams says. "Patrick taught me that even if you aren’t feeling happy, you can make someone else happy and that will make you feel better."
Haven Travis met Patrick when the two were in seventh grade, and they struck up a permanent friendship. "Patrick could always tell if I was upset and he would make me laugh. He never talked about anything negative."
Patrick Sharrock suffered from a condition called osteogenesis imperfecta, sometimes called brittle bone disease, though it consists of far more problems than bones that break easily. Patrick faced a lion’s share of the issues associated with the disease but, says James, that didn’t stop him from living large. "Patrick was our first athlete to hit a ball from a wheelchair. Nothing stood in his way."
Sammy Silvers was Patrick’s coach at Miracle League for a year. "Patrick was the life of the party," he says. "He drove his wheelchair like a bicycle, even doing wheelies. He was so genuine. Kids like Patrick come straight from God."
Patrick and his family gained national fame in 2011 when "Extreme Makeover Home Edition" built them a house especially suited to their needs, but as was the case throughout Patrick’s life, for everything someone did for him, he found endless ways to pay it forward.
"The last time he was in the hospital with pneumonia," says James, "as soon as he got out, he organized a blood drive. That was Patrick’s way. He volunteered anywhere he saw a need and was able to help."
"One thing a lot of people don’t know about Patrick," James says, "is how much he loved animals. He loved the Chattanooga Zoo. He was worried because the elevator people could go up in to feed the red panda was broken." At Patrick’s memorial service, James issued a challenge on behalf of the young animal lover: please help get the panda’s elevator fixed.
Patrick’s passion for others covered a wide spectrum. He helped form the Miracle League of Chattanooga, he volunteered with the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and with the Shrine Circus. He could be found helping at the zoo, the Creative Discovery Museum and the Riverbend Festival. And always, his infectious joy lifted the spirits of everyone who came into contact with him.
"He was just selfless," says James.
But Patrick was also smart and mischievous, say his friends. He served as president of his sophomore class at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. In spite of missing a lot of school due to broken bones and illness, he was in honors and gifted classes and managed to keep up his grades.
"Last year, Patrick missed eight weeks of school," says Haven. "Sally Boyd, who helped him get around at school, would come to class and take notes for him and take my notes for him to study. He never fell behind."
Haven says Patrick was "a geek, like the rest of us. He ruled the Geek Squad at school. I would call him up and he’d help me set up games on my computer." Patrick knew his stuff – he was, in addition to everything else, a programming intern with video game developer Mojang, working on their Minecraft game.
Patrick had a strong dose of imp in him, too. "I met Patrick last year at school," says James Williams. "One time he gave me a card with the Dwarven alphabet on it and said we could use it to write notes and cheat because no one would know what it said."
Patrick was a fan of Lord of the Rings (thus the Dwarven alphabet), Superheroes, Star Wars, and all manner of related things. He even invented his own personal superhero, who went by the name of Dr. Scorcher.
The day before Patrick passed away, he rode in his school’s homecoming parade, in the thick of things as always. "Afterwards," says Haven, "we had a pep rally and a bonfire. Patrick and his dad were there. Patrick was running around in his wheelchair having fun. I think that’s how he would have wanted to spend his last day."
Some people are given many decades to work out the meaning of their lives. Patrick had only one-and-a-half, but he figured things out early on. "Patrick’s parents are incredible, and that’s where he learned about giving," says James. "They taught him and enabled him to live outside himself, to be happy and to pass that happiness on to others."
Maybe Patrick’s life is best summed up in a passage his mother, Cindy, shared with friends on Facebook: "Every person passing through this life will unknowingly leave something and take something away. Most of this 'something' cannot be seen or heard or numbered or scientifically detected or counted. It’s what we leave in the minds of other people and what they leave in ours. Memory. The census doesn’t count it. Nothing counts without it." – Robert Fulghum, "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten"
Patrick’s light may be shining in a new place, but it’s also burning brightly in the memories of the thousands who were impacted by his love of life and people.
Author's Note: I met Patrick when he was nine or ten years old and attending a cruise-in with his parents in Fort Oglethorpe. Putting words to Patrick's personality is not easy. His delight in the world around him was electric. It exuded not only from his eyes but his entire being – his smile, his voice, his gestures. There was a dance about Patrick's life that said, "I'm loving it all, love it all with me!" His gift to the world was himself – it’s what he had to give and he gave it with unabashed abandon.
*Song lyrics from Addison Road’s "This Little Light of Mine"