`He Always Had A Smile'
Special to the Jewish News
was the colorful rainbows he
was so fond of drawing,
Bryan Jason Diem, who
died of brain cancer at age
18 on May 19, 2003, always tried to
brighten the world around him with
humor, light and hope.
At age 5, when he was starting
kindergarten, Bryan was diagnosed
with a malignant brain tumor. He
underwent surgery, radiation and a
year of chemotherapy, during which
time he continued to attend school.
He recovered from that ordeal only
to suffer a stroke two years later, which
left him with severe cognitive and
motor impairments, in addition to
hearing loss. He began taking special
education classes in the Berkley School
A few weeks ago, Bryan began feel-
ing ill and sleeping more than usual.
Diagnostic tests revealed that Bryan
had an inoperable, cancerous nodule
on his brain, and his doctors estimated
that he had a week or two to live.
He went to school the following day,
went into a coma two days later, and
died the next day in his Oak Park
home, surrounded by his family.
"He suffered for 13 years but you'd
never know it," said his mother,
Donna Diem. "He rarely missed
school. This kid was amazing."
Three years ago, Bryan's mother
decided to create a Web site about
him, his life and his struggle, in hopes
two years ago with his mother and 13
of providing support to other families
other children who had cancer. The
who were facing similar challenges.
trip was sponsored by Chai Lifeline, a
The site includes essays written by
nonprofit organization that also
Bryan, his parents and his brother, pic-
administers Camp Simcha, a New
tures of his trip to Israel and links to
York-based program, which Bryan
other sites for special camps, organiza-
attended for several years.
tions, programs and support groups for
"Bryan lived to go to camp," said
children with cancer and their families.
Rabbi Elimelech Goldberg of
More than 170 visitors have signed
Southfield, director of Camp Simcha
the site's guest book, and Donna Diem
and founder of the Kids Kicking
has received mail from children and
Cancer program, in which Bryan also
parents all over the world thanking her participated. "His mother always said
for the hope and
that if he had one week
left, she'd want him to
Web site has provided.
spend it there."
"I just wanted to help
Rabbi Goldberg plans
other families going
to present the Diems
through the same
with a black belt with
thing," she said. When
Bryan's name on it in
I get letters from par-
honor of his participa-
ents thanking me for
tion in the Kids Kicking
the help they received,
Cancer program, which
that's enough for me."
uses a variety of karate,
In addition to his
breathing and other • -
courage and optimism,
techniques to help chil-
Bryan will always be
dren overcome fear and
Bry an Diem
remembered for his
sense of humor. Humor
"He was an extraordi-
was so much a part of
nary young man who
his life that his Web site contains an
was able to face very deep difficulties
entire section titled "Bryan's Favorite
with a depth that transcended his cog-
nitive level," said Rabbi Goldberg. "He
In his casket, along with his baby
responded to darkness with incredible
blanket and a favorite teddy bear, was a light. Bryan's not just a black belt, he's
"He always had a smile; he was
"Bryan faced adversity with more
always telling jokes," said his mother.
courage and faith than any of us could
"That's what gave me my strength. I'm
ever hope for," said Rabbi Joshua
sure he's up there telling jokes to God
Bennett of Temple Israel in West
Bloomfield, where the Diems are
Younger brother Joshua describes
members and where Bryan became a
Bryan as his "best friend" who always
bar mitzvah. "He looked for the
loved and protected him, despite
chance to smile in every situation."
Bryan is survived by his parents,
"He was always a fighter; he stood
Donna and Jerry Diem; brother,
up to everyone," said Joshua. "I miss
Joshua Ian Diem; aunts, uncles,
cousins and many friends.
This month, Joshua will walk down
Interment was at Hebrew Memorial
the aisle to receive his brother's hon-
Park. Contributions may be made to
orary diploma from Berkley High
Chai Lifeline, 151 W. 30th Street, New
School, at the graduation ceremony for York, NY, 10001; or Camp Simcha, 48
the class of 2003, to which Bryan
West 25th Street, New York, NY,
would have belonged had he not got-
10010. Arrangements by Hebrew
ten cancer. The tassel that Bryan would Memorial Chapel. 111
have received at his graduation was also
Bryan Diem's Web site is..
placed in his casket.
One of the highlights of Bryan's
short life was the trip he took to Israel
LORETTA BALL, of West
Bloomfield, died May 30, 2003.
She is survived by her daughter
and son-in-law, Lois and Dave
Foster of Southfield; son and daugh-
ter-in-law, Melvin and Gail Ball of
West Bloomfield; grandchildren,
Karen and Eric Erickson, Mark and
Erin Foster, Craig and Conny
Foster, Jason Ball, Lauren Ball;
Monique, Adam, Stephanie, Sandra
and James; sisters, Mae Brenner of
Los Angeles, Julie Leibowitz and
Ruth Gorelick. She was the beloved
wife of the late Charles Ball; dear
sister of the late Edward Gorelick.
Interment at Machpelah
Cemetery. Contributions may be
made to the City of Hope or a char-
ity of one's choice. Arrangements by
Ira Kaufman Chapel.
MAE BERRIS, 96, of Southfield,
died May 27, 2003.
She is survived by her son and
daughter-in-law, Shimon and Linda
Berris of Cherry Hill, N.J.; daugh-
ters and sons-in-law, Fayga and
David Greenbaum of Southfield,
Judy and Herb Speiser of
Bergenfield, N.J.; grandchildren,
Neil and Mary Beth Berris, Michael
and Susan Berris, Herschel and
Ellen Berris, Michael and Marla
Greenbaum, Dena and Ken
Lieblich, Joseph and Jill
Greenbaum, Mindy and Eli
Davidoff, Elisa and Mitchell Gross,
Jonathan and Sonya Speiser; great-
grandchildren, David and Rayna
Berris, Allison, Emily and Hannah
Berris, Daniel, Adam, Rachel and
Noam Greenbaum, Benjamin,
Michal, Yonatan, Yaakov, Aaron and
Tamar Lieblich, Naomi, Elana and
Avi Greenbaum, Gabriel, Erika and
Tara Davidoff, Jordana, Alex and
Joseph Gross, Shelby and Jack
Speiser; sister and brother-in-law,
Ruth and Marvin Herman of
Miami, Fla.; sister-in-law and broth-
er-in-law, Sylvia and Irving Rozman
of Jerusalem, Israel. She was the
beloved wife of the late David I.
Berris;_ sister of the late Abraham
Davidson, the late Beatrice
Davidson and the late Norman
Interment at Eretz HaChaim
Cemetery in Bat Shemesh, Israel.
Arrangements by Hebrew Memorial
Chapel. Contributions may be made
to the Yeshivat Akiva, 21100 W. 12
Mile Road, Southfield, MI 48076.
on page 107