Konrad Kristopher Holmes
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - The Cherokee Nation flag at the Tribal Complex was lowered to half-staff Nov. 9 in honor of former Sequoyah High School student and Cherokee citizen Konrad Holmes, who passed away Nov. 7. A day later, the high school held funeral services for one of its most courageous students who succumbed to a long battle with a rare cancer at the age of 19.
"He wouldn't let us get down," said his mother, Penny Holmes. "He always said, â€˜God has a reason.'"
Konrad Kristopher Holmes was born Jan. 26, 1985, in Tahlequah and died at his home in the Rocky Mountain community near Stilwell, Okla.
Konrad enrolled in SHS as a freshman in the fall of 2000, running cross-country, but only attended one year. At the beginning of his sophomore year, he was diagnosed with nasal pharyngeal cancer and was forced to stop attending school. The cancer initially attacked his sinus cavities, but eventually spread to his lungs, abdomen and left hip.
Konrad stayed at home during his sophomore and junior years of high school battling the disease, but completed all of his class assignments.
"I had to do all of my schoolwork at home," he said. "I had a tutor who brought me my work every Tuesday and Thursday, but I pretty much taught myself a lot of subjects. I would work on it when I felt like it during the day. I worked hard and never gave up hope. Some days I would lie in bed, not able to get up, and I'd turn over and try to do my homework."
As a senior, the disease appeared to be in remission. Konrad re-entered SHS and was even involved in some of the school clubs such as National Honor Society, American Indian Science and Engineering Students, American Indian Math and Science Club and student council. But Labor Day weekend 2003 would bring bad news. The cancer had returned, affecting his left hip, lungs and abdomen.
Doctors told Konrad that he had only weeks to live because untreatable tumors had spread throughout his body. He then decided to spend his remaining time finishing high school, and in an emotional ceremony held Sept. 29, 2003, Konrad graduated early from SHS as a member of the class of 2004.
However, in a routine examination months later Konrad's cancer had gone into remission.
"The doctors were very shocked," his mother said. "I guess you could say it was truly a miracle."
Konrad showed progress until earlier this year when he began feeling pain in his left leg. Within two weeks, he was confined to a wheelchair. Doctors found inoperable tumors infused on his leg and spine that doubled in size within a week.
Penny Holmes said his last real outing was Oct. 23 to watch his brother Kasper help Sequoyah's cross-country boys team win the Class 2A state title in Shawnee, Okla.
"It was almost as if he saved up his last shred of energy for that," she said.
Konrad enjoyed hanging out with friends at his Rocky Mountain home, watching movies, hunting and fishing. His hobbies and extracurricular activities included cross-country running, arts and crafts and listening to music. Holmes was also a faithful member of Barber Baptist Church.
He is survived by his parents Kenneth and Penny Holmes; two brothers, Kasper and Kolton; grandparents, Floyd and Betty Jones of Rocky Mountain and Lillian Holmes of Bunch, Okla.; great-grandmother, Lula Holland of Hulbert, Okla.; and a half brother, Joshua of Tahlequah.
Konrad was laid to rest at God's Flower Garden in Adair County under the direction of Hart Funeral Home.
"No matter what adversities you face in life, keep your eyes on God and have unfailing faith in Him," Konrad reminded people from time to time. "God will never leave you, so don't leave Him, and if you just look around, there is always someone who has it worse than you. Just open your heart and love, not judge."