CARY, N.C. -- For twelve-year-old Cameron Massengill, there would be no easing into the shallow end of the pool for his first scuba diving adventure.

That was not the way his parents, Bo and Shari, operated. So in they went, into the deep Mexico waters for some cave diving. Cameron was terrified, but only at first. Shari was there, holding his hand.

Having her there made everything okay.

2015 NCAA Division II Baseball Championship
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It was beautiful at those depths, exploring and then rising through the layers of salt and fresh water. Cameron would never forget the experience, nor the lesson. Life is too short to spend it living on the sidelines.

What Cameron did not know at the time was that his mom was already a breast cancer survivor, having had a mastectomy and six months of chemotherapy when he was just a baby. It was not something Shari ever dwelled upon, or ever even told Cameron. He was sixteen before he would find out.

He had “zero idea” that something so serious had ever happened to his mom. Some boys, they might get embarrassed hugging Mom. Not Cameron.

“I was kind of living in a bubble,” he said. “Nothing ever went wrong. I was always happy.”

The whole family was, for that matter. There was a lake house, where they loved to waterski and wakeboard. Scuba diving was big, too. Bo is an aircraft dispatcher for American Airlines, which afforded the Massengills the opportunity to travel.

Shari had this saying, and it was one by which she always lived her life.

Be kind always. You never know what the other person is going through.

It could not possibly have been a truer statement, and especially so in Shari’s case. The Massengills also loved motorcycles, and so it was in September 2013 that Bo and Shari did a circumnavigation of their native Texas. Toward the end of the trip, she wasn’t feeling well and the feeling only intensified as time progressed.

A trip to the emergency room led to a hospital stay, and it was there that the diagnosis came down.

Colon cancer.
 
The only thing left to do was to tell Cameron, a self-confessed “momma’s boy.” Bo made the call. A catcher for Angelo State, nearly four full hours from the family’s home in Kennedale, Texas just outside Dallas, Cameron was ready to quit school and head to her side then and there.

That was not happening. Shari was loving, but firm.

“It was never a question with her,” Bo said. “He was not coming home. She did not want that to be a burden. She knew baseball was his biggest thing in the world, and it would keep him occupied.”

So while Cameron concentrated on baseball at Angelo State, Shari underwent another six months of chemo and holistic therapy. By late October or early November in 2014 -- the dates tend to run together now for both Bo and Cameron -- she felt well enough to go on another long-distance motorcycle ride.

This time … this time Shari would not recover when she began not feeling well. She died on Thursday, November 27.

It was Thanksgiving Day.

“She loved him more than life,” Bo said in a team press release. “Her biggest fear wasn’t dying. It was never seeing Cameron again. That was the hardest and saddest thought she had. Everything that is good in Cameron came from Shari.”

Just five short months later, Cameron and his Angelo State teammates find themselves in the NCAA Division II Baseball Championship. He’s a rifle-armed catcher who’s thrown out thirty-three would-be base stealers coming into the week and another one Monday against Henderson State.

His mom, Cameron knows, would be “ecstatic” about her only child playing for a title. It’s big for Bo, too, who despite never attending practice was right there this week, at practice, not wanting to miss a thing.

“She would be jumping up and down, kissing me and hugging me, telling me how proud she is of me,” Cameron said. “This is huge. When I first went to Angelo State, it was my goal to get here. Now that we’re here, especially after all that happened, I know she’s still out there watching somewhere, wherever that is. This is awesome.”