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story.lead_photo.caption GRAPHIC BY MARK HUMPHREY ENTERPRISE-LEADER/Photo courtesy of Sorters family Prairie Grove hosted the first annual Jarren Sorters Memorial Baseball tournament in March. More baseball and softball tournaments are upcoming to raise funds in the fight against childhood cancer as part of the ongoing mission of the Play4Jarren Foundation established by his parents, Joey and Donna Sorters.

PRAIRIE GROVE -- Baseball players don't know exactly when their final at-bat will come or when the last pitch they will throw leaves their hand.

Jarren Sorters was 14 when his came during a 14 & Under tournament at Kansas City in June of 2015. Childhood cancer took Jarren Aug. 11, 2016, one month short of his 16th birthday that would have arrived Sept. 11, 2016.

His parents, Joey and Donna Sorters, believe when he died Aug. 11, 2016, Jarren was given a free pass to run the bases because he accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior and was baptized at the age of 7. They are anchored to and comforted by this hope.

"I don't think he was afraid of anything," Joey Sorters said, recalling Jarren's fearlessness as a toddler learning to walk.

Jarren's mother, Donna Sorters, had him on a table learning to walk. Jarren was so overjoyed with his progress taking steps that he began to dance on the table with no fear of falling off.

"He was not afraid of things, he was not afraid to get hit by a ball, he wasn't afraid to fail," Joey Sorters said. "He didn't like to fail. He didn't like to lose, but he wasn't afraid to fail. He would learn from it."

Jarren thrived in pressure situations on the baseball diamond. If the bases were loaded with his team trying to hold onto a 1-run lead, he wanted to be put on the mound to take care of his team.

His drive to win was so strong that his father, Joey Sorters, would think to himself, "I created a monster."

"The competition he got naturally from our family," Donna Sorters said.

"To a fault, I've said that all along," Joey Sorters interjected, explaining when Jarren and younger brother Jackson were very young, Jarren sometimes got frustrated because Jackson wasn't big enough to do what Jarren expected.

The family jokes about the negative side of those traits at home with Jackson as means of keeping him from feeling like a base-runner left stranded with so much attention focused on the family's ordeal. They benefited from hearing the perspective of a grief counselor, who had lost a sibling, early on in the process.

The family is also careful never to compare the brothers, recognizing each individual personality's uniqueness.

"Jackson not only lost his brother, but he lost his built-in best friend," Donna Sorters said. "We try to let Jackson be himself and express his grief in the way he needs to."

The couple doesn't play a blame game that can drain marriages when a child passes.

"There's no way to really blame each other," Joey Sorters said. "This just happened. Jarren wasn't killed in a car wreck. It's not her fault, it's not my fault. It's just the cards we were dealt."

Donna understands that Joey and Jackson may be at a different stage of grief than she is and uses a rubber-band concept to help the family cope.

"It's like a rubber-band ball. There's all these different stages at any given moment," Donna Sorters said. "The grief he's feeling may be different than what I'm feeling. A big part of it is recognizing where I am and where he's at. We might be grieving differently but we're still grieving the same loss."

For many kids, who grow up playing the game, baseball comes naturally and a career-ending episode is far from their minds as they work to get better fielding, throwing and batting. From the day, Aug. 13, 2015, Jarren was diagnosed with cancer through a leg amputation, rehab and chemotherapy, then learning cancer had spread to his lungs and eventual passing, he never complained.

His parents yet marvel at the courage he displayed and draw strength from those memories.

"He never complained. We'd think 'why are you not complaining?'" Joey Sorters said. "He was like, 'We'll fight this or do whatever we have to do.'"

One day, Joey asked Jarren if he was afraid to die. Jarren said, "no." He was more worried about earthly stuff. He was afraid of not being able to play catch with his own son one day or that his girlfriend would forget him.

"He knew he had a relationship with Jesus," Donna Sorters said. "God gave him that spirit of calmness."

Jarren's favorite Bible verse during his battle with cancer was Romans 8:18 - "For I consider the sufferings of the present are not worth comparing to the glory to be revealed to us."

"I don't know how a 15-year-old can face not just death, but amputation and all those other things he went through," Joey Sorters said. "The whole summer of 2015 he was in a living hell. He couldn't sleep. He had reasons to give up and to get mad and quit, but he never did."

A year after his passing, the family envisions Jarren in heaven running the bases full speed with his amputated leg restored in a holy environment free from ill effects of sin and its devastating effects on the human race. No pain, no suffering.

Donna Sorters simply says, "He received the ultimate healing."

Sports on 08/09/2017

Print Headline: Postcards From Heaven

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