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‘Lukie was a supernova’

by Rich Engler

Special to The Greater Olney News

Supernovas are intense, bright and shake the cosmos, but as powerful as they are, the can only exist for a short time, yet the effect they leave behind lasts well beyond what we could ever comprehend.

They are both explosive and disruptive close by, yet also subtle and far reaching.

A supernova — I can think of no better way to describe my son Luke and his life.

These are the words that started the eulogy we spoke for Luke at St. Peter’s in Olney on Nov. 30.

Luke Walter Engler was born Aug. 22, 2011, in Olney, son to Rich and Nancy and brother to Lucy and Amber Engler.

Luke went to Cashell Elementary and had just started first grade in the fall of 2017 when he experienced “wobbles” on the evening on Sept. 21.

After several doctor visits and an MRI, Luke was admitted to Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., and diagnosed on Sept. 29, 2017, with DIPG (Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma).

DIPG is characterized as an extremely rare cancer with about 300 reported cases in the U.S. each year, typically striking children between 4 and 10 years old, where a tumor forms on the brainstem, which due to that location is incredibly hard to treat.

To date, there is no cure for DIPG and has a median survival rate of nine months, with less than 10 percent of children surviving past 24 months and less than 1 percent of those diagnosed surviving beyond five years.

As Luke’s parents, we approached this very challenging and difficult diagnosis with positivity and strength, which we had more of than we could have ever imagined — likely coming from Luke — and we did all we could to give Lukie options to fight DIPG.

Admittedly, this was anything but a fair fight, with long odds against beating DIPG, but odds weren’t what we were focused on. We believe that we can’t change the things that happen to us in this life, we can only choose how to react, and we chose and are choosing to find the good amidst the bad.

What we did focus on was family. We focused on a phrase, “Expect Miracles Both Big and Small Every Day,” and because of that approach we see the miracles that surround our life.

Luke led the way down dark paths, yet he shined a light that illuminated those paths and gave strength to those around him.

I have tried to write this article for some time now. I’ve started and stopped multiple times. I have written and erased, copy and pasted, but haven’t felt satisfied with the words that came out.

I wrote about the facts, the medical necessities of Lukie’s diagnosis, detailing radiation treatments, clinic visits, medications and challenges that path held. I have also written about the way Luke inspired those around him, how our days were spent detailing the special moments we had as a family.

All we chronicled on Facebook at LukesSquad, but they ring hollow when trying to express what a profound experience our Luke and our family went through.

You see, we are forever changed by the events that unfolded after Luke’s diagnosis. On the morning of Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018, Lukie’s journey here on Earth ended, but it feels as though that was just the ending of a chapter and many more have yet to be written.

As a family we appreciate life in ways we never could have conceived of before. We have been witnesses to acts of kindness and charity from family, friends and strangers. We have seen the very best that every individual had to offer, whether they were already a part of or just entered into our lives.

Luke went by so many different names — Lukie, the Nugget, Buddy, K9-1 (a callsign given by the Montgomery Country K9 unit to Luke, who was made part of the squad in the spring of 2018) and many others, each of which were used to signify the love and respect we had for a 7-year-old boy, who as his father approaching my 48th birthday, I hope and pray to be half the man he showed himself to be.

Luke was kind and thought of others before himself, he loved his family, his sisters Lucy and Amber, so much.

Lukie was brave, showed strength and wisdom beyond his years, and exhibited a tenderness that reflected his innocence, yet also a mischievous nature that brought a smile to all of us.

Lukie was a supernova.


Rich Engler and his family live in Olney.

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