Joel Green, The Child Who Inspired That Dragon, Cancer, Has Passed Away

Joel Green, The Child Who Inspired That Dragon, Cancer, Has Passed Away

Joel Green, the young boy whose battle with terminal cancer inspired Josh Larson's intensely personal game, That Dragon, Cancer, has succumbed to his illness. He was five years old.

In a blog post late last night, Green's mother Amy wrote that he had been taken to Children's Hospital in San Francisco after his health had been declining more rapidly than usual. At the time he was admitted, the nurse estimated he had a week left.

The image above, of Joel and his father Ryan, was shared on the That Dragon, Cancer website. Its accompanying text reads: "Awake, oh, awake my Joel / and see the place He has prepared for you."

The sadness and hope of That Dragon, Cancer was beautifully captured by Jenn Frank in this essay from 2013. Here's Jenn:

This is admittedly a pretty audacious effort, to invent an entire game narrative about this one event that — how can I say this in a gracious way — hasn't transpired yet. Yet.

This is an ugly truth, but look. This is probably coming. I'm sorry. This is a game about something that is only inevitably coming.

But it's coming for all of us.

And that is the loveliest thing about That Dragon, Cancer: we will all meet this thing, or have already met it. Maybe that should be scary, but That Dragon, Cancer is about sustaining the hope and joy of life for just as long as we can.

I like poetry. That Dragon, Cancer is entirely made up of poetry. An old poetry professor of mine is waiting to die of some rare blood cancer. The wonderful thing about his certain-death cancer is, he could die tomorrow, or he could die at ninety. "Certain death" is incredibly silly that way.

What was it e.e. cummings said? It was some line of poetry. How did it go? It went something like, "for life's not a paragraph. And death I think is no parenthesis." I have no idea what it means; I just like it.

We offer our condolences to Joel's family.


    Oh man. I remember this and I remember that amazingly ambitious game from last year. Really heartbreaking to hear this terrible disease claimed another life. It took me a long time to recover from my grandpas death, I dread to even contemplate how long it would take to recover from your own childs... I don't even want to. I can't even begin to say how deep my sympathies are and how genuine they are, but I admit, when my son comes home today from school he's getting the biggest cuddle from me I can manage 'just because'. :(

    well fuck... I really needed to burst into tears at work this morning.

    it's terrible when a parent outlives their child :(

    My son is five years old. My heart's breaking for people I don't even know. Life just sucks sometimes.

    My little girl would have been 4. She was taken before she turned 2.
    Ryan has really poured his heart and soul into creating a wonderful legacy for Joel.
    My thoughts are with Ryan and his family at this excruciating time

    i have an 18month old little girl, the thought of losing her so young destroys me inside. cancer the silent assassin is a scary thing to have to deal with, i pray i never need to deal with it with my child(ren).

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