The photo was taken during the 15-year-old Ramapo High School sophomore's last game ever played, and two years into treatment for Ewing Sarcoma, according to his dad, Mark Landers.
The Franklin Lakes teen fought cancer tenaciously since 2019, and never let it dull his passion for baseball. In fact, the sport gave him a reason to keep on swinging.
During his treatment, he was always looking one step ahead, focusing on how he could get better and get back on the field.
So, earlier this week, when Charlie learned that he was in the midst of his final hours, he looked ahead. What faced him was his legacy.
"He never wanted to be remembered as a cancer patient or be defined by his sickness," his dad said. "He just wanted to be Charlie."
The day before he died, Charlie asked his parents to send him a picture of himself on the baseball field. The one he got was of him during the last game he ever pitched.
"Own the mound," is what Charlie captioned his post.
A few hours later — at 6:30 a.m., on Tuesday, March 8 —, Charlie slipped away, his parents by his side and a long, long line of physicians at the door, waiting to pay their respects.
The teen's dad says his final photo was his way of saying goodbye on his own terms. The post garnered countless condolences, many of them noting Charlie's unparalleled fortitude.
"Dude represents what it’s about better than anyone 🔥❤️🔥," one person wrote.
"This reminds me of the time you blasted that huge bomb over the fence in Waldwick into the woods," another said. "That was awesome for you and so awesome for all of us to watch in the stands. You owned that pitcher."
Charlie's coaches spoke to his brawn.
Charlie grew up loving all sports: Swimming, soccer, and basketball, to name a few. But baseball had his heart.
"He really took pride in it," his father said.
He was in eighth grade when he was diagnosed with cancer. After six months of treatment, Charlie went into remission. But then, the cancer came back. This time, in his lungs.
"The drive to get back to the baseball field served as the driving force to get Charlie through his treatments," his father said.
He never missed an opportunity to play, or to practice.
One day last spring, Charlie had finished treatment at Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and wanted to go to practice, his dad recalled.
"I dropped him off and said, 'You know your body, don't push yourself. Even if you're just there standing next to the coach, don't overexert yourself.'"
When Landers returned to practice later that evening for pick-up, he saw the team doing wind sprints with Charlie smack in the middle running up and down the field.
"In the face of having chemo that day and everything he was going through, he didn’t ask out," his dad said. "He said, 'If the team is doing sprints, I’m doing sprints,' to the point where he walked to the car and collapsed in my arms."
It was cases like these that personified Charlie's spirit and drive. "He was fighting up until the very end," his dad said.
There were many letdowns during Charlie's battle, his dad said, but he focused on the positive, and on what he could control.
The outpouring of support that Charlie's family is receiving speaks to who he was: A champion for the underdog and a friend to all.
"At 15 years old, Charlie has been fighting cancer since 13 — this has been his life," his dad said. "This is not the life that he wanted. He had to put a lot of his aspirations on hold. As spiritual as we are, we can gain strength from the fact that God has a bigger plan."
In the months before he died, Charlie expressed he wanted to put together baskets for others battling cancer, each one containing seven items to help them through their treatment. Seven, because that was his baseball number.
"Charlie has more to accomplish and he will," his dad said. "He’s just not going to accomplish that on this earth."
He is survived by his parents, Mark and Lisa; sister Annie; paternal grandparents, John and Jane Landers; and maternal grandmother, Susan Campbell.
Visitation will be from 2 to 4 p.m., and 7 to 9 p.m., on Thursday, March 10 at the Vander Plaat Funeral Home in Wyckoff. A Funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. on Friday, March 11 at the St. Elizabeth’s Church, in Wyckoff.
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