When Radley was born, my daughter and I went up to the hospital to meet him. He was so sweet and I loved getting to see the instant bond my daughter had with him. A few months later my son was born. Atticus and Radley were the most precious babies together. I called them The Mockingbird Boys as they were both named for characters in To Kill a Mockingbird. I am so grateful that our families lived close enough to get to spend time together regularly and for a about a year and a half, life was perfect.
Then we got the news that Radley had leukemia. I was actually supposed to babysit him the day they found out. I remember waiting for them to come to the house and then worrying when I couldn't reach them. Life changed forever that day.
Over the next year and a half, we did not get to see Radley much. Between his limitations from treatments and my kiddos general childhood exposures, getting time to actually visit was few and far between. Technology allowed us (and many others) to keep up with Radley and see how he was doing. I was always amazed at how smart he was and loved to hear his sweet voice. The few times we did get to see him were incredibly precious, even more so now.
Obviously, any emotions I have pale in comparison to what his parents have gone through and what they experienced yesterday. I learned that my cousin is one of the strongest women I have ever known. I know she had serious ups and downs, as would be expected, but she always put Radley's needs first and reflected on each win and set back with a grace I could only hope to have.
This is not the first person I loved that I have lost but that didn't lessen the pain. My grief patterns don't follow typical stereotypes. I don't cry a lot and often my practical side takes over, rationalizing situations. It's taken me years to not feel awkward about that and just accept it's who I am. This time has been no different. Radley's death was tragic and my heart broke. I cried and then cried again when I had to tell my daughter. Then the tears stopped. Even yesterday, although my heart was sad and I had a melancholy feel about the day, I was not able to cry - my mind just kept going back to Radley and his parents.
I debated how to honor Radley. I sent forever flowers (made from wood so they will never die) to his parents and talked with my little family about what we should do here. We decided to buy a special bush and plant it in our yard. I think we will do this each year as we remember the wonderful child that he was and the happiness he brought into our lives. We will also be donating to childhood cancer research in his name each year.
I believe that God never had plans for children to die of cancer (or any of the other horrible things that happen in this world). Our world has made choices throughout time that create tragedies for others - often those that didn't deserve it. It doesn't make it easier to understand or experience, but for me, my faith in God is my refuge of peace. I trust in His love, grace, and mercy to carry me through the dark moments of this life. My prayer is that very soon we WILL find cures for all the different types of cancer, and other parents and families will not have to experience this kind of pain.
Radley Moon McChristian - you were a beautiful light that is missed greatly.