The extraordinary parents of Ty Louis Campbell, known for good reason, as SuperTy, opened their hearts and their family's story to us in unimaginably brave ways. They shared the agony and inspiration of caring for and losing a child. Their child. Her child became our child because his mom, Cindy, wrote her way through her young son's heroic fight against a rare and aggressive brain cancer.
She let us sit beside her as she cherished the chance to bathe and snuggle her best little boy when he was not in the hospital. She shared "smile of the day" photos, allowing us a window into her indescribable ability to find joy and gratitude in the most horrific experience a parent can imagine.
Cindy's words provide profound life lessons for all of us who are parenting or caring for children.
Dealing with death head on
In this post I shared Cindy's heartbreaking news that medicine had no more tricks up its sleeve for Ty, no more surgeries, treatments, no more hope.
In Cindy's blog, this brave mom revealed in raw, insightful detail the psychological landscape of how a mother holds on tightly to hope of a miracle (because her son, pulled off his fair share of miraculous rebounds) while experiencing the agonizing process of letting go, and then the most despairing of all, the final loss of her boy. It's an impossible story she tells with elegance, dignity and the rawest of honesty.
I describe Cindy as the most astonishing woman I've never met.
Grieving parents become giving parents
It has been one month since Ty's death. Since then, his mom, dad and little brother, Gavin, have celebrated and shared Ty's life and joy and power by holding vigils, building an incredible foundation for childhood cancer research, and serving as a precious example of how for some grieving parents, losing a child can not only be survived but can offer another kind of miracle – a new life's purpose. Make no mistake, she is brutally honest about how relentless the pain, grief and loss are. But she also shares all the other experiences as well - her gratitude for all the love and support her family has received; the incredibly community of cancer patients, their families and the medical professionals who cared so well for them; and for the lessons of life, love, spirituality, faith, joy and hope she learned from her beautiful son's short life. Having lived through my own family tragedy, I have to admit I am in awe of her optimism, her attitude and her energy in the face of it all. So I want everyone to meet this woman and her family, and to read her words and learn from her experience.
I'd like to share with you some of the blog post that Ty's mom wrote, sharing the awful news and precious process of her beautiful boy's passing.
"Ty Louis Campbell is gone, but his story continues. This is our promise to him. His impact on the world around him gives his short but inspirational life such meaning. His soaring spirit will continue to fuel a fire in our hearts, and strangers around the world will continue to fall in love with the little boy who fought so valiantly. The little boy who hurt so much, but maintained a bigger, brighter smile than the healthiest of children.
Ty never did break his fever. He never really woke up. Not until he decided to leave this earth and fly freely among the clouds. At that very moment, he was awake. He had returned to Lou and I to say goodbye. To say our hearts are broken would be like saying it tickles to have your stomach ripped open with a spoon.
I went to bed last night with so much worry on my mind, but I was able to fall asleep because I was calmed by the fact that in his semi-conscious state, Ty seemed so incredibly peaceful and comfortable. I lay down next to him, I put his arms around my neck, and I fell asleep to the sound of his soft, garbled breathing. In my head I thought, "If he doesn't wake up around 3 in the morning and ask to go downstairs, he isn't going to wake up from this." In the morning while he continued to sleep, I sat with my mother and I finally heard the words come out of my mouth, "I think Ty is going to die today." I didn't want to know this, to feel this, but I knew. … I scooped Ty into my arms while Lou wrapped us both in his. For a moment, Ty's eyes remained open and I stared into them so intently because I needed to be sure that he was witnessing something beautiful. I promise you he was. Through our tears we assured Ty that it was okay for him to go because he was taking us with him in his heart. Over and over we told him I love you. We told him how proud we are of him. We thanked him for letting us be his parents. We encouraged him to play, to eat candy in heaven and to slide down the rainbows into huge puddles of mud. His last breath was a tremendous gasp - not because he was gasping for air - it was a gasp like when you witness something beautiful and exciting. Like fireworks. I have to believe with all my heart that he was excited."
Please continue reading this story in Cindy's blog, and share her words with others who may need comfort and inspiration this holiday season.
Read more about SuperTy and his remarkable family: