The simple words this 3-year-old spoke to his brother are heartbreaking and beautiful.
Having a big brother to watch over us is a gift at any time in our lives. He’s the go-to guy when you’re children together, and still when you’re adults. He helps with homework, babysits, deters would-be bullies and lends a sympathetic ear when that date didn’t go well, or you’re feeling misunderstood. That said, he also hogs the remote control, finishes all the frozen yogurt (and anything else yummy) in the house, pushes all your buttons, and embarrasses you in front of friends. That’s the beautiful give and take of sibling love.
And nothing demonstrates that love better than a photo Sheryl Blanksby from Western Australia shared on Instagram in March of her sons, 3-year-old William, and 4-month-old Thomas.
On the surface this tender photo of William delicately touching his brother’s cheek might seem just like an extra cute but fairly ordinary family pic. However, when mom captured this moment she overheard William comforting his brother Thomas—who was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer—softly cooing these reassuring words: “Big brother is here, everything is OK.”
As a newborn, Thomas was born with a seemingly harmful skin lesion but at six weeks doctors discovered a lump over his abdomen that with further tests proved to be a malignant rhabdoid tumour over his kidney, that has now spread to his lungs, hipbones, and was responsible for his skin lesion at birth. The only help that doctors can give is to relieve as much pain as possible and to try and offer Thomas some quality of life, no matter how short it will be.
Looking at the photos Blanksby has posted on Instagram we can only marvel at how joyous their family life seems to be. Sheryl and her husband Jon explained how. “we as a family are trying to cope the best way we can, but it has been very hard.” She adds that, “there are tears and that immense pain of losing someone you love so much. We film him constantly and stare at him and kiss him.” The couple is determined to not waste one precious moment with their boys; wanting to “go on fruit-picking trips, outdoor movies, family photo shoots, water parks, or even a hot air balloon if that’s allowed for 3 months old.”
Knowing that their time together is short, the Blanksbys also explain how the devastating illness has put their life in perspective: “We often get caught up in our own little world of first problems and we sweat the small stuff, or complain about things that don’t matter.” But now those things don’t seem quite as important as just spending time together. The couple is determined to seize life’s gifts, saying, “We forget how to be grateful of the things and life we have. We must live with a purpose, gratitude, and magnitude of love.” And this depth of that love certainly emanates from this beautiful family photo.
Although Blanksby said that William is aware that maybe doctors can’t save his little brother, he seems determined to shower him with love in the short time he has left. It’s wonderful to see how a 3-year-old can remind us all how that special sibling bond should be cherished as a gift; one that we so often take for granted. So to all our big (and little) brothers and sisters out there, remember what ties us together is a unique bond that can only magnify our love.
UPDATE: Sadly Mrs. Blanksby posted on Instagram at the beginning of the month: “It is with immense sadness that we share, our #littlewarriorthomas grew his angel wings yesterday night, 8th of May 2017 at 730pm.” Doctors had expected Thomas to live just a few weeks after birth but the little Thomas defied them by living to five months. His mother explained how her baby died surrounded by his loving family.
Tragically for the Blanksbys this is not the first death of a baby they’ve had to cope with. Mrs Blanksby added to her post: “His baby sibling who we miscarried before him that had the same due date was also taken away from us the same date 2 years ago and they are now together with our loved ones who are looking down upon us. He’s no longer in pain is our only consolation.”
Our thoughts and prayers are with all the family.