Friday, June 20, 2008

Robert Lavender, 1970 - 1983

Today would be my cousin Robert Lavender's 38th birthday. I say "would be" because Robert died when he was 13. He was the first person I knew who died or at least he's the first person who died who's death resonated with me.

When Robert was 18 months old, he was diagnosed with Leukemia. Although his family lived in Roanoke, Virginia, his parents drove all night after the diagnosis to take him to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. At the time of his diagnosis in 1971, children didn't survive Leukemia for very long. In fact, his diagnosis wasn't good and the family was told he wouldn't live more than a couple of years.

St. Jude's was chosen as the place Robert would receive his treatments for a few reasons. First, it was the leading hospital in the country for children. Second, and probably most important, Robert's family lived in Roanoke, Virginia with no other family around. Our Great Aunt Mazie lived in Memphis and the entire maternal side of the family lived 60 miles south of Memphis in Batesville, Mississippi, and they would provide invaluable support over the years.

Over the course of his short life, Robert touched many people and was truly a miracle. He had one of the first bone marrow transplants in children. I remember him going in and out of remission over the years, but he never complained. He was one of the happiest people I knew. Despite his illness and inability to really go to school like other kids, Robert was a Boy Scout, which was one of the things his mom was so proud of.

Robert became so beloved at St. Jude that one year the St. Jude Christmas card featured his silhouette. Today, that silhouette is the St. Jude logo seen around the world.

When he died in 1983, many celebrities, including St. Jude Founder and Actor Danny Thomas attended his funeral.

You've probably heard of St. Jude's through their many fundraisers and television infomercials. One of the things I love about St. Jude's and that makes it truly unique is that they have never turned away any children because of the family's inability to pay. Every child accepted as a patient is treated and loved. Because of that and what they did for my family, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is one of my favorite charities

Surviving until he was 13 was truly a miracle for my cousin Robert. And today, on his birthday, I can't help but think of the lives he continues to touch because of the medical breakthroughs achieved during his treatments at St. Jude.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for leaving a comment on Little Merry Sunshine. Due to the volume of spam comments, all comments must be approved to ensure they are not spam or spambots. Thank you for understanding.