‘WE WILL SEE OUR BEAU­TI­FUL BOY AGAIN’

When six-year-old Craig Sex­ton passed away, his dev­as­tated par­ents had to over­come unimag­in­able pain. Through writ­ing a book about his lit­tle boy’s life, dad Neville en­sured that his mem­ory will live on. Mary Fog­a­rty re­ports on Craig - The Boy who Lives

Bray People - - FACE TO FACE INTERVIEW -

WHEN CRAIG SEX­TON got sick, his par­ents Neville and Bar­bara left their jobs to spend all of their time with their young son.

‘On 2 p.m. on Mon­day, June 26, 2006, my life, the life of my part­ner and the life of our six-year-old son changed for­ever,' wrote Neville in his book - Craig, The Boy Who Lives.

‘It's sim­ply im­pos­si­ble to con­vey real­is­ti­cally the unimag­in­able ter­ror that those min­utes brought.'

He died in Novem­ber. The pain that Neville and Bar­bara felt when Craig was taken from them can only prop­erly be ex­pressed by the child's fa­ther within the pages of his book, as much as his com­fort in the be­lief that their son is still, in some way, alive.

Craig's death came just four months af­ter he was di­ag­nosed with an in­op­er­a­ble and ter­mi­nal brain tu­mour.

Un­til then he had been a ‘ nor­mal' child who went camp­ing in the gar­den, and who won­dered where peo­ple come from. ‘I know I came from Mammy's belly. and that she came from her Mammy's belly. but where did the first per­son come from?' he asked one day, in­ad­ver­tently stum­bling upon the big­gest ques­tion ev­ery posed.

He was a good lis­tener; he loved his mammy, wor­shipped his Daddy and out­wit­ted his par­ents on more than one oc­ca­sion. He charmed strangers, and was, like ev­ery lit­tle boy, the ap­ple of his smit­ten grand­par­ents' eyes. Craig was, most cer­tainly, his own man.

‘I'm writ­ing these words as a man who has lost ev­ery­thing,' wrote Neville. ‘Hold­ing my son in my arms and watch­ing his last breath slip away de­stroyed me. The man I am to­day is some re­con­struc­tion. Bar­bara is the same.'

When he was born it was the great­est day of their lives. Hold­ing him in their arms, just six years on, and watch­ing him die be­fore their eyes was the most dev­as­tat­ing.

A na­tive of Mountainview Drive in Bray, and a for­mer pupil of St. Kil­ian's Com­mu­nity School, Neville moved to Gorey in 2000. Bar­bara is a na­tive of Bree, near En­nis­cor­thy in County Wex­ford.

When the diagnosis came, they both re­alised that the time taken up com­mut­ing to work in Dublin was far too pre­cious. They stayed at home to look af­ter Craig.

‘We strug­gled, and strived, and sac­ri­ficed a lot,' said Neville, who was over­whelmed by a sense of point­less­ness when the lit­tle boy took his last breath. ‘I mo­seyed on, just ex­ist­ing,' he ex­plained. ‘I be­came con­sumed by books. I pre­vi­ously would have passed by the sec­tion on spir­i­tu­al­ity and per­sonal de­vel­op­ment, but then gob­bled up any­thing I could just try­ing to make sense of all this.'

Neville's book charts the life of a happy boy, his ill­ness, de­te­ri­o­ra­tion and death, and the cav­ern of de­spair his par­ents felt in the wake of their loss. How­ever, Neville also re­counts the ex­tra­or­di­nary events that led both him and Bar­bara to be­lieve that Craig is still with them, par­tic­u­larly in their dark­est mo­ments.

The first event took place on De­cem­ber 22, 2006. The pre­vi­ous day, Neville was alone in the house.

This was his first time alone since Craig's death. He walked around look­ing at pic­tures, spend­ing time in his room. ‘I was very emo- tional, re­mem­ber­ing all the won­der­ful times we had to­gether and think­ing of the fu­ture that was de­nied us.'

He broke down in tears, cry­ing out to Craig to let him know that he was ok, some­how. ‘I begged him to find some way of send­ing us a mes­sage to help us cope.' He looked up at a light fix­ture. ‘If you could even just blow that bulb,' he pleaded, point­ing to one spe­cific bulb out of the four that were there.'

The fol­low­ing day, the cou­ple came into the kitchen with shop­ping bags, threw them down on the counter, and Bar­bara asked Neville to turn on the lights. ‘In the in­stant of my push­ing that switch a loud ex­plo­sion oc­curred and Bar­bara screamed. The kitchen floor and counter top were com­pletely cov­ered in shards of bro­ken glass as we cow­ered in com­plete shock.' Neville looked up, and the bulb he had begged Craig to blow had shat­tered.

Other un­usual things have hap­pened, reg­u­larly, ever since. From flick­er­ing lights and power-cuts, to the tug of a jumper, sev­eral over­turned pho­to­graphs, or sim­ply a strange and sud­den chill, each time they be­lieve the boy is com­fort­ing his grief-stricken par­ents.

Af­ter two years had passed, Neville be­gan to write. Bar­bara had given birth to Dean, who started to bring their fam­ily back into fo­cus again.

He had tried many times be­fore to sit down and put some words to­gether on pa­per, but on each at­tempt a pro­found sad­ness pre­vented any clar­ity of thought. Fi­nally, he felt ready. ‘I thought that if I went back to work, I would never get the book writ­ten. I made the de­ci­sion to put pen to pa­per and tell our story.'

As a kind of cathar­sis, and per­haps some hope for an­other ail­ing fam­ily, Neville wanted to doc­u­ment the aw­ful thing that hap­pened, and the peace that fol­lowed. He also wanted to write for his younger son. ‘It is my hope that when Dean is older he can pick up this book and read about the brother he never knew,' said Neville.

The process was dif­fi­cult, and painful but also very en­joy­able. ‘It was a nice jour­ney to go on, re­liv­ing that life again,' said Neville. It took him around six months to write the story, dur­ing which time he laughed and cried, of­ten in pub­lic, sitting in front of his lap­top in a cof­fee shop in Gorey, re­mem­ber­ing a mo­ment from his lit­tle boy's life.

His mind could not com­pute the pos­si­bil­ity that Craig no longer ex­isted. ‘I be­lieved that he was still alive,' ex­plained Neville. ‘I have never been a re­li­gious per­son, but this is not a be­lief, it's a cer­tainty.'

How­ever Neville and Bar­bara still miss their beau­ti­ful boy, ‘un­be­liev­ably so’, even though they know they will meet again.

‘Craig only got to spend six years and a lit­tle over three months with us be­fore fate took his lit­tle hand and walked him away from this world and through to an­other,' said Neville. ‘He was a won­der­ful child in life. And in death he has reached across the veil, even more won­der­fully, to show us that he still lives on. He's our spe­cial Craig - an in­cred­i­ble, dearly loved lit­tle boy.'

Bar­bara, too, hopes that heaven ex­ists, and that she will see her son again. ‘I dream of hear­ing him call­ing out “Mammy” once more, and then catch­ing my hand as he al­ways did.'

LEFT: Craig aged three with mum and dad Bar­bara and Neville;(MID­DLE): The book Craig - The Boy Who Lives and (RIGHT): Daddy and Craig on hol­i­days in Dis­ney­land, Paris, just weeks be­fore he died.

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