‘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
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.