It is hard to think of anything that could bring more pain to someone than the death of a child. Particularly when that child is very young, with a whole lifetime ahead of them, and so much potential, joy and enjoyment, for themselves and that they would bring to others, that will go unrealised.
As such, friends and fans of US comedian, actor and writer Rob Delaney, star of Catastrophe, rushed to offer their sympathies when he announced back in February that his young son Henry had died at the age of two, after suffering from cancer.
As Delaney explained: “Henry had been diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2016, shortly after his first birthday, following persistent vomiting and weight loss. He had surgery to remove the tumor and further treatment through the early part of 2017. Then the cancer returned last autumn and he died in January.”
Delaney was at pains to stress his gratitude to the many people who had helped make Henry’s life as enjoyable, writing:
“The NHS nurses and doctors and the home carers and charity workers who helped our family survive Henry’s illness will be my heroes until the day I die. I am desperately sad right now, but I can say with authority that there is good in this world.”
Now, seven months on, Delaney has decided to publish part of a book proposal that he put together before Henry’s tumour returned. The intended audience for the book was to be other parents of very sick children; understandably, Delaney stopped writing when it became clear that Henry’s illness was terminal, but he has decided to release it to help those who are going through the same experience.
He explains: “They were always so tired and sad, like ghosts, walking the halls of the hospitals, and I wanted them to know someone understood and cared. I’d still like them to know that, so here these few pages are, for them. Or for you.”
In it, Delaney details the joy young Henry found in things just like other boys his age, the difficulties - and the humour - in dealing with his condition and the many hospital visits which he inspiringly talks about, saying:
“I may wish Henry wasn’t in the hospital and it may make me f*cking sick that my kids [Delaney has two other sons haven’t lived under the same roof for over a year. But I’m always, always happy to enter the hospital every morning and see him. It’s exciting every day to walk into his room and see him and see him see me.”
You can read the full thing here - be warned, make sure you’ve got some tissues nearby and aren’t feeling particularly delicate - but it is truly a moving and wonderful thing for Delaney to have given to us all.
Also, you may note that we have not used the word “battle” or “fight” to describe Henry’s experiences; this is because those words suggest that succumbing to the disease means you have lost, or insinuates that you were not brave. Far from it: Henry and Rob clearly looked into the face of a truly terrible thing and made the absolute best of it, continuing with Delaney’s decision to share his experiences. As he writes, when it became clear that Henry would not survive after the second tumour was diagnosed: “My wife and his brothers and I just wanted to be with him around the clock and make sure his final months were happy. And they were.”
We’d like to repeat another paragraph from Delaney’s announcement back in February:
If you’d like to help other families in the UK with very sick children, please make a donation to Rainbow Trust or Noah’s Ark in Henry’s name or in the name of someone you love. Our family would be in much worse shape right now if it weren’t for them. I would also urge you to take concrete and sustained action to support the NHS, however you can. Do not take it for granted.
(Image: Rob Delaney)