In 2017, mother of two Rachel Cooper discovered that she was pregnant for the third time. But the news was bittersweet; her 9-year-old son Bailey had just relapsed from cancer for the second time.
Contrary to expectations, however, young Bailey was joyous. “All he was concerned about was meeting his little sister,” Bailey’s dad, Lee Cooper, 31, told People.
But Bailey’s instincts were also tuned in to his health and he knew something wasn’t right. “He could feel it in himself,” Lee continues.
The family received the devastating news in late August of 2017. Bailey wouldn’t survive.
How long did he have? Maybe days, maybe weeks, came the inconclusive reply from doctors. Bailey’s parents were upfront with him about his situation.
However, Bailey was preoccupied, says Lee: “He was thinking, ‘Oh no, I won’t meet my sister!’”
Nine-year old Bailey had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 2016 and had already been through an arduous battle with the disease. Rachel and Lee, from Bristol in the United Kingdom, told Bailey and their younger son, Riley, 7, that they were getting a new baby sister, Millie.
To their surprise and delight, the news uplifted the boys, especially Bailey. “He was completely over the moon,” says Lee.
Bailey refused to leave his mom’s side, hugging her, reading stories to the baby, and singing to them both. “He’d sing just so the baby would be familiar with his voice,” says an emotional Lee.
Baby Millie was born on Nov. 30, 2017. And, true to his wish, Bailey was there to meet her.
The family were overjoyed and overwhelmed by Bailey’s ability to hang on for the birth of his baby sister. It was love at first sight; Bailey couldn’t wait to reach the hospital and couldn’t bear to leave once he did.
“He was getting quite frail … shuffling his feet. We had to pass Millie to him. He just sat in the chair with Millie in his arms and he wouldn’t let her go,” Lee recalls. “The short time he was with her, he would hold her every day.”
Millie and her two brothers were united by a strong bond in those first few days of her life, and the beautiful photos will save those memories for all time.
Despite his weakness, Bailey was determined to help feed Millie, bathe her, and change her. He even sang to her before his strength ran out.
On Christmas Eve, 2017, Bailey passed away.
The Coopers have struggled since Bailey’s death. Despite knowing his prognosis, it was always going to be desperately difficult to say goodbye. Baby Millie has helped keep the family strong and positive, although without Bailey’s help, Rachel’s daily tasks have multiplied.
“[I miss his] presence … It’s such a difficult time, but at the same time, you look back and we were lucky to have nine-and-a-half great years with him,” Rachel said.
The family are keeping Bailey’s memory alive by talking about him every day. Millie is shown pictures of her big brother so that she grows up knowing who he is.
When Rachel and Lee say Bailey’s name, Millie can point at his picture, Lee explains proudly: “Her face lights up every time she sees a picture of Bailey … There’s no way she’s ever not going to know who he is.”
The legacy of Bailey’s bravery, determination, and love for his baby sister gives his family strength every single day.
Share this touching story with loved ones on social media. Are you inspired by Bailey’s determination?