When Lee and Rachel Cooper, of Bristol, U.K., revealed to their sons that Rachel was pregnant with their baby sister, the family couldn’t have been happier. However, their revelation was darkened as their 9-year-old son, Bailey, had just been told that he had relapsed from his cancer remission for the second time. Devastatingly, the prognosis this time was fatal.
“All he was concerned about was meeting his little sister. Bailey knew something wasn’t right. He could feel it in himself,” Bailey’s dad, Lee Cooper, 31, told PEOPLE. “We got told the news in late August that he wasn’t going to survive. We were told it was days to weeks. We were very open with him. He was taking it in … He was thinking, ‘Oh no, I won’t meet my sister.’”
For the next several months, Bailey fought his non-Hodgkins lymphoma diagnosis, hoping to live long enough to meet his baby sister. The little boy was more excited than most children to have a little sibling, and he wanted to hold on just a little while longer.
“He was amazing. He was adamant about being around Rachel,” Lee said. “He’d always be cuddling her, trying to listen to the baby in her tummy. He’d sing to her. He was just anticipating meeting her. He’d read stories while resting his head on her tummy. He’d sing just so the baby would be familiar with his voice.”
Bailey was determined to live long enough to meet his baby sister, Millie, who was born just a few months later. (Photo Credit: Provided)
Incredibly, Bailey managed to hang on until his baby sister was due. He was adamant that he would see her at least once before he passed away. So, when baby Millie was born, the big brother was absolutely over the moon.
“He just managed to hang on, basically. How he did it, we don’t know,” Lee said of his son, adding that he was “smitten” with little Millie. “He’d come into the hospital, he sat down. He was getting quite frail, but he’d come straight in as quick as he could, 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.”
For the next few weeks, Bailey savored every moment with Millie. However, he finally grew too weak to hold her or even sing to her like he loved to do.
“It was amazing, but it was hard to see as well. He was completely smitten by her,” Lee recalled. “The short time he was with her, he would hold her every day. He’d be by her side. He fed her. He bathed her. He changed her. He sang to her every day until he physically couldn’t do it anymore.”
Knowing that he would soon die, Bailey comforted his family. Before he became unresponsive, he uttered 10 words that his family will never forget, they told The Bristol Post.
Speaking about his new baby sister, he said, “I want to stay, but it’s my time to go.” He then explained that he had to move on “to become her guardian angel.”
Over the next two days, Bailey grew sicker. Along with Millie and 7-year-old brother Riley, Rachel and Lee remained at his side as his breathing became increasingly shallow and irregular.
“Myself and Rachel sat by his bedside and we both knew it was time for him to go,” Lee said. “We whispered in his ear, ‘It’s OK; we love you very much. You need to stop now. It’s time for you to go.’ At that moment, he took his last breath and shed one tear.”
With Bailey’s passing, an unfillable hole was left in the Cooper family. However, baby Millie has brought much peace and joy to help them overcome their grief, and they’ve made sure she knows who her big brother is through pictures and videos of him.