On February 13th, I had the great honor of sitting down with the Cox family. Their sweet family came over to my house, and I sat with my laptop as they so lovingly invited me in to their family time. They shared about Brenten, his life, and about their precious family. It will be a night that I will never forget. The love that this amazing family has for their son and brother Brenten who died from a brain tumor on March 7, 2016 at the young age of 10 years old and for one another is so deep. These were priceless moments as I learned more and more about their warrior Brenten and the battle that he so bravely fought. After that night, Delores and I continued the conversation about Brenten, his diagnosis, their times with him, and she gave me some glimpses into their grief.
Throughout the night, the love and joy that Brenten brought his family throughout his life that was cut way too short poured through everything that Brenten’s family shared about him and his life. Brenten’s parents shared that as a baby Brenten had colic for approximately a year. After Brenten did not have to battle colic anymore, then his parents shared that Brenten was so happy and very active. Freddie & Delores shared the Brenten was tough physically and described him as “rough & tumble” and accident prone. They shared that their boy was always confident and was always winning.
Freddie described Brenten as a warrior from the start. Freddie shared that at approximately four years old that Freddie completely had Brenten with his legs pinned to his chest and upside down. Freddie smiled as he recalled the scene. He said that even though Brenten could not move then he exclaimed to his dad, “I got you now!!” This fun memory illustrates how Brenten was always showing how he was always winning with his words “I got you now!” even though Brenten could not move.
The family traveled with Freddie when he had to travel for work from when Brianna was 9 months old to when she was approximately four years old. Delores homeschooled Brenten until he was in the first grade during this time. She described him as ornery during these homeschool days. She shared that he was really smart and would pick up on concepts so easily. She also said that he was perfectionistic and that he could have a temper melt down if he did not learn his name correctly. Delores clearly treasures each moment that she has had with her son that she misses with every part of her.
When Brenten went on to school then he did extremely well. Brenten earned straight A’s in school and never wanted to miss even when he felt sick. One morning, Brenten’s medication was causing him to be so physically sick, but when the school bus pulled up, then he still wanted to go. Brianna shared that Brenten was crazy to go to school when he could have a day off. Brenten loved to go to the creek and play basketball with friends. He loved to race his friends on the playground.
Braden shared that Brenten would talk about how he was going to beat his brother in basketball. Braden was smiling as he was remembering these conversations. Braden chuckled as he recalled how he was asking Brenten if he could hang out with Brenten and his friends at school. He said, “the older brother was asking the younger brother to hang out!” It was such a special time watching Braden as he thoughtfully shared about his brother. Braden proudly told me that Brenten did what he liked and if others did not like it then it did not change what his younger brother wanted to do. Braden also said that Brenten was “one heck of a ball player.” He said that Brenten had the “prettiest shot form” since he was seven that he had ever seen. Braden loved that their coach called them the “Cox duo”. One day, the Cox duo was running late, and Braden recalled how the coach said, “We will wait for the Cox duo.” The love was so evident in Braden’s eyes along with his pain. I so admired his strength to sit and so openly share about his brother despite how difficult it was. Delores shared with me about Braden’s strength. She is truly amazed at how strong her son Braden continues to be. He continues to work hard in all that he does. He is the best big brother!!
Brianna shared things about her big brother Brenten too. Brianna shared that Brenten was not scared of anything. Pride filled her eyes as she talked about Brenten. Delores shared such an adorable story about Brianna. The family was at the Hotdog house in Jackson, GA and at the young age of three, Brianna announced to the other people that were there, “I am Brianna and these are my boys!” In honor of that sweet treasured moment, every Valentine’s Day Brianna receives something that says, “To Brianna from your boys.” If Brianna liked a boy then Brenten would tease her and say, “oooooooooh you like so and so.” Brenten would tell the other boys that they better not pick on his sister. Brianna has such a fun personality, and it is obvious that she brings much joy to her family and to whoever has the privilege of being around her. I enjoyed watching Brianna interact with our dogs in between her sharing. I purposely brought one in at a time just in case she needed a break from sharing and that is exactly what she would do. Brianna would share and listen and sometimes come and look to see what I was writing on the computer, and then she would return to play with the dog for some time. Delores emphasized to me that just like her awesome big brother Braden that Brianna has amazed her with the strength that she continues to live with and the extreme joy that she continues to bring.
Delores shared how close the three of her children were and how much joy that it brought to her heart. She also marveled at their differences. She shared that Braden has always been the overseer and is cautious. Delores said that Brianna’s personality reminds her so much of Brenten’s personality. Delores said that with Brianna as there was with Brenten that there is chaos and that she does not witness cautious behaviors. Delores shared that her children have and continue to be very protective of each other. Delores continues to marvel at the strength that Braden and Brianna continue to display in the midst of their heart break. She has shared on multiple occasions that her children amaze her.
Brenten’s life was filled with many special friends that he truly loved and had a blast with. Karson was his best friend and was very special to Brenten. Logan was such a close friend, and while Brenten was sick then Logan would come and read to him. Another great friend named Corey made sure that his brace bands were “Brenten green.” Corey also has BC23 embroidered into his baseball glove. Gage was another one of Brenten’s great friends. Gage shared that his favorite memory of Brenten was when they were riding to the ASU game, and he said, “Hey Brenten! What’s the difference between a guitar and a fish? Brenten cut his eyes at Gage and Gage said, “You can’t tune a fish!” Gage remembers how much they laughed at this! His family shared that kids would gravitate to Brenten and that he did not have to try to fit in.
Brenten had many favorite teams that he cheered on. Brenten was a Cubs fan to his core. This again showed Brenten’s confidence to not worry about going with the crowd! He received a lot of harassment from all of the Cardinal fans in our area; however, Brenten was determined to do his own thing and nothing was going to sway him from his true love of the Cubs!! Brenten and Braden were both big Cavs fans. Brenten also loved the Seahawks.
Brenten had a true love for the Red Wolves, and this special team developed a mutual love for Brenten and for his family. Brenten and his family were invited to go to the Red Wolves practices and games. When the Cox family arrived, then the team stopped practicing. Brenten and his siblings were able to get decked out in Red Wolves gear. The team members told them that they were praying for Brenten and his family. Two very special memories that the Cox family shared was when Brenten got to run a touchdown at their practice and when the team prayed with their family.
The Red Wolves came to visit their school. They have a picture from that visit. It was a very special time. Brianna remembers how when Donovan, one of the players, was there that he was playing the piano for everyone. Braden remembered that at Brenten’s funeral that Coach Anderson shared that he told Brenten that he was “sorry about his weight” as the steroids had caused Brenten to almost double his weight. Brenten gave Coach Anderson a big grin and replied, “Don’t worry! It just makes me look sexy!”
The family was giggling when they were sharing about how Brenten liked to dress. They shared that when he was little that he liked to wear his cowboy boots and shorts. When he went to school then he liked to wear his tennis shoes, and this probably was in part to all of the racing that Brenten enjoyed to do with his friends. The family laughed as they shared that Brenten did not care about what others thought of how he would dress. Delores laughed and said, “I quickly learned to not tell him to wear whatever as Brenten would come out with shorty shorts and tall socks with different colors. “ His mom knew not to tell Brenten to wear “whatever” as Brenten surely would.
The family shared that Brenten was a daredevil. He was a true warrior and never appeared to be afraid of anything. Braden laughed as he remembered how Brenten liked to push his buttons. Braden would say to Brenten, “Don’t do such and such.” Brenten would laugh and say, “What are you going to do about it.” Then Brenten would laugh again and would say, “I would like to see you try.” Brianna remembers how Braden and Brenten would be wrestling and how she was holding one of their jackets over them. This was a funny memory that Brianna enjoyed thinking about.
The family shared that they went to the Rocky Mountains twice and that they traveled with Freddie to Pensacola, Florida. Delores shared that when Brenten was interviewed that he shared that the Dixie Stampede Christmas show in Branson, Missouri was his favorite place that he had went. Their family makes sure to make this an annual event in honor of Brenten, and they make sure to attend this Christmas show each year.
Early Spring 2015…
Freddie had just returned home from one of his work trips. The family had all met for dinner. Delores was taking a picture of Freddie and the kids when she noticed that Brenten had what appeared to be a lazy eye. His left eye kept closing at odd times. Delores said that she pushed any thoughts away and passed it off as Brenten was tired. She shared that it made sense at the time. They were all busy with basketball and baseball, and Brenten started having headaches. Delores gets sinus headaches a lot, and it was spring. It is easy to understand how she thought it was sinus headaches, and she thought “bless his heart, he’s going to be just like me.” But the headaches continued. One day, Freddie took Brenten to sick call at the doctor’s office. The doctor looked him over and decided that Brenten was suffering from allergies and told Freddie to continue the daily Zyrtec. Several weeks passed, and Brenten was still having headaches, and his left eye still had the droopy eyelid. Freddie and Delores thought that perhaps Brenten was going to need glasses. They were thinking how difficult that would be as he was their most reckless kid and he was going to have to learn to wear glasses… they were wondering how would that affect him playing basketball, etc.
They asked around and decided on an eye appointment for Brenten. His appointment was made, and they waited. When his appointment day arrived, Dr. Tolbert was so kind and caring. She examined Brenten and ran all the tests to see what she could do to help him. She could not find anything wrong with his vision, and she shared that the headaches and droopy eyelid had nothing to do with his vision. She sent them back to the medical clinic and suggested a MRI. Because Brenten would have to lie still for so long, they recommended Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock so that he could be sedated. Delores remembers sitting in that office trying really hard to keep it together. She did not want Brenten to see how absolutely terrified she felt. “Why could it not have been glasses?” her heart cried out.
The MRI was scheduled for June 2nd. They waited. In the meantime, Brenten continued to struggle with headaches, and he was now additionally very off balance. But as she shared earlier, they were used to Brenten being a “reckless mess”. He would go from 0 to 90 and would not slow down for anything. They thought as other parents do that he was just growing fast and not paying attention.
On June 1st, they went to Brenten’s baseball game. Brenten’s coach mentioned something about Brenten’s focus. He was looking at the ball when they were pitching, but the coach noticed that he was focusing on it with one eye rather than both. Delores explained to him that they knew something was going on and that he was actually scheduled for a MRI the next day at Children’s Hospital. The game began and they went through a few innings and everything appeared to be fine. Her boys and team were on the field waiting on the other team to get ready to bat. Her boys were throwing the ball to each other just as they always do. Someone threw a ball to Brenten, and he did not see it. The ball hit Brenten in the head, and he fell down. He did not get up. Freddie, Delores, and his coach ran to him. It seemed like Brenten was unconscious for forever, but Delores thinks that it was actually just for a second or two. Freddie scooped Brenten up, and they left the field. A friend handed them an ice pack, and others offered to keep Braden and Brianna there until the game was over.
Freddie and Delores rushed Brenten to the emergency room where they told the medical staff his story. The On Call Doctor ordered a PET scan. Delores looks at Brenten, her incredibly small little warrior that was in front of her. She reflected on how just a few days ago, she was so worried that he needed glasses, and now she was in the hospital waiting on PET scan results. When the doctor came in to the room, Delores shared that she will never forget his face and voice. He shut the door behind himself and told Freddie and Delores to sit down. He explained to them that Brenten had a brain tumor and that he was sending them to Children’s Hospital that night. Delores remembers walking out of that room and hallway into the waiting room and opening the door and seeing some of their most treasured friends. She shared that Karson would have never left Brenten’s side if they would have allowed it. Braden and Brianna went home with friends while another friend filled Freddie’s truck with fuel. Delores loaded up with Brenten in the ambulance and Freddie followed. Delores remembers that she feels like she can remember every curve and bump between Pocahontas and Little Rock.
When they arrived at Children’s Hospital then they were put in a room for the night. Delores imagines this was probably to monitor Brenten. The next day, the medical staff came by and escorted Freddie and Delores into another room. The room had a huge table, a box of kleenexes, and a hospital chaplain. Delores remembers wondering, “Why do we need a chaplain?” The medical staff explained to them that they believed but were not 100% sure that Brenten had DIPG. Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Giloma. This is where the tumor is intertwined with his brain stem, and for various reasons, there is nothing that they found that will touch this tumor. They needed to see a MRI to be sure that it was DIPG but this is what they thought. They shared with Freddie and Delores that radiation would shrink the tumor but only for a very short time. They also explained that radiation could not be done more than one time.
So much poured through Delores’s and Freddie’s minds and hearts… “Our little man. Our full of life, rambunctious, beautiful, blue eyed baby boy was going to die. They are telling us that we are going to bury our child.” Delores shares that she remembers hearing a voice that she had never heard before coming from her body asking “How long do we have with him?” She ached… how many mornings do I have left to wake him up? How many nights do I still get to tuck him in? How much longer does she get to hold him and remind him that he is so very loved? The medical staff answered, “Nine months to a year.”
They went ahead with the MRI that was scheduled for Brenten, and the MRI tragically and heartbreakingly confirmed what the medical staff suspected. Brenten continued to show everyone his warrior spirit and that he was not afraid. When they were walking into Brenten’s first radiation treatment when he was 9 years old, then Delores recalled how they placed her tiny little man on the table and they put a mesh mold that would cover his face. They bolted Brenten to the table. Delores was reminding Brenten, “Remember who holds you.” Brenten bravely replied, “Mama, I know and I am not scared.” Delores described it as a peace that God had given to him. While he was receiving his treatments, then the medical staff asked him what music that he liked to listen to which Brenten replied, “KLOVE.” KLOVE was what Brenten listened to while he received his radiation treatments. Delores shared that Brenten strengthened his parents. She remembers how very afraid she felt for her little boy. Yet, what she and the Cox family continued to see throughout his treatments and his battle with his tumor was strength. The family continued to receive so much love and joy from this incredible warrior. They treasured each moment. They prayed and pleaded for healing for Brenten and for a miracle to wipe out his tumor. They did their best to hope and trust in God. Their hearts were breaking as they battled the thoughts of the loss of their sweet boy. They soaked up each moment and every part of their beloved Brenten.
March 5, 2016. Freddie and Delores had realized that Brenten’s traveling days were soon to be completed. Brenten was having frequent seizures, and they mainly occurred when he was being moved. The steroids that the doctors had him on for his headaches had caused Brenten’s little 60 lb body to double in size to the point where Delores could not lift him. The time came where Freddie and Braden were going to leave for the annual Maynard tournament. The Cox family had decided that Braden would play the first game, and then they would come home to pick up Brenten, Brianna, and Delores. The plan was for the whole family to go and cheer on Braden’s team to victory in the championship game. Braden and Freddie gave their love to Brenten, told him goodbye, and they left. One of Brianna’s friends had asked Delores if Brianna would be able to go skating with them, and Delores said yes. Brianna also gave her love to Brenten, told him goodbye, and then she left.
Delores shared that she believed with her whole heart that God allowed them to all say goodbye to Brenten. While they were at the games and skating, Delores’s brother and his family were visiting, and Brenten fell asleep. Delores said that Brenten had been sleeping a lot more often so she did not think anything of him going to sleep. Delores told Freddie to stay at the ballgames so that Brenten could keep resting. When Delores’s brother left around 5, she realized that Brenten had gone almost 9 hours without his steroids, and Brenten desperately needed those every 4 to 5 hours. Delores went to wake Brenten up, and he would not wake up. He would not stir or move when she said his name or kissed his cheeks. She noticed that his breathing had become labored, and Delores shared that she knew deep within herself that this was it. She felt him slipping away. She stayed by his side and continued to talk with her beloved boy and held his hand and ran her fingers through his hair.
When the Cox family was all home together that night then Freddie and Delores shared Brenten’s prognosis with Braden and Brianna. They had not shared the prognosis before as they were praying and hoping for a miracle. They did not want Braden or Brianna to have to deal with the thought of losing their brother. They were waiting for Brenten’s miracle. They hoped that Braden and Brianna would be able to enjoy each moment that they had with their brother. Brianna screamed and laid her body across Brenten’s body. Braden sat frozen in shock with tears falling down his cheeks. Delores said that this image will forever be burned into her mind. She knew that their whole world had just changed forever. That night, the entire family slept in the living room with Brenten. She shared that that they were all just grasping for the remaining seconds that their family was whole.
March 6, 2016. Brenten was still “asleep” when his hospice nurse had been called. Delores said that she knew that it was completely in God’s hands just as it had been from the first day. She shared that she talked with Brenten and felt like he could hear her, and that her heart wanted to say that he could. Delores joked with Brenten and told him that she could not believe that he was going to beat her to heaven. Delores shared that they had talked so much about heaven in the last 9 months. Delores shared that in these moments that she had peace. She said that her soul ached but that she knew that God was everywhere around her baby and that Brenten was not scared just as he had shared with her several times before. She recalled that Brenten knew that Jesus held him. Delores sang “I’ll fly away” and whatever other songs that came to her heart in those last moments. Delores wanted Brenten to know that she was there and that she also wasn’t scared. Delores shared that her insides were screaming and that she felt like her chest was in a vise. They held Brenten as he left them in the early hours of March 7th.
How can you describe the pain and heartbreak that comes when parents must bury their child? The pain is indescribable. It feels like your heart is literally being pulled out of your chest. It is horrendous beyond words. Delores shared that the most difficult parts would most definitely be just living without him. How painful it is to know that he should have been out there helping those 6th grade boys win the Lawrence Co Tournament champion title. There would be no need for a 23 point cap. This 6th grade team is the team that Brenten should have been on this year. This was his team. He should be here to push Braden to be a better basketball player, and vice versa. He should be here to pick at Brianna for wanting to try tumbling instead of basketball! His whole world was basketball and he loved everything about it. Their hearts ache for Brenten to still be with them.
Delores wonders… Who would he have a crush on? He was a ladies man. He was approximately 4 years old when he pinched a lady’s behind in WalMart. She had on yoga pants and her bottom was right in his face. It was in slow motion. Delores saw him, and she knew what he was thinking. Before she could do anything about it, Brenten had reached up and pinched her. Delores was mortified. She said she was tripping all over herself trying to apologize. The lady laughed and told Delores, “boys will be boys…”
Delores shares her questions… Would he still choose math as his favorite subject? Brianna needs his help for sure! There are so many questions about every aspect of his life that his family still wishes was being shared with them. They miss him with every part of them.
From Delores on grieving… There is no right way. Everyone is going to grieve in their own way. Grief is not a cookie cutter situation. For Freddie, he has poured over videos and pictures for weeks after Brenten left them. Not Delores. She shares that she can still not randomly look at pictures. She said she has to pep talk herself into it. She shared that it is so hard not to go back to the day that the picture was made. The laughter… his smile… how happy they were as a whole. Braden is such a good big brother. He was always looking out for Brenten and Brianna. Brianna adores her boys too. Even if she does not want to admit it, Brianna carries a lot of pain. Brianna has told her mom on a few different occasions that she’s upset with God, and Delores shares that she totally gets that. God could have stopped the tumor. He could have killed that tumor with one word. But He did not. Her faith tells her that God could have saved her son and shown them a beautiful miracle. She shares that her faith also shows her His strength. Delores shares that she prays for peace for Brianna. Delores tells her it’s ok to be upset. She shares that it’s just like when she and Freddie can get upset with each other, but that they never stop loving each other. She shares that it is ok to be mad. Delores shared that God knows their bigger picture, and she said that she would have to assume that it’s a beautiful picture. Her faith tells her that He will always be there to catch them. She states that she has seen His love for them despite the darkness that tries to consume them…
While so desperately missing their son and brother, the Cox family has been so thankful for the thoughtful and loving gestures that others have engaged in. For Brenten’s friend Corey, everything that he gets is “Brenten Green”. When Valerie found her phone on 23% then she shared with the Cox family that this made her think of Brenten. When the senior high boy’s basketball team and the 6th grade team carries the Brenten flag into the games then this shows the family how these wonderful teams are remembering and honoring Brenten.
The Color Run that Brenten’s friends started has been an annual event that raises money in honor of Brenten. The Color Run has donated $9000 to the Ronald McDonald House in honor of Brenten. They have now been saving the money to donate to the “Make a Wish” foundation and for a scholarship to be given in honor of Brenten. Their friends are also planning on hosting a 3-on-3 tourney in order to raise additional funds to be able to give to others in honor of Brenten. These are such wonderful gifts to honor Brenten, and they each truly bless his family’s hearts.
Braden shared that when what should have been Brenten’s basketball team won the Lawrence County 6th grade tourney this year then the boys got the score to “23” and they all made a pact to not score anymore. They wanted the score to honor their teammate and their friend by ending on his number. Braden also shared how much it meant to him that the senior boys were carrying Brenten’s flag at their games when they came out to honor Brenten’s life.
Brianna shared that Ms Valerie has a bucket in her classroom of Brenten’s 4th grade stuff. When Brianna is having a difficult time, then Ms. Valerie has shared with her that she can come in and spend time with Brenten’s stuff. Brianna shared that this helps her to feel a little closer to her brother.
While we were talking, I asked the family what they thought that Brenten would say to all of us. Lots of smiles appeared. Braden shared that when Brenten had to be transported in a wheelchair that Coach would wheel Brenten in before the game. Braden laughed and shared that Brenten would pop Braden in the head and would tell his brother before his games, “Don’t suck.” When the coach asked Brenten if he had anything to say to the team then Brenten would smile and say, “Don’t suck.” In honor of Brenten’s saying when his sweet cousin Serena was speaking at her own graduation in 2017 then she told everyone at graduation in honor of Brenten, “Don’t suck.” The family also smiled as they shared Brenten’s love of the word “Seriously.” Delores shared that Brenten would often look at her and respond, “Mom seriously!”
It is so meaningful for the family to continue to hear how Brenten has impacted the lives of others. Please continue to share these stories with Brenten’s family whenever you know of them. Amanda Mahan shared how her son had never had the opportunity to meet Brenten. Her son Kaydan shared that after spending time with Brenten’s friends that as much as they miss him that he knew that Brenten must have been pretty cool. When Braden was talking with another friend, Kasen, he shared how he had gotten to know Brenten through what Brenten’s friends have shared with him and that he now feels like he is a best friend of Brenten’s. Kasen told his mom that yes he did know Brenten even though he had never met him. It was so clear how this blessed the hearts of each family member. They were so thankful that Brenten’s friends continue to share about Brenten and that they are bringing him with them as they continue on in their lives.
The family loves the shirts and bracelets that continue to be worn that are “Team Brenten.” They love remembering their warrior and how bravely he fought his battle with his tumor. They were amazed at how quickly he matured and became so much like a little man. Delores shared how anytime that they go in to Imboden that they have to pass the cemetery. She shared that her heart cries out that she wished that he was still with them, but she knows that he would not be happy about having to leave heaven. As they watch Braden play then they sure wish that Brenten was still there playing with him.
This brave warrior was tenderhearted. He was always the softy and would cry with his mom at the movies. Delores had asked Brenten what he would want people to remember about him and he responded, “How much I love Jesus.” Brianna shared that Brenten loved Jesus and that her brother always wanted to learn more about Jesus. Brianna shared that Brenten was very concerned about others. Freddie added, “Brenten cared more about others than he did about himself.” Braden shared, “Brenten was the all-around champion, the all-around winner, the life champion.” This brave warrior truly was a life champion.
Thank you to the beautiful Cox family for sharing their Brenten with me. I had the privilege of meeting Brenten at a basketball game, and I will always be so thankful that I had the honor of meeting this brave warrior. We can learn so much from his life and from his faith. Please continue to pray for the Cox family as they continue to learn to live without their Brenten and as they try to heal their breaking hearts.
“Don’t ever underestimate the impact that you may have on someone else’s life.” Unknown
Thank you Brenten for all of the lives that you have impacted and for all of the lives that your legacy will continue to impact. We thank God for each moment that we had with you.