It’s Sunday night at 10p.m. I sat down to write this review at 10a.m. but it’s taken me twelve hours to get the lump from my throat and words on the page. Words cannot do justice to the emotion and sentiment at the heart of this harrowing tale but if the author, Neville Sexton, was able to write a fantastic book about the six short years his son lived on this earth, the least I can do is pay homage to this father’s immense courage and selfless strength.
Craig Sexton’s arrival into the world in June 2000 was the beginning of the most amazing journey for his parents Neville and Barbara. Every moment, every smile, every eye twitch, every gurgle turned his Mam and Dad to mush. He became their entire life, the centre of their universe.
Moving through the initial months of infant hood in a haze of sleep deprivation, Neville recalls his instant fascination with his newborn son, without hiding the hardship associated with a hectic work life balance (or imbalance as the case was). But like so many young parents, they juggled as best they could and savoured their weekends to enjoy very special time with Craig.
Reading about Neville and Craig’s daily shower routine, their race to get under the spray, the evening Craig burst into tears because he ‘accidentally’ did a poo in the shower is only one example of the incredible bond Neville shared with this little person. He hasn’t tried to portray anything other than naked truth. There’s no pretence that life was perfect, but simple undisguised honesty as he recounts over 200 pages of heartfelt and treasured memories.
There are tales about fearful moments on holiday when Craig almost drowned in the pool, scaring his parents beyond belief, yet ready to jump right back in a short while later. The little boy’s love of other children outweighed his fear, just as it did months later when he confronted the local bully and turned the situation around to the point where they became friends.
Chapter after chapter is infiltrated with detailed memory, intensifying how much this little boy meant to both of his parents. Craig’s energy, mirth and love jump from the page, his father’s description of his effervescent and wonderfully adventurous spirit making the reader fall helplessly in love with this blonde beam of life.
What happens next is horrific, every parent’s worst nightmare. In June 2006, in a playground on an ordinary Sunday afternoon, Craig took a dizzy spell and couldn’t raise his head. A series of hospital visits and investigative tests later, the terrified parents were told their darling son had an inoperable tumour and only a short time left on this earth. Despite the Sextons’ united fight against his horrific condition, it finally overcame Craig’s determination and he closed his beautiful eyes for the very last time.
Neville and Barbara struggled to get out of bed in the weeks that followed, leaning on each other as they struggled to exist in a life minus Craig, nothing on earth capable of bringing an end to the apocalypse their life had become. If only they could have him back for one last day.
On a particularly hopeless day, Neville begged Craig for a sign, pleading with him to make a particular bulb blow out. And despite his yearning, he almost fainted when the bulb exploded and shards of glass shot across the room. Flashing lights, favourite songs and candles that refuse to light have become a constant in Barbara and Neville’s life, each occurrence a happy reminder that Craig is living on somewhere in a parallel universe. Through their unquestionable belief in these signs and messages, the Sexton family are surviving the horrific blow life has dealt them. Now with a second son, Dean, a tiny replica of Craig, they’re a family again, a family with two sons who unfortunately live in different universes.
Craig – The Boy Who Lives is a beautiful memoir of their very special boy, a book they hope one day will help Dean get to know the brother he has never met. It’s also a stark reminder to each and everyone of us to treasure what’s truly important in life and make every moment count.
Published by Gill & McMillan
Review by Mary Malone, author of Love is the Reason