A dying man in Nebraska was comforted by 3,500 strangers he never knew as his family kicked off the #SkyBluePink campaign after he was diagnosed with lung cancer.
Brian Curtis decided to forgo chemotherapy, as he also suffered from Parkinson’s disease, and doctors gave him about a year to live.
His son Brandon, 30 started the #SkyBluePink campaign to bring comfort to Brian during his last very painful days and he got an incredible response. Sky Blue Pink is a color Brian Curtis’ mother used to describe the way the sky looked during a sunrise or sunset.
Brandon lives in Los Angeles and traveled for business frequently. When Brian was first diagnosed he came home to spend time with his dying father, but encouraged by him decided to go back to his normal life.
Communication between the two was frequent, via Skype, after dad found out the grim news on April 24, 2012 during a business trip in Austria.
The bonding they enjoyed following Brandon’s arrival had an urgency he had never felt before, they were short on time and so they played checkers (Brian won), drank beer together for the first time, and talked about “guy stuff.”
At that point the dying man had six months to live. This was not the first family member was lost because of a deadly disease.
“My oldest sister, Jana, had passed away unexpectedly from an undetected heart virus just eight months prior — none of us had the chance to say goodbye,” Brandon says. “So when we found out about my dad’s terminal cancer, we were going to do anything it took to show him how much we loved him and to say goodbye.”
Brandon and the rest of the family decided to launch the #SkyBluePink campaign in an effort to bring some sort of happiness to the terminally ill father on his last days, while keeping the family connected. The response was unmistakable.
“We ask you to help fill his life with love, support and #SkyBluePink” by sending a card, tweeting a note on Twitter or sharing a photo on Instagram read the original announcement on Brandon’s site Imgur.
Brian wasn’t informed right away, but the family received 500 messages within a 168-hour time period.
“It was enough to cover an entire wall at his hospice care center,” says Brandon.
On May 7 they decide to finally share the incredible response with the dying man and he was overwhelmed, while Brandon and sister Cindy read messages from around the world to their dad.
The #SkyBluePink is a massive success thanks to family members spreading the word on their social networks.
By this time Brandon is having a hard time deciding whether he should request a leave of absence from work, since the family is unsure of how long Brian has.
However the dying man didn’t want his son to stop living his life because of him.
As the months go by and Brian’s health deteriorates, the uplifting campaign keeps growing and Brian asks Brandon to post a thank you message that reads:
“It’s just amazing. I can’t get over how so many people have taken time out of their days to capture and send #SkyBluePink to me. From all over. All ages (…) People I’ve never met.”
Brandon travels with a suit he bought for the dying man’s memorial service everywhere he goes and it’s a tough reminder of the short time he will have his father around.
On August 12, 2013, Cindy calls him. She is calm, but her voice has an edge and she connects Brian and Brandon on a Skype video call.
Brian is having trouble speaking so Brandon told him what was on his mind:
“I told him I loved him so much. I told him he was a great father — that I looked up to him, that he didn’t need to worry about me because he had done a really good job setting me up for success in life and that I was on my way to see him.”
At around 1:30 am Brandon walks into his dad’s hospice room, dimly lit, but showing more than 3,500 messages from people responding to the #SkyBluePink call.
“I sat next to him,” Brandon recalls. It’s his 16th visit to the bedside in 15 months. “I held his hands. I started crying. It felt so good to see him. I’ll never forget that night.”
As they talk, Brian is in a lot of pain and after a while Cindy and Brandon decide to let him sleep. He passes away a few hours later surrounded by his kids and uplifting messages from strangers all around the world.
At the September 14 memorial service, Brandon says:
“I really think [#SkyBluePink] did play a role in him beating the doctor’s expectations. Sky Blue Pink’ will always mean love.”
This is the moving story of the dying man who was comforted by 3,500 people to whom he had no connection, except a computer and a will to do something kind for someone in need thanks to the #SkyBluePink campaign started by his kids.
[Image courtesy of Brandon Curtis via Mashable]