Philip and Lydia Parks traveled the world in search of a cure for 15-year-old Philip’s aggressive brain cancer that took them to Germany, Israel and Provision.
After multiple surgeries, proton therapy and up-and-coming immunotherapy treatments, his body gave up the fight. Philip died on April 13, 2016. But his mother is dedicated to remembering Philip’s story not as one of sadness but of hope.
In an article Lydia Parks wrote and shared with Provision, she describes Philip’s love for life and his last, difficult but peace-filled, days.
“Most days, Phil focused on the positive, keeping up his spirits by attending school; he had been academically gifted,” she writes. “He loved drawing and won every contest he ever entered, usually drawing favorite animals such as dogs and horses.” Even after diagnosis and surgery, he made plans with friends, found a girlfriend and interviewed for a job—which he never had opportunity to start.
It wasn’t easy. As the disease progressed and he underwent chemotherapy treatments, Philip often felt too sick to go to school.
One day, particularly discouraged, he took refuge outside on the trampoline, reading and praying at the suggestion of Lydia, who knew that he had to come to terms with the future on his own.
He returned to the house transformed.
“’I was praying for comfort like you told me to do,’” he said. “’Then I prayed that God would show that He is near, through one of His creatures. Just then, I thought of a cardinal. When I opened my eyes, a red cardinal flew down to a close branch and watched me for about three minutes! This gives me hope. I’m not afraid to die now.’”
In the weeks that followed, Philip started an online business for his artwork, enjoyed favorite foods—forbidden since his diagnosis—and bought sweet surprise gifts for his mother and three brothers with money from his art sales. He asked that any additional proceeds be donated to other kids needing cancer care.
After slipping into a coma from which he recovered for a short while, Philip returned to the hospital in a second coma from which he did not revive.
The day that Philip died, Lydia came home and, after some lingering outside—hesitant to enter the room where she had last seen Philip conscious—she went into the living room and sat down on the couch.
“I could see through the front window into our large, maple tree,’” she writes. “The pale green spring leaves were just beginning to unfurl, so every branch was clearly visible.
“Right then, two birds landed and hopped about on the branch within my view—one bright male cardinal and, the other, his less showy female counterpart. … Yes, Phil and I had been parted, yet here was a visible reminder that a mom and her son are never truly separated in spirit and love. God was near. He would answer my prayers for hope, comfort and peace, just as he had done for my son.”