By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist, firstname.lastname@example.org
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I'm found
Was blind, but now I see”
Cody and Stephanie Smith can still hear their son sing this hymn. His sweet little voice reaching for the high notes, the words of the first verse tumbling out by memory.
Friends and family sang this song in honor of little Charlie last week, as they laid to rest the boy with the big smile and the incredible heart.
Charlie, 3, passed away Dec. 11 at home after a two-year fight with stage 4 neuroblastoma.
“This morning at 9 a.m., Charlie met the King of Glory,” Cody Smith announced on his Facebook page hours after his middle son passed away. “Cancer has been defeated, and Charlie has finished his race. Praise God for his continued goodness and mercy!”
“’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed”
The Smiths have always believed. Through the devastating diagnosis when their son was just 16 months old, through the months of treatment at Riley Hospital for Children, through the victories and the setbacks – their faith has not wavered.
So, they gathered at a southside Indianapolis church on Friday to give thanks for Charlie’s life, recalling all the ways he brought joy and laughter into their lives and the lives of his two brothers, Henry and George; to his extended family and friends; his Riley care team; and to strangers around the country who have followed his journey on the family’s Cheering for Charlie Facebook page.
Thousands sent prayers of support and love to the family through social media. Among them:
“I think we all got a look into Heaven through your faith and love.”
“There’s a new star in Heaven tonight.”
“Your family’s journey has lifted my soul here on Earth to live a better and more faithful life.”
“Always cheering for Charlie. Thank you for sharing his life with us.”
“You have touched so many hearts and souls and made the world a better place by the witness of your faith.”
“The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures.”
Charlie endured so much in his short life, but “God has been faithful and present every day,” Cody said in the eulogy he delivered for his son.
Whether in the friends and strangers who loved on their family, who picked them up and pushed them forward, who dropped off meals and gift cards, or who delivered special orders of Chick-fil-A to home and hospital.
“God placed people in our lives every step of the way,” Cody said.
Among those people were Charlie’s team on the oncology and stem cell units at Riley, a place he came to regard as home. The place where he took his first steps as a 1-year-old.
“He grew to love Riley, the people on that floor became our family,” Cody said. “He was excited to see them every time. I’d like to thank that team for being there – you are a gift from God.”
And Charlie was an amazing gift, his parents agree. Until he became too sick, he loved nothing more than to chase his big brother around the house or yard, playing “Star Wars” or “Power Rangers.”
He had a gentle spirit, his dad said, forgiving and humble, joyful and kind.
“Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home”
Charlie is home now, his parents believe. In a place where cancer can no longer hurt him. It may not have been what they wished for or prayed for, but they are comforted by their belief that they will see their precious boy again.
“What a wonderful kid,” Cody said, a kid who loved to paint and listen to stories, who loved Bible time and the game Hi-Ho Cherry-O, who watched the movie “Frozen” at least 500 times, who cared for the baby pumpkins at his grandmother’s house and who never let cancer get the best of him.
“A brilliant kid, a gifted kid, a beautiful kid. And he was our kid.”
“When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.”
Cheers for Charlie keep getting louder - Fourteen months into his treatment for neuroblastoma, a 2-year-old Franklin boy is closing in on the home stretch.