Born: April 26, 1992. Resident of Mount Airy. Died: April, 23, 1999.
On April 26, between the tears and memories, a standing-room-only gathering in a South Carolina hospital chapel sang "Happy Birthday" to David Scott Haggard. His family and neighbors from Maryland sang. The teachers who cherished him for his gentle wisdom and infectious creativity sang. The nurses who carved Halloween pumpkins with him and took him fishing sang, as did the doctors he playfully ambushed with syringes-turned-water guns.
"Scotty" would have greatly enjoyed the moment. What 7-year-old wouldn't? But only three days shy of his birthday, he lost a three-year battle with leukemia.
There is no resume to refer to when a child dies, no list of academic or civic accomplishments to illustrate the quality of the life lived, the contributions made to others. Yet Scotty Haggard had accomplishments and contributions and interests aplenty. And something about the joy he drew from them, despite being sick nearly half his life, touched others deeply.
"He taught everyone to pay attention to the sacredness of life," said artist Heidi Hope, who painted, drew and imagined with Scotty during his nine-month stay at Palmetto-Richland Memorial Hospital in Columbia, S.C., where he went with his mother for two harrowing bone-marrow transplants.
By the end, the chemotherapy, steroids and medicines that were supposed to conquer the cancer had changed his appearance completely--from a slender, angle-faced little boy to a heavy, jowly man-child. But the smile remained the same--a mix of impishness and insight--and those around him say the essence of Scotty never changed either.
He was a mile-a-minute first-grader who loved puzzles and dinosaurs and ocean stuff and art. He used bright, bold colors in his prolific creations, which last winter expanded to emu eggs (from the birds his parents raise on their property in Mount Airy) that he decorated with glitter, sequins and buttons. Until he got too sick, he enjoyed nature walks, too, and always noticed the smallest detail, whether it be a bug to track or a plant to identify. He collected Beanie Babies, which every child does these days, but few children receive them because they have just been brave and stoic during yet another medical procedure that would make many adult patients cry.
His favorite Beanie, Pounce the cat, now sits on the family mantel in Mount Airy. It is surrounded by touches of and about Scotty: his black-and-green "Goosebumps" hat; the silk flowers his schoolmates brought to a memorial service here; and his ashes, contained in an urn the green-blue color of the ocean. Three dolphins in aquatic flight adorn the front--one each for his mother, Carol; his father, David; and his best buddy, his younger brother Darren.
"He liked to figure out how things go together," said his father, not just physical things, but concepts and situations, which Scotty would analyze with a maturity far beyond his years. Part of that was innate--he'd already proudly beat his dad at chess--but he grew up fast during his illness. He could talk about his blood counts, and whether the latest was good or bad. He'd bring out the notebook his mother kept on his treatments, test dates and latest status, and he would explain succinctly what the doctors were doing. His nurses insist that he never complained.
Nothing could break his spirit, said his favorite nurse, Chris Eastlake, who even now cannot talk about him without crying. She still hears his laugh, "so sharp and pure." She treasures the glow-in-the-dark candle he gave her for her birthday last year, remembering some little comment she'd made about how much she liked candles. "I don't think there's a person who's ever met that boy who'll forget him," she said.
Last spring, Scotty heard about the "Miracle Day" fund that helps critically ill patients at Palmetto-Richland. Immediately, he wanted to make a contribution. He took every bill and coin from his wallet, 10 dollars' worth, emphatic that he would give it all.
He died a week later.