Even though Bailey is no longer with them, his parents make sure their little girl knows about him. "There’s no way she’s ever not going to know who he is."
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on September 21, 2021. It has since been updated.
Bailey Cooper has experienced more pain in his nine years of life than most adults have. In 2017, when his cancer relapsed a second time, he learned that his mother Rachel Cooper was pregnant. Even though Bailey was in a lot of pain, he knew he had to hold on, because he was determined to meet his younger sister.
“All he was concerned about was meeting his little sister. Bailey knew something wasn’t right. He could feel it in himself,” Bailey’s dad, Lee Cooper, 31, tells PEOPLE. “We got told the news late August that he wasn’t going to survive. We were told it was days to weeks. We were very open with him. He was taking it in … He was thinking, ‘Oh no, I won’t meet my sister.’”
The news of his little sister, Millie, proved to be a pick-me-up for the ailing boy, who had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 2016. Bailey's younger brother Riley was excited to welcome his sibling, too.
“When we told him, it completely lifted him. He was completely over the moon,” Lee says, adding that Bailey stuck to his mother, during her pregnancy. “He was amazing. He was adamant on being around Rachel,” Lee said. “He’d always be cuddling her, trying to listen to the baby in her tummy. He’d sing to her. He was just anticipating meeting her. He’d read stories while resting his head on her tummy. He’d sing just so the baby would be familiar with his voice.”
But even in joy, there was uncertainty. The family, including Bailey, knew he didn't have much time left. Despite that, the brave boy told his family that he’d try his hardest to live to see Millie’s birth. And he did. Millie was born on Nov. 30, 2017.
“He just managed to hang on, basically. How he did it, we don’t know,” Lee says of his son, adding that he was “smitten” by little Millie. “He’d come into the hospital, he sat down. He was getting quite frail, but he’d come straight in as quick as he could, shuffling his feet. We had to pass Millie to him. He just sat in the chair with Millie in his arms and he wouldn’t let her go.”
Bailey had just about a month after Millie's birth, and he made sure to spend each waking moment next to his sister. Sadly, he didn't get to spend Millie's first Christmas with her. He died just a day before, on December 24, 2017.
The loss affected the family, especially Rachel. “It’s been really hard without Bailey. It’s been wonderful having Millie around. She’s been helping us deal with what’s happened. It was so hard for [Rachel], her daily routine had completely changed without him,” Lee says. “[I miss his] presence, his cheeky banter, his jokes, the laugh, his company. It’s such a difficult time, but at the same time, you look back and we were lucky to have nine-and-a-half great years with him.”
But, even though Bailey is no longer with them, Lee says he and Rachel will do whatever it takes to tell Millie about the wonderful brother she had. “We tell her about Bailey every day. We show her pictures of him. We’ve got pictures around the house of Bailey. Every time we mention Bailey’s name she points up at a picture,” he says. “She knows who he is already. Her face lights up every time she sees a picture of Bailey on our phones. We show her videos. There’s no way she’s ever not going to know who he is. We talk about him every day.”
Cover Image Source: YouTube | Inside Edition (9-Year-Old With Cancer Gets Dying Wish to Meet His Newborn Sister)