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8-year-old Cody’s life & death point family, friends to Jesus

OKLAHOMA CITY (BP)–The clock on the scoreboard showed 1:32 left in the fourth quarter as 8-year-old Cody Brown took his last breath at his home in south Oklahoma City.

Just a few miles down the road, the University of Oklahoma Sooner football team was putting the finishing touches on its 52-28 victory over Fresno State.

On the sidelines, Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops was leaving the field with his victorious team. He was wearing his signature OU visor, but this week it sported a gold pin in the shape of a looped ribbon — a childhood cancer awareness pin given to the coach by Cody Brown.

Over the previous few weeks, Cody and the OU coach had become friends. Cody and his parents spent about 10 hours visiting Stoops and his nationally ranked Sooners one day on the campus at Norman. Cody was one of the first to watch a practice at the team’s new indoor practice field. He got to tour the Barry Switzer Center, where OU’s football trophies are displayed. He visited the weight room and tried out all the equipment. And he mingled with the players and posed for pictures with them. He came away with an autographed football, a signed team jersey and enough memories to last a lifetime, however short that life might be.

The day before the Fresno State game — the day before Cody died — Stoops, his wife, Carol, quarterback Jason White and defensive end Jonathan Jackson came to Cody’s home for a visit. Carol Stoops, herself the mother of three young children, had called earlier asking if there was anything she could bring the family, if they needed her to bring some groceries.

As the group was gathered around Cody’s bed in mid-September, the youngster noticed Jackson was wearing the cancer awareness pin he had given him. He turned to Coach Stoops and asked him where his pin was.

“It’s on my desk, Cody,” Stoops replied. “I’m not as smart as J.J. I forgot to wear it.”

But Stoops hasn’t forgotten it since, wearing it on his visor at every game.

Cody was diagnosed with nueroblastoma, a childhood form of cancer, when he was 3. He had surgery to remove a tumor from his adrenaline gland and was cancer-free for a year. However, the disease reappeared with five tumors in his abdomen. Two of them disappeared with treatment, and the other three were surgically removed. He remained in remission for two years and four months.

“We thought since he had been in remission for so long, we had beaten it,” said his mother, Tammy.

But in January, Tammy noticed a large knot on Cody’s head. She thought it happened when he slid down the stairs in a laundry basket, but after it didn’t go away, and Cody had continued headaches, they headed back to the doctor where they received the news that the cancer had returned.

Cody, in his eight short years, lived a fuller life than many people do who live through adulthood. He was a firefighter for a day at the Oklahoma City and Newcastle fire departments and was featured on a local news channel riding in a fire truck. He played in the outfield for the Moore Lions T-ball team. He was a “pilot for a lifetime” at Tinker Air Force Base. He has a field at a ballpark in Moore named after him. He was given an American flag that was flown during Operation Enduring Freedom in Iraq. And he was posthumously awarded a game ball from the Oklahoma/Fresno State game.

“Cody was a big Scooby Doo fan, loved to shoot his paintball gun, ride his motorcycle, play his Playstation 2, work on his scrapbook, math, draw, take pictures, and most importantly, tell others about Jesus,” said his mother, who married Mark Dennis a year ago after a divorce from Cody’s father, Rick. “Cody understood more than the average child.”

His mother and stepfather said Cody had a passion for sharing Jesus.

“He had a calling,” Dennis said. “He wanted to be a preacher. In fact, he and his friend, Perry, had plans to drive a monster truck with a trailer around the world telling people about Jesus.”

Tammy said Cody told her that Jesus talked to him in his dreams.

“He said, ‘Jesus is going to have me out there telling people about Him,'” Tammy recounted. “That made me think even more that Cody was going to get well.”

She said while he was in the hospital and she was keeping vigil by his bed Cody told her that everything was going to be all right.

“If I die, I’m going to heaven and play on the golden playground every day,” she recalled him saying.

“I don’t know where he came up with that,” Tammy said. “I never talked to him about things like that because I wasn’t a Christian then.”

But Cody’s faith eventually led his mother, his father and his older brother to Christ.

Tammy was saved in December 2001, and joined Eagle Heights Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, where she met Mark Dennis.

Dennis said he was at a singles meeting at the church and feeling very low. He was sitting by himself, when Cody came by and started a conversation.

“I noticed he was wise beyond his years,” Dennis said. “I didn’t know about his cancer at the time.”

From that night on, Cody and Dennis became friends, with Cody begging his mother to let him sit with Dennis in church every week.

“I’m sure Mark fell in love with Cody before he fell in love with me,” Tammy said.

Dennis, who is a singles teacher at Eagle Heights, had the privilege of baptizing Cody on April 21, 2002.

“When Cody met someone, he had two questions for them,” Dennis said. “Do you go to church and have you been baptized?”

Dennis said when they moved into their new house, Cody asked a next-door neighbor if he went to church.

“He told me that Cody asked the question with such force that he knew it meant a lot to him, and [the neighbor] didn’t know how to respond, because he didn’t go to church,” Dennis said.

The day Cody died, his father, Rick Brown, called Tammy and Mark and asked if they were going to church the next day. He said he wanted to go with them. He made a profession of faith that day.

“Every weekend when his dad picked him up for a visit, Cody asked him if he had given his life to Jesus yet,” Tammy said. “Cody told him, ‘You don’t have to clean yourself up. Jesus will do that.'”

Dennis had the privilege of baptizing both Cody’s father and his older brother, Ricky, who also made a profession of faith after Cody’s death.

Cody may not have lived to fulfill his calling to be a preacher, but he did have an opportunity to preach a sermon, along with his stepfather, to a congregation at First Baptist Church in Tuttle, Okla., in August.

“He preached about David and Goliath, his favorite Bible story,” Dennis said.

Dennis said, at one point, when he and Cody were leaving the hospital after one of Cody’s chemotherapy treatments and had visited with a young boy who was also a victim of cancer, Cody asked him a question: “Do you think God would allow me to take that boy’s cancer, and I could beat it for him?”

“Cody told me I probably wouldn’t know the answer to his question, and he was right,” Dennis said. “But that’s the kind of kid he was. He was willing to lay down his life for a friend.”

At Cody’s funeral service, where a 6-year-old boy was saved, Dennis told the packed church that Jesus touched and changed lives 2,000 years ago, and lives are still being changed because of His ministry.

“Cody was a follower of Jesus Christ, and although he only walked on this earth for eight years, he touched lives,” Dennis said. “If we follow Cody’s lead, what he did during those eight years could continue to change lives.
Dana Williamson is the associate editor of the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger newsjournal. (BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: CODY AND COACH and CODY’S BEDSIDE.

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  • Dana Williamson