When Brandon Curtis learned that his father Brian had terminal lung cancer, he was crushed. Brian wasn’t going to seek chemotherapy because of his Parkinson’s disease. Only months earlier Brandon lost his sister, without warning, to a virus that attacked her heart. But, through all of the pain and suffering, something amazing happened.
The Red Bull digital brand manager flew home to Nebraska to see his father. His dad defeated him in checkers, talk about guy stuff and drink Miller Lites together for the very first time. Brian only has six months to live and the father and son are wasting no time to bond.
“My oldest sister, Jana, had passed away unexpectedly from an undetected heart virus just eight months prior — none of us had the chance to say goodbye,” Brandon says. “So when we found out about my dad’s terminal cancer, we were going to do anything it took to show him how much we loved him and to say goodbye.”
Brandon and family decided to launch #SkyBluePink, an online campaign that would hopefully bring happiness and love to Brian in his final days. “Sky blue pink” is his favorite color. It’s the color of sun rises and sun sets.
“We ask you to help fill his life with love, support and #SkyBluePink” by sending a card, tweeting a note on Twitter or sharing a photo on Instagram.” Brandon wanted to fill his father’s life with his favorite color.
Just a week after the campaign was created, they received over 500 submissions. “It was enough to cover an entire wall at his hospice care center,” says Brandon.
#Skybluepink brought joy to Brian’s life when his health was failing. Complete strangers were sending in their love, connecting father and son no matter how far apart they were.
Two weeks after the diagnosis and campaign creations, Nebraska band Good Show Great Show posts a message on its blog, detailing Brian’s story alongside a blunt message: “Cancer sucks.”
They even wrote a new song, just for Brian, called Sky Blue Pink.
Have you heard what I’ve heard?
Ain’t never gonna find another love like yours.
Have you seen what I’ve seen?
The West on fire, sky blue pink
Have you drank the river’s water deep?
Big Blue cuttin on my apple tree
Do you know what I know?
This body it won’t let me go
It don’t matter what they think
The West on fire, sky blue pink
Brian’s daughter Cindy loved playing it for him. “First a huge smile spread across his face, then he cried. We like your whiskey-flavored music! The overall sound, the lyrics — everything about this song — is so perfect for my Dad.”
A call came from Cindy on August 12th. She’s calm, but her voice is shaky… their dad is fading fast. Brandon connects with his father on Skype, knowing it might be the last time he can talk to him.
“I told him I loved him so much. I told him he was a great father — that I looked up to him, that he didn’t need to worry about me because he had done a really good job setting me up for success in life and that I was on my way to see him.”
After rushing and waiting on flights, around 1:30 a.m. Brandon walked into his dad’s dark room at Harvard Rest Haven.
“I sat next to him,” Brandon recalls. It’s his 16th visit to the bedside in 15 months. “I held his hands. I started crying. It felt so good to see him. I’ll never forget that night.”
Brandon and Cindy let him sleep, and Brian passes away hours later on August 13th, just one day before Brandon’s 30th birthday.
Nothing will replace their father, but the reminder that people in this world can be truly compassionate and caring remind them that Brian KNEW he was loved.
“It may sound silly, but with media and politics often telling us we’re all so different, it was a great reminder — that despite any real or contrived differences — we’re all people and we actually have a lot in common,” Brandon says. “We all have feelings, emotion and compassion. #SkyBluePink was just one way to unlock this.
“People are incredible.”