(This story originally appeared in the Bradenton Herald)
BRADENTON – Devin Marcel Haisley was supposed to have gone home on Dec. 5.
The 17-year-old had spent the past few months in patterned hospital gowns, in and out of All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg since being diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma and leukemia in August.
His family had always told Devin — and anyone who visited him — to take it “one day at a time.” As he endured chemotherapy, Devin never complained.
To prepare for his return to Bradenton for hospice care at home, Devin’s mother, Beth Haisley, did his laundry and left a bag of fresh clothes in his room.
The cancers proved too aggressive for Devin, who died in the early evening of Dec. 5.
“I put the clothes away,” the 45-year-old recalled. “I wasn’t ready to get rid of everything.”
It’s been a difficult time for Haisley, her husband, DeAngello, 50, and son Taryn, 25.
“Our close friends and family have really been a huge support to us and, of course, our religious faith helps us to get through,” Haisley said.
The Haisley family are of the Jehovah’s Witnesses denomination and Haisley said the family has received much support from their Bradenton congregation and others nearby, including from Palmetto, Sarasota and even St. Petersburg.
“At this point, it’s very fresh and it’s still very hard,” she said. “Thinking of future times when we think that we’ll see him again is a help.”
She described Devin as a great boy who never got into trouble, and who was very optimistic.
“His favorite color was orange and I think that described his persona … it’s a bright, bold color,” Haisley said. “He was happy, even through it all.”
In elementary school, Devin developed Tourette Syndrome. The boy also had an anxiety disorder, which caused him to struggle with large groups and lunchroom environments.
In middle school, he’d sometimes help his mother with her food-service job at Lee Middle School before the school day began.
“He would put chicken pieces on a pan, cut fruit — simple stuff,” said Mark Boucher, who managed the school’s cafeteria at the time. “He was one that wanted to come in and help.”
After Devin grew sick this summer, Boucher would stop by to visit the teen and try to make him and his mother laugh. He remains close to the Haisley family.
“Devin had such a great smile … and a little sense of humor,” Boucher said. “He was a special kid.”
While at home, Devin enjoyed cooking. His cousin would often pick him up and they’d go to the supermarket to buy ingredients to make homemade cakes.
He also liked to play video games with his brother.
“If he was in the house, you knew he was in the house,” Haisley said. “I think that’s what we miss the most. It’s so quiet in the house now … that’s the worst.”
For the past two summers, the Haisley family have vacationed in Fairview, N.C. They stayed in a rented cabin and would hike together.
During their hikes, the family would walk by waterfalls and streams.
“He loved going up there, collecting rocks under the waterfalls. He loved being out in nature,” she said.
At home, the Haisley family has a small aquarium set up. It’s mostly empty, no fish in it just yet. For now, it’s filled with water — and all the rocks Devin collected.
A memorial service will be held for Devin Marcel Haisley at 2 p.m. Saturday at Braden River High School.