By ALESHA CADET
Tribune Features Reporter
One year after his death, the family of Stephen Brown is remembering a man who died too young, but who during his brief time on earth stood firm in his faith and spread the word of God to all, from hospital workers to gang members.
Stephen died aged 29 on May 4, 2017, at the Winter Haven Hospital, Central Florida, from a brain tumour. He had spent much of his young life battling brain cancer.
Speaking with Tribune Religion, his mother, Bernadette Brown, said she is grateful that her son remained fearless and faithful to the end.
"Stephen was strong-willed, loved God and family, and was always willing and ready to share his testimony. He was God-focused and always had a smile on his face. His hobbies were dancing, singing, telling jokes, swimming, carpentry, shopping, eating good food and reading," said Bernadette.
She recalled before he was diagnosed with a brain tumour at the age of 10, Stephen was an athlete who ran track and played soccer. He was her fifth child and third son who cherished time with family and friends.
"He liked school and his teachers, and enjoyed helping others. He was nicknamed by family and friends and answered to every one of them - 'Tappy Brown' by friends because he tapped his leg when speaking because he stammered; 'Run Away Man' because he would run away to play with friends on the back road and got lost one day because he took the wrong turn but was brought home by a neighbour passing by; 'Water Boy' by his grandmother, Priscilla Taylor, who predeceased him who would only call on him to bring her water to drink and he did so with a smile no matter how many times she called on him," said Bernadette.
After being re-diagnosed with brain cancer in 2015, Bernadette said her son had to undergo a non-invasive surgery in February 2016. She said his condition seemed to improve, but in July 2016 he suffered a massive stroke which affected the right side of his body and his speech.
"Even though he was in a wheelchair when he started therapy, he vowed to start walking again, and that he did, with the assistance of a walker and then a cane. Stephen had to have surgery again to treat the tumour and the bleeding that caused the stroke. Despite all the efforts, the cancer progressed, affecting his vital organs, causing him to be hospitalised both locally and abroad. His airway was affected and he suffered several strokes while in hospital and was in and out of ICU," said Bernadette.
Reflecting on some of her most memorable moments with her son, Bernadette recalled what a young Stephen said when she first told him he had a brain tumour: "I was kneeling by his bedside in the hospital. At age 10, he said, "Mummy, I am not afraid because Jesus is here with me and I know something is growing inside my head."
She remembers Stephen praying for the nurses and staff who took care of him in hospital; his mannerly behaviour, concern for loved ones, ministering to other patients at the Princess Margaret Hospital, and his love of reading the Bible and telling those around him about Jesus.
"People would be surprised to know things, like he wrote a book and it is presently being published. It should be officially out shortly. His daughter was born two days before he suffered a stroke; he visited the sick and shut-in to take food and read the Bible to them. He would walk into bars or gang-filled areas and tell young people Jesus loved them and to repent and serve God. He was telling friends he was going away and was not coming back; he would see them again but not in this life," said Bernadette.
In Stephen's final days, Bernadette said he asked her if she was OK. Although she smiled and said no because he was not OK, Stephen's reply was, "Mummy, I am OK, if only you could see just how good I am. I am in no pain and I am healed. I am not upset with God and nor should you or anyone question God, because He knows exactly what He is doing and His way is always right. I am not going back home with you and Daddy, I am going to die here but I shall live again. Thank you and Daddy for all you have done for me and I love you."
He urged his mother to tell others to repent and serve God, as it is the right thing to do.