Big Bird Puppeteer Shares Heartbreaking Story of Comforting Young Cancer Patient
Caroll Spinney wrote on Reddit: "This is a very sad story, but it's real."
Being Big Bird is a big responsibility.
Caroll Spinney, who has worked on Sesame Street as Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch for forty years, recently recounted a story of giving peace to a young cancer patient shortly before his death.
He recalled receiving a letter from a father whose five-year-old son Joey had cancer, and was so sick that the boy knew he was dying. The man said the only thing that cheered up his son was seeing Big Bird on screen in Sesame Street, and asked if Spinney would call him.
"I chatted a while with him, about ten minutes, and he said 'I'm glad you're my friend Big Bird,' " Spinney recalled. "He said 'Thank you for calling me Big Bird. You're my friend. You make me happy.' "
Joey's father wrote Spinney to thank him, and shared the news that Joey died after the call, but passed away with a smile on his face, the first time his parents had seen in months.
"It was a gift to us. Thank you," Spinney recalled the father writing in the letter.
Read Spinney's full story below:
Okay, here's one.
This is a very sad story, but it's real.
I got a letter from a fan who said his little boy, who was 5 years old, his name was Joey, he was dying of cancer.
And he was so ill, the little boy knew he was dying.
So the man, in his letter, asked if I would call the little boy. He said the only thing that cheered him at all in his fading state was to see Big Bird on television.
So once in a while, he wouldn't see Big Bird on some days, because he wasn't necessarily in every show. So he asked could I telephone him, and talk to the boy, tell him what a good boy he's been.
So I took a while to look up a phone, because this was before cell phones. And they got a long cord to bring a phone to the boy.
And I had Big Bird say "Hello! Hello Joey! It's me, Big Bird!"
So he said "Is it really you, Big Bird?"
"Yes, it is."
I chatted a while with him, about ten minutes, and he said "I'm glad you're my friend Big Bird."
And I said "I'd better let you go now."
He said "Thank you for calling me Big Bird. You're my friend. You make me happy."
And it turns out that his father and mother were sitting with him when the phone call came. And he was very, very ill that day. And they called the parents in, because they weren't sure how long he'd last.
And so his father wrote to me right away, and said "Thank you, thank you" - he hadn't seen him smile since October, and this was in March - and when the phone was hung up, he said "Big Bird called me! He's my friend."
And he closed his eyes. And he passed away.
And I could see that what I say to children can be very important.
And he said "We haven't seen our little boy smile in MONTHS. He smiled, as he passed away. It was a gift to us. Thank you."