By Sally Voth - email@example.com
A fighter to the end of his too-short life, Trent Williams is getting a hero's send-off Thursday.
The 8-year-old boy died at 4:29 a.m. Sunday at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville after a battle with brain cancer. He was surrounded by dozens of family members and loved ones.
He'd been diagnosed with anaplastic medulloblastoma -- he had a tumor on his cerebellum -- in October 2010, and immediately underwent brain surgery. Part-way through chemotherapy, he developed veno-occlusive disease, a liver disease that nearly killed him.
Trent was briefly given a clean bill of health, only for a Jan. 13 MRI to reveal cancer cells were in his cerebral-spinal fluid.
"There's no cure for that when it's in the spinal fluid," Trent's dad, Eric, said in a Monday afternoon interview at their Strasburg home.
Trent's funeral is 2 p.m. Thursday at Strasburg High School. Williams said there will be an open-casket viewing from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and then the casket will be closed for the funeral.
If parents want their children to be able to see Trent, "that's perfectly fine," he said, but if they think doing so would be too traumatic, they can just come to the funeral.
"It's going to be a full fireman's funeral," Williams said.
Strasburg Fire Department -- which is draped in a black drape in honor of Trent's passing -- had made him an honorary chief, and his final journey will be by fire truck. There will be a reception afterwards at the high school, Williams said.
While the little boy's parents had known for months his cancer was incurable, his death was sudden and devastating.
"Probably in the last week or so, we knew it was closer than we had hoped," Williams said.
They cut short their trip to Myrtle Beach with him last week, and took him back to UVA where a shunt was put in his brain to relieve pressure.
After their first day at the hospital, Williams said, "I think we both probably knew we would be coming home without him."
Trent's condition quickly deteriorated, and though they'd tried to prepare themselves for this during the past seven months, "we still don't think it's really going to happen," his father said.
"Over the last two or three weeks, it's somewhat quickly started to progress," he said. "We still held out hope that some of these trial medications he was on were going to work. [But,] I think deep down we knew it was going to happen pretty quickly."
With cancer in the spinal fluid, death can come in slower stages, but for Trent, it happened faster, his mom, Jennifer said. She said they think it's because he'd fought so hard that they never saw those symptoms until the very end.
"Thank God he didn't have to suffer with all of the crazy symptoms for so long," Mrs. Williams said.
Trent also leaves behind his identical twin, Logan, and big brother, Caden, 11. Mrs. Williams said the reality of his passing likely hasn't struck them yet since he'd been away from home so much recently.
"I think eventually it's going to set in even more that he's never coming home," she said.
Seeing his brother's bunk bed in their shared bedroom was particularly hard for Logan, the Williamses said.
Trent's struggle and spirit captured the hearts of people who'd met him in Strasburg and Charlottesville and those he'd never met from all over the world. His parents have gotten messages on their Praying for Trent Facebook page from across the globe.
"He's a very positive child," Mrs. Williams said.
Her husband added, "Absolutely phenomenal. There's nobody like him."
"People were around him crying [because he was fighting cancer]," Williams said. "He was like, 'Why are they crying?' They're not the ones that are hurt.
"Trent was so positive all the time. We never talked about death. He thought about others much more than he ever thought about himself. He was just an unbelievable kid. I've never met anyone like him."
His mother said his outlook was "very humbling."
"He was always concerned about other people [rather] than himself," she said. "He would see somebody with a broken arm or something, [and] he would say, 'I feel so bad for that person.'"
Mrs. Williams said they were always telling Trent that people cared and were rooting for him.
"He said, 'I'm kind of famous, everybody knows me,'" Williams said.
Strangers would approach him and address him by name.
"He said, 'You know me from Facebook, don't you?'" his mom recalled.
Trent touched so many people, Williams said, "especially when he was going through the VOD because he almost died with the VOD." After he overcame that, even more people -- many of them strangers -- got behind his son.
"They would change because of Trent, without even meeting him," Williams said. "I felt like he's got a bigger calling, he could really touch people and talk to people and just be an amazing adult. I guess that's the way it was meant to be. Even in eight years he did amazing things. He will never be forgotten by hundreds of thousands of people.
"Everyone here has been just amazing. There's nothing like Strasburg."
Countless times, the Williams family found their meals were paid for, or someone had stuffed money into Mrs. Williams' purse.
At Taco Bell, a soldier approached the family in the parking lot shortly after Trent underwent his first round of chemo. Williams said the soldier told Trent, "you're more of a warrior than anyone," and took a pin off his jacket and gave it to the boy.
Trent was coming home from Johns Hopkins Hospital last Halloween, and when word got out, a sort of welcome-home parade was hastily organized. Fire trucks and ambulances met him at McDonald's and rode him into town, Williams said, and people with signs lined the streets.
"Trent had no idea what was going on," he said. "They've been just amazing."
He was also close with Police Chief Tim Sutherly, who was at UVA with him.
The family also couldn't say enough about their treatment in Charlottesville.
"Trent loved UVA," Williams said. "He loved UVA more than anything. He would get sick when he saw Virginia Tech stuff."
A sports fan, Trent had jerseys and other items signed by various athletes from a Redskin who shares his name, to Lance Armstrong, to the Strasburg Express. And, the athletes attending UVA were particularly dedicated.
"I think everyone down there knows who Trent is," Williams said. "UVA's top basketball player came up to Trent and asked for his autograph. The UVA wrestling team really stepped up."
Two of the wrestlers stayed with Trent every day the last week of his life.
"They were with us when he passed," Mrs. Williams said. "They're taking it just as hard as we are."
Her husband added, "We had a lot of family around, friends around, the last three days. When he passed, I would say there was probably 30 people in that room."
"It was very comforting," Mrs. Williams said. "We had a great support system. He was never bothered that we were going down for treatments. He was excited that we were going to spend time with our friends."
Trent will be buried at Riverview Cemetery, across the road from Strasburg High School, which is comforting for his father.
"When we go there for events, and the boys get to high school, they will be able to see Trent's gravesite," he said. "They will be able to sort of wave to him, blow him a kiss."
According to the Praying for Trent Facebook page, there will be a candle and sky lantern ceremony in Trent's honor at 8:30 p.m Tuesday at the Strasburg Town Park.
Praying for Trent is being turned into a foundation in his memory. Donations can be made into the Friends of Trent account at First Bank.