Family opens a new chapter
After losing their son to cancer in 2007, Brian and Desirae Harman have welcomed a new son, Chaycen Wesley Harman, into the world. Click here to see photos and video
The Roanoke Times - By Lerone Graham
FLOYD -- Brian and Desirae Harman don't get as much sleep as they'd like.
"You're going to have to get him, Brian," Desirae Harman said she told her husband at 4 a.m. two weeks ago.
And it's like deja vu for the family, which lost sleep throughout much of last year tending to their son, Chance, as he battled a rare brain tumor.
The Floyd County community rallied behind Chance as he spent seven months in and out of surgery and chemotherapy, before dying July 6, 2007, at the age of 4.
While the Harmans spent countless nights last year in the hospital, they now have a different reason for stressful, sleepless nights.
On Nov. 4, the Harman family welcomed its newest addition, a baby boy weighing 6 pounds, 5 ounces.
They named him Chaycen Wesley Harman. The family said that baby Chaycen is a part of the healing process.
Initially, they wanted another boy. But after getting pregnant two months after Chance's death, only to miscarry that November, they said the gender didn't matter as much, "as long as it was healthy," Brian Harman said.
In light of all of the tragedy in their lives -- Desirae Harman's sister was shot and killed two months after Chance's death -- they chose not to tell relatives that Harman had gotten pregnant and miscarried.
So when they learned that she was pregnant yet again, they waited a few months before breaking the news.
"We were blessed again to have another," Brian Harman said.
He said that he and Desirae were tested to see if Chance's tumor was genetic. Thankfully, they said, the tests came back negative.
"If it was [genetic], I never would have had another child," Desirae Harman said.
The family said that they prayed to God, asking for another child. And if it happened to be a boy, they would take that as a sign that it would soon be time to move on.
When Chaycen was born, his mother said that her prayers were answered, so they would mourn for two more years and then move forward.
Two more years.
In two years, the family will move Chaycen upstairs to the bedroom where Chance's presence still breathes life into every corner, and they will redecorate it to accommodate their new child.
This means painting over Chance's tiny, traced handprints on the wall that were done before his second surgery, when his time was nearly up. It also means getting rid of his favorite basketball-themed stuffed animal, which provided comfort to him every day that he fought for his life in the hospital.
Simple objects in the room are sure to conjure up memories of Chance. They would have to clean out the bottom drawer that he used as a hiding place, still full of the toys he would stash away from his younger sister, Destiny.
A glance at the DVD player might remind them of the movie "Cars," which they watched in the hospital with their son so often that the disc stopped working.
While memories such as these will always be cherished, the Harmans say they don't want to live their lives in the past or too far in the future.
When Chaycen was born, they were overjoyed, but the feeling was different than with the births of their previous two children.
"We weren't looking down the road," Brian Harman said.
The doctors told them that he was a little small, which worried them at first, but they were relieved when they were able to bring him home.
"Some people look down the road. Enjoy every day, because you might not make it to that vacation," Harman said.
As head coach of the Floyd County High School boys basketball team, a normal, enjoyable day on the job for Harman is far from serene.
At the Dec. 17 home opener against Craig County, Harman was anything but the gentle family man. He was all business.
"Attack! Attack!" he shouted from the bench. His jaw remained clenched, his eyes intensely locked on the game action.
In the end, Floyd County prevailed, 75-34. And, finally, Harman relaxed.
What might have been
Family seems to be central with the Harmans, as they adjust to the beginning of another chapter in their life.
Desirae Harman said that the long nights checking on the baby might be stressful, but she wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.
"Before it was like, 'Oh, I've got to check on the baby.' Now it's a blessing," she said.
Still, the Harmans are human and can't help but wonder sometimes what could have been.
"I'll always think about what it'd be like with three," Brian Harman said.
For starters, Chance would be in school now, which would cause their schedules to be different, he said.
Desirae Harman said that the birth of Chaycen would have been a dream come true for their son.
"Even during the fight, he was asking when we were going to have another one. ... He wanted a little brother," she said.
Harman can picture her son, who would now be 6, playing with his little brother. She said that if Chance were here, he would constantly be in his little brother's face, trying to make him laugh.
"He'd always try to make people laugh," Harman said with a smile, as her eyes gazed into the distance.
Harman sees similar traits in Destiny, who adores her little brother and plays with him every chance she gets. Harman said that she can't wait until the two are running around, getting on each other's nerves as most siblings do, because it will remind of her of the days when Chance was alive.
Two Sundays ago, when the Harman parents were trading baby duty even up until 4 a.m., their plans constantly changed when debating whether or not they would go to church as a family for the first time in more than a month.
They finally decided to get up and go, much to the delight of their fellow members at Topeco Church of the Brethren.
It was everyone's first time seeing Chaycen, so they couldn't go very far without people wanting a peek at the baby or giving some advice.
The Harmans say that seeing Chance's faith never waiver during his sickness -- and their belief that he is in heaven -- has made their faith stronger than ever.
"Before Chance, I kind of knew where I was going [after death], but now there's no question," Brian Harman said.
Much of the service was a juggling act, with Desirae Harman tending to the baby and Brian Harman trying to get their daughter to sit still.
Brian Harman would often get distracted from the service, because Destiny seemed to get a kick out of putting her feet in her dad's face. She also provided her mother with some baby advice of her own.
"Mom, he stinks!" Destiny said in the middle of the service, cracking up. A diaper change soon followed.
As the church choir went through their Christmas selections, one song stood out more than others.
"The world has joy through a baby boy," the choir sang during "The World Has Joy Medley."
The way the Harmans live their lives on a daily basis, family seems to be their world.
"It's a circus," Desirae Harman said, referring to their new family life. "But it's the best feeling in the world."