Aidan Ocker had come to Boston on a boy’s dream, a magical wish to see his beloved Red Sox play at Fenway Park. But the cancer would not even grant him that.
As the 11-year-old lay in Children’s Hospital late one September night, his condition worsened, and his family rushed to his side. Dashing from their hotel room, Aidan’s sister Addyson made sure to bring Rocco, her cherished stuffed dog and constant companion.
Somewhere along the way, probably in the cab over, Rocco got left behind. Addyson, 13, was left to face her brother’s dying days without her childhood friend.
Two days after Aidan was supposed to be at Fenway, he flew home to California, where he died a few days later, on Sept. 18.
More than three weeks have passed since Rocco went missing, and he still has not been found. But people are looking, in hope of giving a measure of comfort to a grieving girl, of finding something precious amid such loss.
After learning what happened, the Boston Police Department has reached out to the public, posting a picture of the dog on its website with the heartbreaking circumstances. But no word so far.
“But we’re hoping,” James Kenneally, a department spokesman, said Friday.
Claire Nowlan, a 56-year-old from Falmouth, found out about Rocco through a family member who happened to meet one of Aidan’s relatives in California and felt she had to act. Addyson deserved that much, she said.
“We have to try,” Nowlan said. “It’s one of those stories that tears your heart apart.”
She made fliers and passed them out to cabs near the hotel where the family had stayed, went to the hospital’s lost and found, and had a friend notify police. The hotel even scanned its security tapes, in hope of finding the cab they took.
Rana Ocker, Aidan and Addyson’s mother, said she is deeply moved that people so far away would feel compelled to help. “We’re so touched by it,” Ocker said. “It’s amazing.”
She said Aidan was a smart, energetic boy who loved sports, baseball most of all. He started playing in tee ball, and spent hours fielding grounders off the backyard fence. When he wrote stories for school, the plot would involve baseball. Even in the hospital, he would take batting practice in the hallway. “He always had a ball in his hand,” she said, her voice wistful.
Aidan’s first tee ball team was called the Red Sox, and he quickly became a fan. He lived in the heart of Angels country, but his loyalties never wavered. He played second base, among other positions, and came to love Sox star Dustin Pedroia.
“He always played his heart out,” his mother said.
Last fall, Aidan was having pizza with his team after a game when he had a seizure. An MRI revealed a large tumor in his brain, and he was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive form of brain cancer. A short time later, he started chemotherapy, and was hospitalized for more than two months.
“The doctors said it was going to be a long year,” Ocker recalled.
Through all the treatments, Aidan maintained his even-keeled disposition. When he was home, he played outside, rode his scooter, and played video games with his friends and cousins. When he was at the hospital, he playfully teased the nurses and shot suction-cup arrows at the glass windows. As his family’s hopes fluttered and fell, he never wavered.
“He never asked why,” she said. “He never complained. He just dealt with it. He didn’t jump on the roller-coaster ride with me. He just stayed the course.”
Around the time of his 11th birthday in August, the cancer spread to his spine, and his prognosis dimmed. His father took him to see the Red Sox play the Angels, and he got to meet star pitcher Jered Weaver while proudly wearing a Red Sox shirt.
“When Weaver saw him, he said with a big smile, ‘What are you doing?’ ” she said.
Through Make-A-Wish Massachusetts and Rhode Island, the family made plans for Aidan to visit Fenway. But shortly after arriving in Boston, he took a turn for the worse, and on the night of the game, they watched from the hospital.
Then, while the postgame show was still on, Pedroia arrived to pay Aidan a visit, which had been part of Aidan’s wish. Despite his pain, Aidan perked up.
“He was so excited,” his mother recalled. “We’re forever Red Sox and Pedroia fans. That was the last time we saw a twinkle in his eye.”
Aidan was buried in his baseball uniform, down to the dirty cleats, in a casket with a Red Sox insignia. “That’s who he was,” she said.
Addyson sang at the funeral, and is holding up OK, her mother said. She misses her stuffed animal, which gave her comfort over the past year. But maybe its job was done.
“I can still picture her little face, telling me she had left it in the cab,” her mother said. “But she knew she had to set it aside. She knew something much bigger was happening right before her. She had to let Rocco go.”