KEATON FRANKLIN COKER
October 5, 1995 - July 15, 2014
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." – Matthew 5:14-16
At age 16, a bizarre seizure came on suddenly while Keaton was at church with his family. Other than the occasional stomach virus or cold, Keaton had always been incredibly healthy. The diagnosis felt agonizingly slow in coming, but when it was confirmed as brain cancer, the family looked in vain for the “returns and exchanges” counter.
The next two years were a blur of medical activity, both at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Scottish Rite and Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. During those two years, it became clear that God had graced the Coker family and the Gainesville community with someone extraordinary. Keaton was seen in a different light. He brought light to every dark corner that cancer tried to produce.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” – John 1:5
Keaton was an offensive lineman on his high school football team. His role was not glamorous; his job was just to block. He created holes for running backs, and protected his quarterback so others could score. He created holes in that darkness the same way he created holes in defensive lines. He continued playing football through cancer treatment. In fact, he never missed a practice or a game because he “just didn’t feel good.” On the days that chemo and radiation took his energy away, Keaton simply asked God for extra strength.
His coaches marveled. His teammates and classmates rallied. His family rode his coat tails and cheered their hearts out. TV stations and newspapers did stories on his remarkable toughness. College football players supported him through social media.
Keaton was fiercely protective of his family. He wanted to protect them from the darkness of fear that cancer brings into a household. He stayed positive for them. He wanted his older brothers, Karson and Kanler, to keep moving forward and excel in their careers. He continued to support them with his presence at their events during cancer treatment. He kept his faith strong. He wanted his parents to know that he was going to be alright, no matter where the path of cancer led. He protected them by being a positive and courageous son.
One of our favorite stories about Keaton epitomizes his journey through cancer. It was customary for his football team to end Summer Workouts with a difficult 5:00 am run up Currahee Mountain. After finishing the run, Keaton stood tall, looked back down the mountain and without hesitation headed back down. Keaton had noticed that several of the younger lineman were struggling to reach the top. He endured more strenuous exercise to encourage and run alongside his teammates. Keaton didn’t do it for the attention. He did it because he understood his role in this life. Keaton’s purpose was to carry God’s light everywhere he went, and allow that light to impact others. There is NO DOUBT he fulfilled his purpose completely.
We wish that God had allowed Keaton to live a long life on this earth. However, we find comfort in this truth from scripture: “For David, after he had served God’s purpose in his own generation, died and was buried with his ancestors.” - Acts 13:36.
We look forward to a reunion with Keaton when Jesus returns. That reunion is a promise and we firmly believe it. Until that day, we will continue Keaton’s ministry through Thumbs Up Mission. We will block for other families journeying through cancer and we’ll shine some light in the darkness.