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The kid who will stay in the picture

Tuesday was a sad anniversary for Trent and Labrina Solomon.

It was not a day they had circled on the calendar, and it certainly wasn’t as painful as the other sad anniversary of a few weeks ago.

Still, they had noted its approach with a sense of dread. Tuesday marked three years to the day when their 4-year-old son Joshua was diagnosed with a DIPG (Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma), an inoperable brain tumor. Aug. 14 was the two-year anniversary of his death in 2009.

On the mantel of their Macon home, the Solomons have a family portrait. It is of Trent and Labrina and their son, Caleb, who just turned 2.

Joshua is also portrayed in the painting, even though the photograph used to replicate it was taken after his death. His image was cut and pasted into the family photo using the tools of a computer software program. The portrait was then done by Derek Hart, a multimedia design specialist at Mercer.

“We did those pictures because we want everyone to know that Joshua will always be a part of our family,’’ Labrina said. “People we don’t know always ask how many children we have, and we always reply two.’’

Joshua lives on in other ways, too. His parents have started a foundation called Joshua’s Wish (www.joshuaswish.org) in an effort to raise awareness of childhood cancer and to raise funds to benefit the pediatric brain tumor program at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., where Joshua was a patient.

On Saturday, Sept. 17, his memory will be honored at the second annual Joshua’s Walk, a non-competitive run/walk at 8:30 a.m. at the Mercer law school, where Labrina has worked in the library for the past 21 years. This year’s goal is to raise $10,000 for pediatric brain tumor research, and it coincides with September being Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Trent and Labrina (Tibbs) grew up a mile from each other in Haddock. Both graduated from Jones County High School, and they were married March 15, 1997.

Trent graduated with a degree in political science from the University of Georgia and is now a financial planner. Labrina once had aspirations to become a singer. She sang with a gospel group and in the choir at Greater Jordan Chapel AME on Ga. 22. She has a famous cousin -- Jones County baseball great Rondell White, who played 15 seasons in the major leagues with five different teams.

Labrina began working in the college library when she was a student at Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville. When she transferred to Mercer, she started at the law library on Feb. 5, 1990.

Fourteen years later -- to the day -- Joshua was born.

Trent and Labrina called him their “miracle child.’’ He carried his father’s name as his middle name. His parents chose the name Joshua for its spiritual meaning -- “God is salvation.’’

Trent said his oldest son was a “charmer” with an “infectious personality,’’ even at a young age. He was affectionate. He never met a stranger and would often greet people by saying, “Hello, my friend.’’

“When we went to a restaurant, he would sometimes end up sitting with the people at the table next to us,’’ said Labrina. “He loved to give everybody a hug. And he loved the Lord. I could hear it in his prayers every night.’’

Trent’s father, Charlie, had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, and Trent wanted to fulfill his dad’s dream of visiting the Civil Rights Institute museum and research center in Birmingham, Ala. So they loaded up two cars and left for Alabama the morning of Aug. 30, 2008.

Joshua became ill during the trip, and they ended up at the Children’s Hospital in Birmingham. The diagnosis came suddenly and swiftly, and without much hope in the voice of the doctors.

“One of the neurosurgeons told us that type of tumor takes your faith,’’ Labrina said.

Later that year, Joshua was among the children selected from St. Jude’s to ceremoniously ring the opening bell at the NASDAQ stock exchange in New York with actress Marlo Thomas, whose father, the late entertainer Danny Thomas, founded St. Jude’s in 1962.

Joshua was such a popular patient with the staff at St. Jude’s that the hospital named one of its 2009 holiday teddy bears in his memory. He was also featured in a commercial for the hospital.

Labrina and Trent’s second son, Caleb, was born on July 14. One month to the day, Joshua died.

His family has been left to carry on.

To wish. To work. To walk.

Said Labrina: “Joshua’s Wish makes me feel like I’m still doing something for Joshua and finding purpose through the pain.’’

Reach Gris at 744-4275 or gris@macon.com.

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