According to all who knew her, Alivea Cox was running through adolescence on her way to adulthood when the unimaginable happened.
The 14-year-old daughter of Richmond Hill residents Allen and Kristi Cox was diagnosed with lymphoma. In a matter of hours, the girl with a smile that stretched ear-to-ear and could light up a room was gone.
She died June 4, leaving her parents, sisters and the Richmond Hill community wondering why.
Of course, that question will never be answered. But for the deeply religious Cox family, although hard to understand, they take solace in the fact that she is in God’s arms and will forever be under his protection.
Kristi Cox and a group of women who knew and loved Alivea met recently to talk about what her much-too-short presence in this world meant to them.
“I think what really gets me though the day is knowing the faith that we have. Jesus has a plan,” Cox said. “And even though it wasn’t a plan that I chose or would have chosen, there are so many different little reminders each day that he does have a plan. And as hard as it is, I know that she believed in him and I know that she wanted to live for him and she had finished what he wanted her to do.”
She smiled and unselfishly told me she hoped other parents would never experience what her family was going through.
“I think Alivea was unusual in a lot of ways for a 14-year-old girl,” Cox said.
She said Alivea was an “old soul” in a young body. While many teens strive to have the latest name brand clothes or want to run with a crowd, Alivea definitely traveled at her own pace and knew what she wanted.
Cox said her daughter enjoyed listening to ancient 45 rpm records on an old record player, something few girls her age are typically drawn to.
“She didn’t wear makeup. She didn’t want the latest fashions. We went on vacation one year and she wanted to go and buy some new shoes. She wanted to go to a store that sold shoes that usually appeal to older women,” Cox recalled. “I asked her if she was sure she wanted to go in there and buy shoes. She said, “yes,” and went in a picked two pair. She told me she wanted something comfortable. I told her that when she got back to school, people are probably going to laugh at you because these are like grandma shoes. She told me she didn’t care. She wanted something comfortable.”
The group of women laughed together, thinking of Alivea.
“She was solid in who she was. She knew who she was. What was important to her were her friendships and her passions,” Cox said. “I can remember hearing stories from one teacher that was caring for her elderly parents.
“She emailed us and told us that her class had been a little out of whack because she was caring for her parents ... she told me Alivea came in one morning and brought her a card to tell me her it’s OK. Everybody goes through tough days and she would get through this.
“That’s the way Alivea was. She cared about other people.”
Cox said that story was indicative of how Alivea was. And that was just one of many stories people had told her about Alivea that highlighted her character.
“That’s just how she was. She was very thoughtful about those around her,” Cox said.
“We’ve had a tremendous outpouring of love from this community since Alivea’s passing. I think that’s part of what helps get us through the day. Alivea loved sunflowers. When people see a sunflower, they will post it to my page as a reminder of their love and support. Alivea had a lot of acquaintances. A lot of people knew her but she had a core group of friends … she had many friends in the middle school band,” she said.
Mary Crippen, Alivea’s sixth-grade social studies teacher, recalled her independence in middle school.
“Middle school is pretty much doing what all the other students do, following their lead. But that was never Alivea. She really had this confidence in herself. She knew who she was,” Crippen said. “She would make a decision and was comfortable with that decision. She marched to her own drumbeat. If a project was due, Alivea would come in and that project would be done. She was very responsible.”
Alivea’s longtime friend Maggie Baker talked about some of their time in school together.
“She was well-known and well liked. If I was a little behind in school, Alivea would tell me to work harder. She was in two of my classes. We did the school news together and one time I told Alivea not to put her phone in her lap while we were doing the News and then her phone started ringing in the middle of it and we spent the rest of the News just laughing and laughing,” Maggie said.
“Kids were drawn to her because she was real,” Cox echoed.
Maggie’s mother, Heidi, said Alivea was like a member of their family.
“When I think about Alivea at my house, the one thing that comes to mind is her laughter. She was always laughing. It was such a happy atmosphere when she was there. I have a younger child and when Alivea came over, he thought she was coming to see him as well as Maggie. That’s just the way she was,” she said.
“I will say that out of all my daughter’s friends, not that I don’t love all of her friends, but Alivea was the only child that I have never worried about. Did Alivea’s values line up with Maggie’s? Did her family’s values line up with ours? Was she a good girl? Did she have her head on straight? Absolutely. I felt like Maggie and Alivea were two peas in a pod.”
Alivea’s school band teacher Alisha Bowden spoke of her self-confidence.
“She giggled ... got silly ... talked too much ... her classmates liked her and she genuinely liked them. She liked herself, which made everyone like her. That is a rare quality for someone entering her teens. I think that confidence came from her family and her faith. She loved being part of the team. She didn’t have to be the leader. I think that was demonstrated in her music, playing in the middle school band.
She always did her best and wanted to make her best even better,” Bowden said.
“What set her part was her world view. She understood that there were people suffering not just in Richmond Hill but the world ... I think in her too brief time in this life she tried to make the lives of others better.” “She was not totally angelic. We had our moments,” Cox said with a laugh of the girl who loved peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The group sat for about an hour remembering and talking about Alivea. Some laughed, others cried, but it was all in a spirit of love for a life lost to soon. She had touched many lives in her short time in this world and those lives are better off for having been touched by her.
She brought a spirit of confidence and sassiness to this world that is now a little poorer for her loss. Allen and Kristi Cox should take comfort in knowing that Alivea accomplished more in her short lifetime than many of us do in an entire lifetime. That is a credit to them as people and parents. The pain for them and her sisters will likely never go away.
The question of why God took Alivea so early was never answered, and it probably never will be.