Last Saturday in between games at my 12-year-old daughter’s fastball tournament she received a message that Caleb Logan was dead. I had no idea who that was, but Daisy knew, and so did all of her heartbroken friends. He was the gregarious 13-year-old star of a wholesome show on YouTube that loosely chronicled the lives of him, his two younger sisters and his parents. It is called Bratayley, the family’s stage name.
I wasn’t surprised I hadn’t heard of him. It’s about as likely for me to know who’s famous with kids as they’re likely to know who’s famous with the middle aged crowd.
Daisy sadly read out the announcement from his family’s Instagram account that was posted October 2nd: “Yesterday at 7:08 pm Caleb Logan Bratayley passed away of natural causes. This has come as a shock to all of us. Words cannot describe how much we will miss him. His incredibly funny, loving and wonderful spirit made us all fall in love with him as a YouTuber, friend, brother and son. We know you tune in to watch each day and eagerly anticipate new videos, but ask that you bear with us while we deal with this tragedy as a family. Please help us honor our baked potato.”
“Natural causes?” I asked. “He’s 13. Hopefully someone’s just hacked their account and it’s a hoax.”
As she warmed up with her team for their next game I did some Google researching on my phone trying to learn more about this boy, wanting to find an article from a reputable media source confirming it wasn’t true. But all I could find that day and the next were countless posts by distraught children and people speculating a practical joke or a suicide similar to that of his 10-year-old cousin two years prior.
It wasn’t until Sunday night that I finally read a report that confirmed the young teen had indeed passed away and it wasn’t until Monday that his family announced he’d died from an undetected medical condition. Tuesday morning it was reported on Good Morning America that the family’s history of heart disease, specifically hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, probably played a part in his premature death.
Suddenly, after days of not being able to find any media information on him at all, his story was plastered everywhere online and included countless pictures and video clips from a vast collection of material that had spanned the last five years.
Children tragically die every day, so why was the death of this boy getting so much press? That became a common question expressed repeatedly on social media. It’s fairly obvious – his family had a substantial fan base of close to 2 million YouTube subscribers and over a billion views of their videos.
His fans, primarily made up of kids, felt a deep connection to Caleb and his sisters, Annie and Hayley from watching them daily and sharing in their lives. Many felt as though they knew him, like he was their friend. And since the family is just being themselves in their videos, doing silly stunts and ordinary every day things, their connection felt arguably stronger than the one we adults might have with our favourite sports or entertainment stars.
His parent’s decision to live stream part of his memorial service was met with harsh criticism online and perceived as an attention-seeking ploy of over-sharing that some felt ought to remain private. But for the parents to include the fans in their son’s celebration of life was both fitting and kind since they are also mourning Caleb’s loss and in need of some closure.
For many of these kids, this has been their first experience losing someone they cared about. Their feelings of grief are important to respect, as are their concerns that someone so young and seemingly healthy could suddenly die like that. For the first time some of them have thought about their own mortality. If it could happen to him, it could happen to anyone – a powerful reminder of how precious life is and the importance of embracing what brings us love and joy.
There could be nothing worse than losing a child and what his parents are now dealing with is unfathomable. This happens to people all the time, but it never should. At the end of a video filmed the day before Caleb died, it states: “Please kiss your kids and tell them that you love them every day. You never know what day will be their last.”
That is so true of everyone.
All of us are born and all of us will die – how and when is rarely known ahead of time. What’s paramount is living life to the fullest as much as possible in between those two guaranteed events. Caleb set a beautiful example of doing that while he was alive, and he will continue to inspire the practice of that in his death.