OWN

How Cindy Crawford's 3-Year-Old Brother Helped Her Come To Terms With His Death

Growing up with three sisters, Cindy Crawford said she always knew her dad wanted a boy. He finally got his wish when her brother Jeff was born. Sadly, the family’s joy didn’t last long, as Jeff was diagnosed with leukemia when he was just 2 years old.

“I think when my parents first told us that my brother was sick, we didn’t really understand what it meant,” Crawford, who was 8 at the time of diagnosis, says in the above video from Oprah’s Master Class. “They didn’t use the word ‘cancer.’”

The family made near-daily trips to the hospital -- a two-hour drive from their home -- for Jeff’s radiation treatments. The prognosis was grim, so Crawford’s parents enrolled Jeff in an experimental program. At times, the family would experience a glimmer of hope when Jeff would go into remission. But then he would get sick again, and the family only endured more doctors, more hospitals and more agony.

At this point in her life, Crawford hadn’t had any close encounters with death, so she didn’t truly understand what was happening. However, she says her brother knew.

“My mother said she found him sitting in his room," Crawford recalls. "He was sitting at his little table, and she said, ‘What are you doing?’ And he said, ‘I’m praying.’ And she said, ‘What are you praying about?’ He said, ‘So that when I die, you’ll be OK.’ As a mom now, I can’t imagine hearing your child say that."

When Jeff was 3, he was supposed to go through another series of painful treatments after a break for Christmas. But he told doctors that he wasn’t coming back. “He said, ‘I’m not doing that,'" Crawford says. "He’s 3 years old, so they’re all like, ‘OK, sure.’ And the day that he was supposed to go back to the hospital, that’s the day he died. There’s some sense of completeness and peace that comes with knowing he knew that and he decided he was done fighting.”

"Oprah's Master Class" airs on OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network.

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