There was a memorial service Tuesday afternoon in the Bass-Cauthen funeral home chapel. It was unlike any other there, or maybe anywhere. A pastor even said it was a first.
Sure, “Amazing Grace” was played. Certainly, family and friends cried. William “Alex” Creighton, 28, died days earlier from a rare bone cancer.
During the service, more music started, and it was no church choir. The Grateful Dead started to sing.
The song was named “Ripple.” It was one of Creighton’s favorites from his huge collection of Grateful Dead songs that Alex loved so much. Yes, Alex Creighton was a “Deadhead,” the nickname given to superfans of the group who followed the band and its music for decades. The band and music are about peace, brotherhood and love.
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His mother, Linda Creighton, said the memorial service had to be Alex, so it had to have the Grateful Dead.
“That was Alex’s favorite,” Linda Creighton said.
Alex almost always wore Grateful Dead T-shirts and tie-dye shirts. He said as he was so sick in a 2015 interview that their music inspired him to do what a cancer patient of all people needs to do. Inspire others.
“Smile a little bit and think of the life you have and not what you don’t have,” Creighton said then. “The Grateful Dead helped me remember that.”
Alex Creighton was not famous. He was a pizza delivery driver at Papa John’s in Rock Hill before he was too sick to work. He grew orchids and other flowers, and loved his parents and the Clemson Tigers football team. He played soccer at York Comprehensive High School.
He just wanted to be alive.
And he wanted others to be alive even more.
Alex agreed to appear on the front page of The Herald in May 2015, sick with cancer and not feeling well, saying he just wanted all the kids with cancer, all those young people who believed they had no hope or future, to fight on. He hoped kids would see the article. He hoped that his life would help others.
“Maybe what I am going through will help somebody,” Alex said in 2015. “I have seen the parents of kids at the cancer centers when I have gone for tests and treatments. I have waited with them and seen them and talked with them. I’ve seen the little kids. I have had a life, I have memories. Those kids, they never even got that.”
When Alex died, more than 600 people commented on Instagram and Facebook about how he made their lives better. Many had met him through the Grateful Dead.
Alex Creighton loved the Grateful Dead. Their music helped usher him to heaven. But he also showed in his short life what it is to be full of great, too.