DARRINGTON – Seth Cook, 13, knew his illness was taking its course and that his time was running out.
Rather than pity himself, the Darrington boy decided to comfort those he’d be leaving behind.
Seth, who was diagnosed early in life with an extremely rare aging disease, asked his family to bring his collection of roughly 200 Beanie Babies to his funeral.
He wanted them to be handed out to children his age and younger.
“He never complained, never asked ‘why me,’” said Stephanie Allestad, 36, a longtime friend of the Cook family. “He was so encouraging and inspiring.”
Seth died at his home June 25 after suffering from a heart attack. His death was the result of his illness, called progeria, which accelerates the aging process at a rate of eight to 10 times faster than normal.
On Saturday, hundreds of people attended Seth’s funeral service at the Glad Tidings Assembly of God Church in Darrington. At the family’s request, the media did not attend the funeral.
Afterward, people gathered for a community dinner at Darrington High School. They sat and ate at folding tables, packing the gymnasium.
Several framed photos of Seth were set up in the corner, between the desert and dinner buffets. In one picture, he stood barefoot on a sunny beach, his arms outstretched, wearing a blue and red Superman T-shirt. In another, Seth was in a swimming pool, lying back in an inner tube.
“He would have loved this, everyone getting together here for him,” said Jesse Schoneman, 14, who was friends with Seth.
Church Pastor Les Hagen said a recording of Seth was played during his funeral service. The recording, taken nearly a year ago, was of Seth talking to teens at the church about how to conquer their fears.
A video shown during the service included footage of Seth playing with his dog, Bullet, and running around the pool table at his family’s home, Hagen said.
The programs given out at the service included a letter from Seth, reminding people they would see him again someday in heaven.
“He crammed this much life into this little time span,” said Hagen, stretching out his arms and then bringing them back together until his hands were just inches apart.
“He never lived by his limitations,” Hagen said. “He was just a boy.”
Teachers who watched Seth advance through school described him as an enthusiastic student. He soaked up knowledge like a sponge, said Ann Nemnich, a teacher at Darrington Elementary School.
Seth graduated from sixth grade at Darrington Elementary School before switching to home school. He recently finished eighth grade and took part in the ceremonial end-of-the-year ceremony at Darrington Middle School.
His classmates were always careful when playing with Seth, and they always treated him with respect, Nemnich said.
“They were in awe of him, but they were never afraid of him,” she said.
Allestad – who became friends with Seth’s mother, Patti Cook, about 10 years ago – said Seth loved his family.
He enjoyed hunting and fishing with his dad, Kyle Cook, and playing video games and going to Christian rock concerts.
Allestad said her family often played Monopoly with the Cooks, and that one game lasted until 1 a.m.
Seth was at peace with himself, and he always tried to make others comfortable around him, Allestad said.
Until his final moments, he set an example for others to follow, she said.
“He reminds you to analyze your own life and to set priorities to what’s important, because life can be short,” she said.
Reporter Scott Pesznecker: 425-339-3436 or firstname.lastname@example.org.