News4 first met Raymond Cruz two years ago. He was a teenage singer-songwriter diagnosed with cancer. He'd been invited to perform at the Ryman Auditorium, but he insisted he be joined on stage for a duet with his doctor at Vanderbilt, Mark Stavas. Raymond died earlier this week. There's a powerful way his voice will continue to be heard.
There are yellow ribbons all over a neighborhood in Franklin. They're on mailboxes and around trees in honor of Raymond Cruz. The teen reached thousands all over the country with his music, both on stages and in shares of videos taken in his room.
"It definitely was the love of his life," said his mother, Blandina Vergara-Cruz. "He couldn't imagine doing anything but music. It was, I don't know, his oxygen. He needed it."
Vergara-Cruz said her son used his gift to bring joy, even after his third diagnosis of cancer.
"There's plenty of times on the oncology floor, he'd walk in with a ukele ready to sing," she said.
Vergara-Cruz said her son's wish was to create an album of the songs that helped him during his cancer treatments, songs he believed could also help someone else.
When Raymond passed this week, he'd recorded six of those songs. The family gathered in Raymond's room Wednesday to listen to his recording of the song "Smile." The family said hearing that voice always makes them feel the same way.
"Like his two warm arms were hugging me," said Vergara-Cruz. "I'll always think of him hugging me and loving me with his warm voice. He just wanted you to know he cared, and he loved you. My older son said the other day, 'when I think of the Lord, I'm going to think of Raymond.' Something was amazing when they made Raymond."