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Too Young to Die: Braydion Matlock

The three-year-old often swung from curtains, pretending to be Spider-Man.

"He might have been physically three, but his mind was so much further than that," Maria Lopez said of her son Braydion Matlock. The little boy was protective of his two younger brothers. He often helped his mother pull the blankets around his baby brother, Madden, at bedtime. One morning, Lopez woke to find Braydion sleeping in the crib with Madden, who is now 10 months old. He considered his other sibling, Landon, who is about one year younger, his best friend and referred to him as "Bubba." They often fought and wrestled, "but that was the way they bonded," Lopez said. He was sensitive to the feelings of people around him. Once when his grandmother, Kathy-Marie Lopez, began to cry, he asked: "What's the matter, Grandma?" She brushed the issue aside and told him her allergies were bothering her. "Allergies!" he said. "Who made you mad?"

Braydion loved Lightning McQueen, the race car from the animated movie Cars. His parents recently bought him and Landon matching race car beds, and had planned to decorate Braydion's room with the characters from Cars. Whenever he heard the theme-song, "Life is a Highway," on the radio, he danced with Landon in the backseat of the car. He also ran around his home in Paducah, Ky., yelling McQueen's famous word, "Ka-Chow!" The family celebrated his third birthday last year with Cars decorations and a McQueen-shapedcake. When he wasn't focused on race cars, Braydion climbed and swung from curtains, pretending to be Spider-Man as he shot webs at his relatives. "I would tell him all the time to get down, but he would say, 'I'm OK, Mom. I'm a superhero,'" she said. For Halloween last year, Braydion dressed as Spider-Man; his brothers wore Hulk and Superman costumes.

Braydion had a close bond with certain men in his life, including his mother's boyfriend and, especially, his paternal grandfather. He went everywhere with his grandfather, who lives five minutes from his home. They played in the front yard, swam, and jumped on the Slip 'n Slide. Whenever Braydion left "Poppy's" house, he got some candy to ease the goodbye. Braydion's grandfather coaches the local high school's baseball team. Wanting to participate, Braydion helped rake the field for practices and games.

Braydion and his mother shared a special daily routine. When she returned home from school and work, they ate dinner before he took a bubble bath, which he loved. After tucking Braydion into bed, Lopez read him a story. He refused to fall asleep until she said "the end" to the story and sang what he called the "sunshine song," more commonly known as "You Are My Sunshine."

Braydion was killed during an accidental shooting at his home in Paducah on Feb. 9.

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