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May 09, 2023

Taylor Swift's 'Ronan' was inspired by a boy who died of cancer; his mom will be at her Philly concert on May 12

Maya Thompson said the pop star gifted her the tickets; her son would have been 16 on Friday

"Come on, baby, with me / We're gonna fly away from here / You were my best four years," Taylor Swift sings in the chorus of one of her most devastating songs, "Ronan."

The song was written from the perspective of a grieving mother who lost her young son to cancer, inspired by the real-life story of Arizona native Maya Thompson and her son, Ronan, who passed away in 2011 just days before his fourth birthday.

Ronan would have been 16 years old on Friday, May 12, which happens to be the day of Swift's first performance in Philadelphia as part of her Eras Tour. To commemorate the occasion, Swift gifted Thompson, with whom she's maintained a friendship through the past decade, tickets to the sold-out concert at Lincoln Financial Field.

"This year, on Ronan's birthday, I'll be in Philadelphia attending the Era's tour thanks to (Taylor Swift)," Thompson wrote on Twitter. "This day is usually difficult for me, but I've found that giving back in some way brings me comfort."

Thompson also said she would be donating to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to commemorate "Ronan's Day of Love." Thompson works to help families fighting childhood cancer through the Ronan Thompson Foundation, which was launched in 2011 in honor of her son. 

Ronan was diagnosed with Stage IV neuroblastoma, a deadly form of childhood cancer, in 2010 and battled the disease until his death on May 9, 2011. 

Swift was inspired by Thompson's blog about her son, "Rockstar Ronan," to write his namesake song. "Ronan" was originally a charitable standalone single that Swift performed at the 2012 Stand Up to Cancer telethon. 

The song got a second wind in 2021, when Swift was re-recording her 2012 album "Red," as part of an ongoing project to reclaim her music rights. Swift hoped to include "Ronan" on the "Red (Taylor's Version)" track list, and asked for Thompson's permission. Touched by the request, Thompson immediately approved it and "Ronan (Taylor's Version)" was born.

"Taylor has anchored you to this world so you will never be lost, and now she has ensured you will forever be safe in a new, permanent home," Thompson wrote in a message to her son prior to the release of "Red (Taylor's Version)."

Thompson received writing credits on the 2021 version of the song, as many of the lyrics were inspired directly by her blog. Swift also released a lyric video featuring family photos and videos of Ronan, including footage of him saying "I love you."

Thompson has hinted that she may take part in an Eras Tour trend that has taken the Swiftie world by storm. Concert goers have been bringing Swift-themed friendship bracelets to the shows to pass out to fellow fans. On Monday, Thompson posted a purple-beaded bracelet with her son's name on it to Twitter, alongside the caption: "See you in 4 days, Philadelphia."

Swift makes her way to Philly this weekend for three consecutive performances at Lincoln Financial Field from May 12 through May 14. The highly anticipated "hometown" shows — the singer was born an hour outside Philly at Reading Hospital and spent her earliest years living on a Christmas tree farm in Berks County — have already caused a stir across the city, with themed events for even those (many) Swifties who could not secure tickets to the actual shows.

During each concert so far on the Eras Tour, Swift's three-plus hour set has included a few surprise songs, often related to where or when she's playing. For instance, during her April 29 show in Atlanta, Swift sang "High Infidelity," a song which asks: "Do you really want to know where I was April 29?"

So it's not a far leap to assume that Swift might sing "Ronan" to a sold-out crowd at the Linc on May 12 in honor of what would be the 16th birthday of the "beautiful boy."

"On this day, let us be compassionate, spicy, brave, sparkly, adventurous, and thankful for all that we have," Thompson wrote in reference to May 12. "Let us embrace our wild and free spirits, and perform a random act of kindness to brighten someone’s day. ... Let us celebrate the life of a little boy who should still be with us today."

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