Thursday, December 22, 2016

One Last Kiss



I have a tough time trying to decide what to share, and what not to share with the world about our loss. So many moments are so intimate or so painful, that writing them is hard, let alone sharing them with a very critical world. My family is very supportive with my blog, and allow me to share. They don't censor, they just leave it up to me. I share because I want the world to know about our baby, I want them to know just how loved he is.

He never leaves our minds, and will most definitely always been in our hearts. I want nothing more than to hold that baby. Scoop him up and shower his fat little face with kisses.

I dream about John often. I love it when I get to hold him in my dreams. Usually it is the same dream, where I meet him on the dock somewhere, but he is an adult, or he is a baby playing on the beach. I miss him so much it really does hurt. When you wake up and you remember again, and then you try to recall holding him. Fight to pull up a memory of his sweet smile. Anything other than that terrifying feeling of dangling over the depth of despair, fight to ward off the terrible flashbacks to the last time you saw him.

I dreamt of the day he passed a few nights ago. It was all so vivid, and like I was right back in that little PICU room watching them place that little purple butterfly on the door of the room. That purple butterfly was screaming to the world that this family was losing their youngest member.

John was placed in his Mommy's arms to be taken off of life support. My sister's and I are very close, and we truly share in each other's pain. I can't place the emotion that coursed through me at that moment. Devastation is as close a description as I can give. He was so tiny, yet so much bigger than I remembered in her arms. With every tube or wire they removed, the more I shook, shake thinking about it. You can never brace yourself for the moment when you know they're gone. And you will never get over the things you see, or smell, or hear. It all echos throughout your head.

I watched my sister cradle her baby and sob over his lifeless body. She felt his heart stop. You could feel every soul in the room crash to the floor with grief. We knew immediately when he was gone, because she went with him. I watched my mom and Virginia hold him one last time. The sounds of their crying...that defeated look on their faces...are things that I can't describe. That kind of heartbreak is only recognized and understood by those that know it, and I hope you never do.

I knew I would never have another chance to snuggle with John, and we all decided to hold him one last time. He was so much heavier than I remembered, his chunky little self. He wasn't there, but I will cling to that moment. The feeling of holding him against my heart one more time. Kissing his soft little cheek. I felt him in my arms when I dreamt of him the other night. I woke up and it was like I had just been holding him.

When I woke up my heart hurt, and I almost panicked. The anxiety ate at me for a minute. Moments like those give me a whole new understanding of those that suffer from PTSD. That is exactly how I felt that morning, like I was flashing back to that day. It is traumatizing what our family went through, and it isn't over yet. If it feels this traumatizing to me, I can't imagine how Angela feels.

I wanted so much in that moment to trade places with him. Holding his broken and limp little body, hurt in a manner he never should have been hurt. I know what saying that would entail... trading places... but when it's one of your little people laying there, trust me, you would do the same. Any one of us would have traded places with him. Would have given anything to go back and change the course of events that led to him being there that day. Keep him away from that monster.

We need our baby so much. Our family is so broken without him. We are truly lost in this world right now. And the holiday's only compounded that feeling. It is so confusing, to know we should be celebrating holidays, when we feel like there is no reason to celebrate.

We are all so exhausted. It is a job trying to be happy when the world is falling down around you.

I miss you fat man. I really do.

What I'd do to hold you one more time...




Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Sweet Baby Gabe

I'm going to share something with you today, in hopes that it will help some people understand just why my grief over losing John has been so profound. I also want to commemorate another sweet little person we lost this year. This year has been tough, and we have lost so many precious lives...

Dustin has a friend, Amber, that I have never met. I've never shook her hand, or hugged her in person, but I love Amber just as much as one of my sisters. 

The very first time I spoke with Amber was after she and her husband had suffered a terrible and heartbreaking miscarriage. I didn't know her, but after Dustin's mother told me that Amber had lost both of her twins, fairly late into her pregnancy, I was compelled to reach out to her. I was worried she would think I was a lunatic, someone she didn't even know was reaching out to her during one of her most private and difficult times. But she was sweet, and kind even though she was heartbroken. I offered whatever words of encouragement I could, and offered a hand of friendship. I learned that prior to this she had suffered a couple of other miscarriages. What I really learned that day is that the one thing she wanted most was a baby.

Dustin has always spoken so highly of Amber and her husband Wes, and after speaking with her myself, I knew he was right in doing so. She is good people. One of those women that gives so much of herself to make sure everyone else is happy. She is strong, so very strong. Beautiful, amazing, loving...she's Amber. I could never tell you enough about how amazing and strong I think she is.

After losing the twins, Amber and Wes were blessed with their Rainbow baby, Gabriel. A rainbow baby is a child born after a miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death or infant loss. The term has encouraged parents to share their stories of loss – and the babies that followed. Gabriel was born on January 14, 2013. He was 8 lbs 14 ounces. Every bit the perfect and healthy baby. Another little chunk. Beyond loved, and waited for! I remember crying when I saw he was born, mostly just relieved that they had a strong healthy baby. And Gabe became a big brother in 2015 to Miss Abbigail, and again I was relieved to see another healthy baby. 

Amber is a good mommy. She loves her babies, and worked damn hard to get them here. They live on the other side of the country, but you can see through photos, and messages that those children are her reason for breathing. Gabe's smile always the size of Texas in pictures.

Life has this cruel way of dangling amazing things in front of you, only to snatch them too soon. 

On July 23, 2016 Gabe was found unresponsive in the pool, and died as a result of his injuries. I will never forget opening the door, and Dustin's uncle standing there telling me that something bad had happened to Amber's son and we should call. He didn't have many details, doesn't even know Amber, but he made a trip so I knew it was bad. I told him to tell me what happened, that I did not want to make any blind calls. He told me that Gabe had drown and at first I thought he was okay, that he was just injured...

When I learned he didn't survive I just laid in the bed as Dustin held me and we cried. We cried for Gabe. He was beautiful. He was 3...a baby. We never even had a chance to hold his sweet self. We cried for Wes...a Daddy having to bury is boy. We cried for little Miss Abbigail...a little sister that has to grow up without her brother. I cried because even though I never met Gabe, never held him, I loved him, and I love his mommy. But mostly I cried for Amber. Amber wanted that boy so bad she could taste it, and she got him..only to lose him. Unfair. The statement I find rolling off of my tongue so much these days.

Gabe was so beautiful, so full of rambunctious life! He was such a great big brother and loved his baby sister. Amber told me at one point that Abby looked for Gabe following the accident, and my heart just fell apart. She is so tiny, and has no way of understanding yet. I sat and scrolled through picture after picture trying so hard to find the ones that could give you a glimpse into who Gabe was, and how much he brought into this world. If I could share them all I would. He was a sight to behold. I'm so sorry I will never get to hold him. I regret so much never having been able to.

My heart aches to hold Amber. Let her know that she stays on my heart and mind constantly. Her loss just a few short months before ours, and no less profound than ours. Two babies lost in one year. Your heart can't recover from that. It's so unreal. And we become so engrossed in our lives and our own sorrows, that we fail to stop and realize others are struggling too. 

The hardest part is that while I know Amber's heart wants to be with Gabe, she has to be strong for Abbigail. And she is so incredibly strong. And when we lost John, I knew one person in the whole world who would understand more than anyone. I reach out to Amber when I just don't know what else to do. Even though she is grieving herself, she has not once shied away from letting me throw my emotions all over.

And Amber, I know you will read this, and my heart breaks knowing that you will. It never gets easier reading about the babies. I can never explain well enough in words just how much I adore you, and your family. I know that wherever they may be, Gabe and John have found each other and they are probably giving everyone a run for their money. I would give anything to take away your pain, to give Abbigail back her big brother. I don't know why our families were the ones to have to bare this burden, but I know one thing for sure...you were meant to be a part of my life, and I'm so glad you are.



"I am a mother with a broken heart. A deep hole where my son's memories play over and over. I survive everyday with the support of all my family and friends. We all feel the pain of loosing sweet Baby Gabriel. Our 5th child. My "rainbow baby". I think that's what they call it. I wish he was here to celebrate Abbigail's birthday and everything that we do. I love to talk about him with people. It does hurt, but he was such a character and the stories about him are endless. His growling and barking, how I miss it. The I love you bunches and forever. He rests here with us at home eternally. All his grandparent and cousin know our pain and theirs too. I think about you all the time my sweet baby boy. I keep hoping to see you when I dream, but they never come. Mommy doesn't dream anymore. Someday i hope I will see you in my dreams. Till then my sweet baby, you will always be on my mind, always! I love you bunches and forever. Watch over your baby sister. She will never forget you. I promise."
                                    -Amber

My heart just can't take much more.


*Photos Courtesy of Amber Horn.






Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Painting The Emotion 3 Months Later

Do you know what literal heartbreak feels like? A pain so profound that putting it into words seems an impossible feat?

So much perfection...


I am going to do my best to describe it to you...

The moment I heard the words brain dead in reference to John's condition, my heart seized up. I had to protect myself from the pain we were going to have to endure, the tough decisions that lay ahead. It wasn't so much for myself as it was for my family. My sister needed me to be strong so I had no choice but to push my pain aside for the time being. 

I remember being so scared of how things would play out that day. 

You don't understand the fear like that of seeing a tiny little person you love hooked up to life support, so very fragile and broken. 

You don't understand the fear like that of knowing you have to walk away without him. Forever.

You don't understand the fear like that of having to watch that tiny person's mother hold him as his heart came to a stop. 

You don't understand the fear like that of listening to the cries of your sister holding her dead child. 

If you know this fear, my heart goes out to you. If you have lost a child, you know these fears as well as I do. They never go away. They only turn into anxiety.

Fear was my driving emotion September 2016. 

We went through the motions that day, but in all honesty I think we cast aside the dark raw emotions. Don't misunderstand, there were very deeply pained hearts...it felt like our souls went with him, but we didn't have time to process what was really happening. It all happened so quickly. He was there...and then he was gone. No answers, no explanations. 

Initially you're in such a state of shock after a sudden unexpected loss that you don't quite feel the heartbreak. You go to bed that first night so indescribably tired that you don’t sleep, you just lay there wide awake trying to sort your thoughts. When it has been 48 hours since you slept last, sleep doesn’t seem necessary anymore. Once you do get to sleep, it is restless, and long overdue. When you wake, that is when the heart break begins to set in.

There is a 'world on your shoulders' kind of feeling. When you open your eyes after your brain has had time to process, that is when you feel it. It's as if you're lying on your back and you can't move. There is nothing restraining you. No chains or bonds. But you can't move. Every blink feels like sandpaper dragging over your bloodshot, over cried eyes. Tears start to form again because the reality sinks in that he really is gone. Your throat gets tight, breathing becomes harder. You don't get to hold him anymore. No more kisses or grins. No more tickles and giggles. No more photos. No more future for a once bright light that was a part of the center that held your world together.

Then your heart begins racing. It is racing like it will beat right out of your chest. You feel tons of anxiety squeezing behind your racing heart. But for as fast as it's beating it is held down by a burdensome weight. There is literally nothing there. There is nothing on your chest. But it feels like there is an insurmountable weight. Heavier than logic can calculate. Your arms ache as if they are being crushed. They are desperately clinging to the last time you held that baby...trying to hold tight to something that was taken from you. You inhale a deep breath hoping to catch a whiff of his scent; the baby soap Mommy washed him in for the last time lingers deep in your nostrils ever so faint, lost before you realize it was there...your finger tips burn to touch...lips quiver to kiss...but you can't. 

That is a level of despair almost impossible to come back from, to heal from. The hardest part is that this is not just felt the day after your first nights sleep...this is a pain you feel every time you wake. And when you dream of him while you sleep...waking is even harder. You feel that heart racing, pained anxiety every time you have a fleeting thought about him.

I had a dream about the day he was born a few nights ago. I woke up right after he was born. I woke up and still had that feeling of true love. I was so proud he was here. I was thinking I would go get John for the night.

Then I thought about it again.

It has been 3 months since John passed, and I still woke up thinking I could go see him. 

That anxiety again.

The only difference now is that I am not scared anymore. I have faced the scary part of our nightmare...saying goodbye for the last time. As of December 2016... I am angry. I am angry that it was our baby. I am angry that we didn't get more time. I am angry that in a world full of amazing people, we found a bad one. I am angry that someone did not care for my nephew like she promised she would. I am angry that the wheels of justice move so incredibly slow. I am angry that my sister is so hurt, and I cannot fix it. I am angry that she herself is afraid of the anger she feels, afraid she won't come back from it.

I am so damn angry.

The emotions are processing, and they are difficult. It is hard enough to learn to live with the heart ache...but living with that and the anger...there are no words yet.





Monday, December 5, 2016

Cousins & The One Lost Too Soon

Ages 11 months to 13 years and they loved
to play together!
Dustin said something to me one night that has resonated with me since. He told me that one of the hardest parts about losing John to him, was that Evan lost what was supposed to be his life long best friend. He told me how he loved growing up with a brother to play with. John was supposed to be his buddy, his 'get into trouble and giggle' playmate. He was the only other boy in a swarm of girls. They should be elbows deep in the Christmas tree together, rearranging Grammy's Christmas village...

We are all consumed in our lives and trying to deal with our grief right now. Sometimes it is hard to think outside of your own heartache and remember that there are others around you trying to deal with this tragedy themselves. Among us, there are the far more innocent and confused...our babies. The ones that are still here, living, in a very hard and confusing time. We forget in the midst of the sadness that they have lost a cousin, a companion, and a very big part of their lives too.

One of the most difficult moments of my life was telling my four year old, pure and innocent to the horrors of this world, that her baby cousin had died. She loved John. She knew there was an accident, and that John was hurt. We explained to her that the brain is the most important organ and that John's brain had been broken, and it couldn't be fixed. The doctors did everything they could but John died. She looked at me for a minute, and I saw every bit of what I just told her process through her mind. She understood, and her cries...It is very difficult to share just how it ripped through me. How it tears me apart now. A four year old should never know that pain.

Just hanging out!
Evan, is still so young. He understands that John is gone. He recognizes his picture, talks about him as it comes to mind. We knew he understood a couple of days after the funeral. Mom had put some pictures of John around the livingroom and Evan pointed one out to us. He looked at me just as serious as could be and told me John was in the ground. I acknowledged that he was, and Evan went on about his business. I'm grateful that he is as young as he is, and sad all in one...and hope that he will remember him.

After Dustin said this, it made me think of my Dad. My dad had three daughters and a wife. Most of our animals were female...he was out numbered for years. He never said it out loud, but what man doesn't want a son? John was the boy he had waited for. He was Papa's boy. And it occurred to me just how hard this must be for him and my mom. John has been in their world every day since day one. His home is their home. And there is a very large empty place there. We feel it when we visit.

I thought about my niece Caitlyn. Caitlyn is 13 years old. She truly understands what is happening. She is at such a crucial developmental point in her adolescence and she has to try and understand such a significant loss. She helped change diapers, feed and bathe John. Loved him just as much as we did...do.

Their heartache just compounds mine. I have nightmares where I hear Angela crying, or Scarlett, or my mom. Their cries seem so real I wake thinking someone is really crying. I will forever be haunted by the sobs, mine included, we heard that day. Nothing will pierce you like that of your family losing its heart and soul, and your babies hurting when there is nothing you can do about it.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Dear PICU Nurse

I read a Huffington Post blog written by Heather Hucks titled "Dear NICU Nurse" and it brought me to tears. I sat on my front porch and cried for her, as I have cried so many times for myself these past few months. It wasn't tears of sadness though, it was tears of joy. Their baby made it, he fought and they fought...and he won! Tucker was a premature baby born at 24 weeks...and this mother shares an amazing bond with some of the most amazing people. 

We share a similar bond, only we share it with PICU nurses. I have mentioned the PICU nurses a couple of times in previous blogs, but after reading this heart felt story about the NICU nurses, I knew I had to share our experiences with some of the strongest people we have ever met.

Over the course of the two days that John was in the hospital we met so many doctors, nurses, and people that I could never name any one person specifically. I don't know their names, but I would know their faces in a crowded room, and they hold a very special place in our hearts.


This is the very last picture I took of John, and the only one his Mommy allowed
to be taken the day he passed. His hands and feet were the only things we
could touch because of all of the wires and tubes.



Dear PICU Nurse,

Unfortunately I knew you existed. I knew that there were people in the medical field that had to help the very sick, and dying children. I always knew you were a special kind of person. What I never knew is that on the worst day of our lives, you would have to be there for us.

I did not know that you would be the one to spend the next 24 hours with John. That you may or may not have had time to use the restroom or eat a quick snack because he required so much treatment. That you may or may not have had time to call and speak to your loved ones, while caring for our most precious loved one. I never knew the amount of skill required to administer those treatments. The ability to maintain multiple medication lines that were running all over his little body.

I never knew that you were responsible for monitoring his central lines, arterial lines, blood and blood gasses...his blood transfusions...but mostly his intracranial pressure. That you would record and watch all of these numbers and machines that were keeping him alive, and report immediately the slightest variations to the neonatal neuro surgeon. That you would notice his body temperature dropping and put a warming blanket on him to bring it back up. That you would constantly be adjusting his O2 levels or heart rate to keep him on track.

I had no idea that I would bump into you in the hallway and fall apart in front of you after asking questions I wish I had never had to ask, like how much longer Angela would have to wait in order to do organ donation, or if she could call it at anytime. Or how you hugged me when you never had to. Or constantly reminded Angela that this was her decision to donate or not, and no matter what she wasn't wrong. I never knew that you would have to explain the process of organ donation or ending life support on an eleven month old baby. One you could clearly see was desperately loved.

I am so glad I asked, otherwise we would have never known that we could hold John again...even with all of the tubes and wires that were in his body. Or that you are so strong you lifted his chunky little self right out of that bed, and into his Mommy's arms without missing a beat or messing up any wires. Or that you had a magical bag of knitted hats to cover his broken and bruised little head when we needed to unsee it most.

The one thing I never knew, and I am so glad you were there to teach me is that when push comes to shove you are the person that unplugs all of those tubes and wires. You are the one that places a baby in his mother's arms for the last time. That you are the one that turns off the machines keeping him alive. I never knew how strong you really are. NICU nurses are special, but PICU nurses are heroes in disguise. I will never know the amount of heart and soul that it takes to be a PICU nurse, but I know a couple that are angels to us. I will never know that amount of strength it takes to stand in a room full of heart broken family and makes impressions of a hand and foot because that is what we get to take home...not our baby.

I will never know how hard it was for you to watch a new mother bathe her baby for the last time, or to see a mountain of a man grandfather kiss him one last time. To watch aunts and uncles afraid to leave him behind. Desperate for one more touch, one more kiss. For anything.

What I do know is that I see you now. I see how truly special you are in this harsh world. I know that you have an extensive medical knowledge and set of skills that you used to the best of your ability for our baby. I know that when you probably wanted to cry, you held it together for our sake. We will never be able to repay the kindness and tenderness you showed not only John, but us as well. I know that during the most difficult day of our lives you were our rock and guiding light.

I hope that most of the families that have to meet you, have a better outcome than we did. That you can give hugs of happiness and not sorrow. I know that one day, sooner than you wish, you will have to help another grieving family...and my heart is with you. My heart will always be with you.

Your Biggest Fan Ever,

A Heartbroken PICU Aunt Wizza



Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Fighting For The Holidays

We all knew that the holidays were going to be rough this year. Our family is a little broken now that a major piece is missing, and we just can't get into the holiday spirit. Dustin and I are making an effort at home because our babies aren't going to suffer our sadness. We've hung our outdoor Christmas lights, and we plan on getting a tree this weekend. We always go to Kandy Kane Christmas Treeland in Anthony, Fl. It has become another tradition for our family. 
John's face in this picture!

Kandy Kane really is a charming and sweet experience to share with your family. It is a family owned and operated business. We know the owner's personally which makes the experience all the more richer for us. The farm is actually located a football fields length across from the spot where John is buried. Anthony is a small town, but it is our home. And it really is where our hearts are now.
Photo courtesy of Kandy Kane.
When you make your way onto Kandy Kane the first thing you see is rows and rows of beautiful green Florida Sand Pines, ripe for the chopping...or sawing in this case. There are pines from three foot tall up to twelve foot...possibly bigger. And the best part...YOU GET TO SAW IT DOWN YOURSELF! The kids absolutely love walking through the rows looking for that perfect tree. If a pine tree isn't your cup of tea they also have freshly cut Fraiser Firs. I prefer the fir, but I wouldn't dare take the kids joy in helping saw down our tree!

Evan was done with the pictures at this
point!
It probably seems like we kind of jumped over Thanksgiving, and we kind of have. Our parents are away on vacation, and we decided the whole turkey, potato, and pie thing was an overkill for us this year. We decided we are boiling crab-legs and chowing down with Angela instead! She isn't into the big dinner and lots of company thing right now, and we are totally down for that! Less people means more food for us.

I have always loved Christmas, and I still do. We are happy, even with broken hearts, but while we are as happy as we can be, it can be REALLY hard to be cheery. I plan to take pictures of John with us to the tree farm, like we did at the Pickin' Patch. And while I look forward to it, it makes me incredibly sad as well. I want very much to incorporate John into all of our family traditions, that was my plan when he was alive, and it still is now. It just isn't how it's supposed to be. It shouldn't be pictures of pictures...pictures in which he never ages. 

If you only knew how many times I sighed within each blog. Or cried. 


There are so many moments and emotions I wish I could convey..but it will take a lifetime to sort it all out. One thing I constantly feel is anxious. Like something bad is going to happen, or maybe just something. I can't put a finger on the exact feeling, but it is there. Nagging in the back of my mind. I had this same feeling prior to Halloween, and that day was not good for us. I feel like I'm waiting for the next brick wall and we are going full steam ahead.

The whole point here is that we are trying. Trying to find peace in a world turned upside down. Trying to find solace when we constantly feel anxious. Trying to love others when someone has cruelly taken so much from us. Trying to keep it together. Just trying...and for the most part making it. 

And the holidays require us to try so much harder, and we truly are. I'm looking forward to getting our tree. Sharing that moment with the kids and John. They loved sharing their moment in front of the camera, and I hope they will do it again. I worry that one day, when they are older, maybe they won't want to anymore. We will cross that bridge if we get there, but for now they love him and miss him too. And this is the only way we get to have him with us for the photo ops.

And even though we don't have him for the photo ops, we will always have him in our hearts. Even if in our arms would be better.

Being silly with Aunt Squishy. This is one of my favorite pictures <3

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Kindness, Truly

The day John was born...so handsome.
I did not know that it was possible for my heart to break again. It has been broken so many times these past couple of months. I share these intimate moments because writing is therapeutic to me, and because I want everyone to understand our grief. To feel like they can share their story in a world where we are all too often told to hold it in for fear of making someone uncomfortable. When Angela shares in her grief, be it social media or text, it breaks my heart all over again. We will never know the depth of her pain. No words she writes will ever truly convey her despair, and it truly hurts my heart.


"Enough with the camera lady!"
We are there for her, but it's not enough. It's not him. We will never know just how much she aches for him. And that's devastating.We can't help her, all we can do is be there when it hurts the hardest. When she physically needs us to help hold her together. But we can't give her what she truly wants. We can't give her back her heart. Not being able to fix this is the hardest part, especially for Dad since he's always been the one to put things back together when they break. Being helpless is one of the hardest emotions to cope with.

Many people have reached out to us to share in their grief. Not to compare their misery to ours, but to let us know that we aren't alone in our suffering. Whether they have lost a child, or know of someone that has lost a child, they've shared their most profound and heavy hearted times. Some have been lost recently, others years ago, but one thing stands true...they are all still here, and they made it through. So I know we will too.

I have a beautiful friend that lost a baby years ago. She has been there for me through all of this. And after all these years, when I saw her after we lost John, I saw the pain in her that I see in Angela. One that even after many years, hadn't gone away. Her heart was still broken. And it broke again for us. I will never be able to thank her or love her enough for pushing aside her pain to let me bear mine. Or to thank her for reaching out to Angela in the most precious of ways. You know who you are, and you are always in my heart.



When I tell you we will never be able to repay the kindness we have been shown through all of this I mean it.



"Hallelujah! She let me sleep!"
I have Angela on my mind all the time. I reach out to her about John. She likes talking about him. Most days anyways. If she doesn't, she will politely let you know she doesn't want to talk about it. Respect that when it happens, but please do not let it deter you from trying to talk to her about him. And as I've said so many times before, I miss that baby, and my heart is broken....but that can't compare to hers. Please keep her in your thoughts. She needs all the love.

Also, I would like to ask that you give another family some love and kind thoughts. A distant relative lost their sweet sweet baby, just here for a short couple of months. It's so unfair to only get to hold them for such a short time. It leaves so many unanswered questions. I just don't know if my heart can handle much more. I will keep them in my heart as they also have to learn to live with a broken heart, and it really is so hard to do. So prayers, thoughts, whatever or whomever you talk to...please mention them. They could use some encouragement.

But most importantly everyone could use a little kindness today. You never know what someone is silently suffering through. Truly.






Monday, November 14, 2016

I Stopped To Talk To Him



I stopped to see a little spot of dirt today,
And it was only for a minute.

I cried and said I was sorry,
For not protecting you that day.

It's a tiny little patch. Freshly dug; no stone to mark its place.
Sometimes I can't find any comfort there,
Other times, I remember your sweet face.

There is no solace to be found,
At this little patch of dirt,
For our hearts are broke,
And lay beside you in the ground.

-Aunt Wizza



I miss him so much. I really do. Every now and then Angela will send me a message, or a picture of John, and I remember again that while my heartache is great, hers is so much greater. She will celebrate her birthday tomorrow, without him. And she is feeling it. We all do. The holidays and special events...well...our hearts just aren't in it this year. We are trying, we have to for our babies, but it is hard to find happy in such a dark time.

I did stop to see John the other day. For a brief moment. I don't stay too long, it's still too hard. It's not fair that among graves that are 6 foot long...his lays there all of 3 foot. A little raw patch of dirt. It's not our baby. He is not there. But it is the only place we can go when we seek his comfort.

Angela mentioned that she hasn't been there yet. I don't blame her. She will when she is ready, and I wouldn't blame her one bit if she never is. It's like the final goodbye all over again.

It feels like I am leaving him behind again. All alone. We left him alone at Shands the day he passed. We left him alone at Hiers Funeral Home when they needed to prepare his body. We left him alone at the graveside when the crew needed to lower his casket. And now we leave him alone in a grave where we won't get to hold him again. It's kind of like the feeling we all have in our hearts...lonely.

I hold onto the good memories, as tightly as possible.

Like the picture above. This was the day that we took John to the lake, Dustin and I did. He had so much fun, and I'm so grateful we got to have that day with him. This boy was in heaven! He sat between my knees on an inverted chair in the water and just played! He splashed and slammed his face into the water every chance he got! Then we put him in the bed of the truck so he could eat (the picture). He ate so much watermelon and sand I thought he was going to bust. If you look you can see a juice and sand trail on his tummy! My absolute best friend in this whole world was there that day. She loved John so much too. This day really, truly holds a significant place in my heart.


I never sent this picture to anyone, not on purpose, but it just got lost in my millions of pictures. It is the only one I took that entire day. If I could go back, I would have taken a hundred more. It was the only trip he took to the lake. I wish his Mommy could have went, but she was being the amazing Mommy she is, and she was working so that she and John could have a better future.

Is time travel really impossible? I'd give just about anything to go back to this day, even if only for a little while.

It's still so unreal.


Monday, November 7, 2016

Counting the Stars

Yesterday marked the 2 month anniversary since John passed away.

That is eight weeks since we held him last...

           ...60 days since we saw him last...

              ...1,464 hours since we had our last kiss...

                 ...87,840 minutes since we held you close...

                    ...5,270,400 seconds of complete and utter heart break.


It feels like an eternity. It is all still so unreal.

I spent the day with Angela yesterday, just she and I. It was a really nice day considering where we have landed in life. We had a wonderful lunch together, did a ton of laundry, and just enjoyed each other's company. Angela lives with our parents, and they decided to go on a day trip, leaving her home alone yesterday. She is fine to be alone, but no one realized that it was the 2 month anniversary.

It just happened that my dryer was broke. I was too cheap to go to the laundromat, and so I went to Mom's instead to do laundry. I was meant to be there. I loved that we got to have that day. Things have been so unbelievable crazy and hard these last couple of months. It feels like we start to get somewhere in life again, and then something else comes along to take our feet out from under us. So I think yesterday was the universe telling me to slow down, spend time with my sister, and love on our baby.

We talked about him so much yesterday it hurts. But it was a good hurt. They were good and happy memories. We laughed about how his little fat self used to come boot scootin' out of his bedroom with a blankie and sucking his thumb, ready to be scooped up and loved on until nap time. Mommy always gave the best cuddles. He would bypass everyone for Mommy. If Mommy wasn't around it was Grammy.

This was one of the last pictures Angela took of John. He was telling her all about it! 
Notice those two little toofer pegs that had just popped up!

We joked about how he would get mad when he would toddle. He was just getting around good. Taking his first big brave steps. When he would tumble he would get so mad! Or how the morning after Dustin and I kept him for the first time I scooped him up to snuggle in bed with us, and when Dustin rolled over and said "Hey boy", John hollered like he had been pinched! John was used to cuddling in bed with Mommy, but there were no baritone fellows rolling over scaring that patootie out of him! He did not like that one bit!

Needless to say, my heart hurts today. Today more than any day I feel that ache Virginia described. That one where your arms physically long to hold him. Ache to pull him close. Your lips quiver thinking about planting another little kiss on his chubby face. You fingers itch to trace every roll. Every ounce of your being aches to have that baby again.

When I have days like this, I resort back to thinking about Angela. If I feel this heartbroken and sad...how does she feel?

I can barely put into words most days how hard it is for us, let alone Angela. That's why I plead with you to keep her in your thoughts, your prayers, whatever it is you do when you seek comfort for those that are hurting. She needs your encouragement and kindness now more than ever.

The hard days are not even upon us yet.







Friday, October 28, 2016

Special Hearts For Those That Break

It has been seven weeks since John passed. Seven weeks that feel more like ten years. Only seven weeks. In that short amount of time so much has happened, and so much has changed.

It has only been seven weeks since I held John last, but it feels like I never got the chance to hold him at all.



It scares me to realize just how quickly we moved on. Not in the sense that we have left our baby behind, but more like we just went on with life. Almost as if he had never been here. And it happened so quickly. I think about him constantly, I know we all do. But it is like he is this little shadow in the past. Was here, but never really here. I don't know how to put into words the feeling I have when I think about him being gone.

Heartbroken.

Confused.

But there is this other feeling I can't shake. This feeling like every day we don't have him, is one day further away from his existence. I know he was real. I know he existed. I bear the pain of his loss. I held his squishy little body in my arms. Kissed his sweet face every chance I got. But there are times that it seems like he wasn't real almost. I just can't put it into words. Maybe if anyone reading this has experienced this kind of loss, they know what I am trying to say.

It's like a really bad dream, only it is real life. Our very real nightmare.

Having these feelings makes me incredibly sad. These aren't the terms in which I want to think of John, just the anxieties I carry now that he is gone. Along with about a million others. Like did he know we were there that day? He was already brain dead by the time I got to see him again, so the realist in me knows he wasn't aware of his surroundings, but the ever hopeful loving Aunt in me believes he knows we were there. That he knows we were loving on him in the flesh while we could and catching the pieces of our broken hearts that were falling with every little touch, every little kiss.



It eats at me that the very last time we got to hold and love on such an incredible little guy...he was gone. I wanted to hold him forever. I want him in my arms now. The trauma of our loss rears its ugly head more often than we care to admit.

We had to take Mom to Shands for a biopsy today. Shands was the last place we held John. Shands is where he technically passed away, but he was gone long before he made it there. Sitting here now makes my heart race and feel like the million shards it broke into are being shot across my chest. The trauma. That's what I'm talking about. The recognized symptoms that our bodies are dealing with trauma, maybe not from physical pain, but from spiritual.

The staff here are still amazing. I will never be able to put into words how fortunate we were to have these people here for our baby when he needed them most. We take peace in knowing that even though there was nothing they could have done, they absolutely did everything they could to save him. They held our hands, held us, answered any questions, and made one of the most difficult days of our lives...easier. It takes a special kind of loving heart to work PICU. Not because they lose babies, but because they have to deal with those that are suffering the greatest loss any person can ever experience. Special hearts.

Truly special hearts.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Our Lil' Pumpkin King

Every year, since Scarlett's first Halloween, we have made a trip to Dunnellon in Florida to the Pickin' Patch. This is a great place to take your family and enjoy some fall festivities. They have live pumpkins on the vine that you can cut yourself to take home and decorate. They also have a hayride, hay slides for kids, a corn maze, a sunflower field, and all kinds of good fun for the family. They have it set up beautifully for photo opportunities as well. I always make sure to take advantage of the scenery to get snaps of the kids.

It is priced so affordably that it is more than worth the trip. Anyone three and up is $3.00 and the pumpkins range from $4.00 to $30.00 plus. They have ornamental pumpkins, jack-o-lantern pumpkins, sunflowers, white pumpkins (which are BEAUTIFUL), and they also sell gourds. There are rows upon rows of pumpkins! The kids love it!

It's become a tradition for our family.

This year would have been John's first trip. He was so tiny and new last year that there was no way he could have gone, but this year...he would have been walking and talking...giving us a go for our money! It was overwhelmingly heartbreaking when we decided to go this year because we wouldn't get to take him. I have dubbed him Our Lil' Pumpkin King.

Preparing for a day trip like this with my kids is a challenge (Every mom just nodded.), so yesterday as I was getting things gathered, I dug up my camera. As I was scrolling through pictures, I found images of the day John was born. Laid out in all his naked glory, red face from screaming! How I cried...cry now thinking of his fat little self. As I sat there an idea popped into my head. What if we took some pictures of John with us to the pumpkin patch, and took pictures of him doing all the things he missed. Then my dear friend anxiety stopped me in my tracts! What if his Mommy doesn't like that idea?!

I have been very raw and honest in my blogs, but I also withhold a lot out of respect for my sister's privacy. Everything I do, I run by her, so I did the same with the picture idea. She loved it, told me she wanted the prints.

So load up, and away we go!






When we arrived we grabbed a wagon. They have tons of wagons there for customers to use. My first thought was John's little chunky butt should be sitting in the wagon with Evan. It was hard. His little ghost is everywhere. So I decided to take a picture of John riding in the wagon. It just isn't the same, but it was so profound to us nonetheless.


As we made our way through the ornamental pumpkins, I snapped a couple of pictures of Scarlett and Evan sitting on these big crazy things, and decided to snap some of them holding John's picture. I can't explain that empty chest feeling that consumes your heart. That's what we got. Pictures of pictures.

As we made our way through the patch I took countless pictures. Each time we stopped it took a few minutes, and it seemed we tied up the photo op areas more than anyone...but it's like people knew. They didn't ask. They didn't rush us, and they never got impatient. I suppose if you see a family taking pictures of a picture of a baby, it's safe to assume it's because he is not with them anymore.

Scarlett and Evan were thrilled to include John in our day. They both loved him so much.

At times, I caught Mommy standing off in the near distance with that far away something is missing look. I felt so guilty. Watching my babies run and play. Getting to love and hug on them all day. While she gets pictures of pictures. Never once has she given me reason to feel this way, I just do. It's something I will have to learn how to deal with. And even though her heart probably weighed a million pounds yesterday, she loved on the kids and enjoyed a beautiful fall day with us.

Missing John just doesn't describe the pain we feel. Virginia described it as an ache in her arms, sometimes physical, and most definitely internal. That accurately sums it up. Our arms are as empty as our hearts, yet we made it through another day. We made another great and happy memory, even through the pain, and John was with us even if not in person.


I CAN'T WAIT FOR THE REST OF THE HOLIDAYS...
WHAT WILL WE FIND JOHN DOING NEXT!?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Tenderly Sisters

Growing up, Angela and Virginia, were awful towards me. They were mean and picked on me. I was the baby so it was their job I suppose. I share this hoping that if you were the baby, you can sympathize with me, and if you were an older sibling...well you probably laughed and nodded. Older siblings are evil. Intrinsic truth. Just kidding, but not really.

But for as mean as they were, I always knew someone had my back. No matter what happened I had two allies in my corner at all times. And people knew that they were mean, so I never had to use them as the guard dogs they were. They might have been mean to me...but no one else would ever get away with it. And because there were three girls, our Dad raised us to be tough and opinionated. It bites him in the ass to this day.

 Angela and I were close coming up because we were closer in age, so we had more in common. We played with similar toys. Enjoyed outdoor adventures. As we aged and began to figure out who we were, we didn't spend as much time together. I was a social bug and Angela would rather stay at home and chill. That being said, our midnight banter in her room while snacking or painting toenails are some of my most treasured memories.

Virginia is five years older than I am, so I was always the frumpy little sister she was forced to drag along. I admired her though. I might have annoyed the life out of her at times, but to me...she was the coolest. Even during her Goth phase, and that was pretty awful. She excelled in school, she didn't take crap from people, she spoke her opinion assuredly, and knew what she wanted in life. What little girl wouldn't look up to that?

We are all three very different people, with very different personalities. It is amazing to me that for 12 years we shared a room, and lived to tell about it. As different as we all are, we have always had a strong bond as sisters. I attribute that to the fact that  we were all we had growing up. Most of our family lives in Kentucky. We didn't have cousins to run and play with, and we didn't have neighbor kids to play with since we lived on a farm, so we were all there was. We share a bond that many siblings don't because not only were we forced to be sisters...but we were forced to be friends. If we only knew then that what we have is something to be treasured.

As we grew up, and life began to change we all drifted into our own lives. Virginia became a mother and got married, Angela moved to Kentucky to start a new life, and I settled into my own relationship and started a family. Each always in contact with the others, but always apart it seemed. When Angela decided to move back from Kentucky we were all happy to have our little family back together. At this point I already had Scarlett, and Dustin and I were working on Evan.

Angela missed my pregnancy and delivery with Scarlett because she lived up north. She was there for Evan every step of the way. She watched Evan for us when I went back to work, and they hit it off. They ran tit for tat in their terror, and still do. I was petty enough at one point that when Angela got pregnant with John, I worried she would treat Evan differently. But she didn't. And I regret feeling that way towards John, especially after I met him, and even more so now that he is gone.

We all worried over Angela and her pregnancy, but she did amazing. We really worried about delivery since she has zero pain tolerance, but yet again, she did amazing. There is something magical that happened during John's delivery. During my deliveries and Virginia's, we were not all present. Angela missed Scarlett's, Mom and Virginia waited outside Evan's so other people could be there, and Virginia had a c-section. John's birth was the first time that all of the Smith women were in the room for delivery.

It was amazing. It was my first live birth, and for as gross as it was, I was mesmerized watching John come into this world. I cried. I cried not only because this beautiful little creature came into our lives, but at the beauty of the moment. All of us standing there watching that moment when a woman experiences the greatest pain and greatest love she will ever feel in all the world. And John was her greatest love.

John brought our family back into focus. Virginia and I were so in love with this little fat nugget of adorableness! We gave each other nieces and nephews, and we love them just as much, but there was something about John. Something about his sweet little soul. And he was the baby. Like me. We knew he would get hell from the older kids, but we would love and protect him no matter what. He was everyone's baby. I think that's what the spark was with this child.

And that's why it has been so difficult to lose him. The spark in our family went out. Extinguished by someone's careless actions. Our baby is gone. The baby is gone.

Going through something like this can make or break a family. Even though the spark is out, John left a burning fire. As sisters, there is no doubt that this has brought us closer. We have shared and lived through the hardest thing we've ever done, watching one of us bury her baby. That really does change you. Even with our broken hearts, Virginia and I have stood in front of Angela, shielding as much as we can. It was my turn as the little sister, to stand up and unburden my older sister. Taking care of as much as we can. Helping her through what we can. We can't fix this, but we would if we could. We can't end her pain, but we can share it with her. We are one big broken heart, that at times can be found sitting in the floor of Angela's closet crying and laughing. How else do we survive if we don't lean on each other?

We are sisters. Their hurt is my hurt. And this time...there is nothing I can do. That kind of hurt...there are just no words. So I just love them tenderly. And love them strong. We are forever and always tenderly sisters.




Thursday, October 13, 2016

Do We Say Goodbye?

How do we say goodbye when we had just begun to say hello? I don't want to say goodbye. We shouldn't have ever had to say goodbye.

Since we lost John, this thought runs through my head. This and "why".

We were just beginning to learn who John was, who he was going to be.

I dream about him being an adult and what he would have looked like. I've actually had the same dream of him as an adult twice since he passed. I dream that there is a tall and broad shouldered man standing in front of me on what looks like a beach pier. He seems a little intimidating at first and when I ask him who he is and what he wants...he just smiles. The sweetest most breathtaking baby face smile. I know, as soon as he smiles, who he is. He is handsome and built like a tank. (Side note: I guess since John was always off the growth charts, and we assumed he was going to be a big boy...that plays into my dreams.) As soon as he smiles I feel his warmth and love rush over me, feel that rush now just talking about it. Then he embraces me. It feels like I stand there in his arms forever, but it is always short lived. He tells me "Hi Aunt Wizza." and then I wake up. That's all I get and it's not enough. I want the real John. I want to know who he will be when he grows up. I want to know what he would have looked like and felt like when hugging me as a gown man.



We don't get that. What we did get was precious and irreplaceable, but just not enough. It will never be enough.

I also have the repeat dream of he and I playing on the beach. There is no one around, not another soul. It's just me and him. The sand and the sea and a beautiful sunset. We play at the edge of the water, before the sun disappears I wake up. That's when waking up really is the hardest. You go from having him in your arms again, to nothing. No baby. He should be here. I should be holding him and loving on him.

He should be here.

There are even times I catch myself forgetting he has passed. On a couple of different occasions I've been pulling into my Mom's house (that's where he and Mommy live) and the thought runs across my mind..."I'm gonna run in and squeeze fat man, and head home"...

It's torture. Once again the weight of the world falls on your head and you remember, he's dead. You don't get to squeeze him ever again. Does that ever stop? That constant want for someone that isn't there.

There is a hole in my chest. It's about two foot and 30 pounds. I will never be able to fill it. There are times it turns into a black hole and it feels like it will consume me.

What hurts most is that this is how I feel, just his ever adoring Aunt...how it must be for Mommy?

Did you know he took his first couple of official steps just two days before he passed? He crawled all over and into everything. Papa has a drawer on the table beside his chair and if it was open, it was fair game. Papa actually drilled a hole in it, and placed a nail inside to keep fat stuff out! That little nail rests in John's hand now. Along with about a million other things he had to have so we could let him leave this world. We wanted him prepared. The faces the fellows at the funeral home made when I held up a 3 inch nail requesting to have it placed in his hand! Ha! I laugh now just thinking about it...hope you got a chuckle too!

We got to see some milestones and will NEVER witness others. We treasure what we did get. Like seeing his little ham self sitting on the floor smiling up at us after doing something devious!

When I started thinking about this blog one of the first things I thought about was what my last memory of John, prior to his injury, did I have???

The kids and I went to Mom's for a surprise two nights before he was hurt. She was having something and cornbread. All I remember is cornbread. John was tearing it up, not that he didn't tear everything else up, but he loved cornbread...and well everything but in this instance it was cornbread. I remember blowing him kisses from the other end of the table, and his big sweet smile returned with bread and all falling out. Making eyes at me from across the table. Once Mommy got him out of his high chair he crawled straight to me. I sat him on the table and we loved and played for a while. I had on a necklace that he loved. It had a bead that spun inside another bead. He would take his little fat finger and spin the bead. Then down he went and on to the next thing!

I left that necklace with him. I tried to put it on the day we went to make his funeral arrangements and it almost broke me. I took it off knowing he would need it more than me and made sure to give it to the director. I had that necklace on the day he was hurt. While we were at the hospital, I took it off. I remember thinking it felt so heavy on my neck. I swore it was giving me a headache.

This child left our world in style. He had on some fancy duds, western camo boots, and all he would need to keep him entertained. He had toys, marbles, flashlights, Santa, jewelry, and all the love any child could ask for.

All we have are empty hearts, and bent souls. And the memories of a beautiful child that truly changed our world.


My baby laughing at me with my insane hair do.
Posted by Angela Smith on Sunday, June 5, 2016

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Beauty of Our Broken Hearts

I keep hearing myself say over and over again, "Some days are just going to be tougher than others."

Understatement of the year.

I have started and erased the beginning of this blog about four times now. I have a direction I want to go with it, but our life doesn't seem to be getting any easier to write about. I want to share our story, from my perspective at least, so that John isn't just a name on a stone, but a person. A baby we want to share with the world, even if the world has a hard time talking about him.

I don't understand why talking about John makes people so uncomfortable. Okay...maybe it is the blubbering and tears that make people uncomfortable, but we WANT to talk about our baby.

Talking about him keeps his smile alive in our memories, when the bad ones start to seep in. Talking about him helps put another little piece of tape on our shattered hearts. Talking about him lets the world know how incredible our little man was when all people want to focus on is what happened. Talking about him is just good.

I find myself struggling to remember what he smelled like. What his plump little hands felt like inside mine, how they felt against my lips. It's only been a month since I got to steal my last kiss and my very last cuddle. Every time I think about those precious final moments, a empty hole opens in my chest and I fight tears. To just have been able to press rewind... I loved squeezing his chunky self. Snatching him up and pressing every chubby inch against my chest. I'm starting to forget what he felt like. The little giggle that would escape his lips when I would blow raspberries under his chin. Do you know how much that haunts me? I don't want to forget. I'm so scared I will forget.

We can't get that back, but we are desperately clinging to those memories. That's all we have left. We have been prematurely robbed of the rest because someone was careless in caring for John.

That is what is so amazingly beautiful about our loss too. We don't get to make any more of those memories. We don't get any more kisses and snuggles. But what we do have are some of the most perfect moments in our lives. We have all of these beautiful intimate moments with the most precious gift you can receive. We were so blessed and graced to have John in our lives, even if only for a little while. But the endless amount of love, happiness, and sadness he brought our family is a rare and costly gem to behold in this evil world.

He was pure. Innocent. And all his love was too.

To know the innocent love of a child, and only their innocent love...to know they only knew pure unadulterated love makes my heart happy and broken all over again every day. John never knew, and will never know that this is a dark scary place. He only knew all good things. He knew he had the best Mommy that loved him every second of every day. He knew he had a warm bed and clean snug jammies. He knew he had good food and always had good company. He knew that he was loved unconditionally, and that is all a child his age should know.

I miss John. Today is one of those tougher days. One of those days where getting out of bed was harder than anything I have done all year. One of those days where I cried the whole way to work because why our baby? One of those days where I would give anything for one more kiss. One of those days where I feel bitter and cold towards the world.

The kisses we got, we get to keep forever, but in our beautiful brokenness I also find myself being selfish. I want more kisses. I want more snuggles. More than that I want our chunk back. And I find the thought, why our baby, running through my head once again.

Losing John is like being a deep dark well, with this unbelievably bright light shining straight through the top right on your fragile water soaked skin. It feels so lonely, isolated and like you will never get out, and then there it is again...that light. It reminds you how amazing it is, how great it feels against your skin, and then its gone again. And you are damp and alone in the dark.

I cling to the light. As crazy as it sounds, I feel John in the sunshine. His radiant smile. The sun is so painfully present in our lives since his passing, so much so that I know it is him. On the day we buried our fat man, is was raining. Cloudy, yucky rain. I knew he was there with us, just as heartbroken to be leaving us. His tears truly falling down on us. But on his first birthday party, a day of immense joy and pain, the sun shone just as bright as could be...his grace embracing us. I take solace in the sun light.

I will go stretches where he isn't on my mind. A couple of hours where I am busy and John slips away. As soon as I think of him, its like reliving his loss all over again. We are constantly told that time will ease our pain, but I honestly don't think it will ease. Not because I don't want it to, but because you can never fix this kind of broken. You just learn to live with it but it does not go away. I would be scared if it went away.

I also won't stop talking about John for as long as I live. I have my own children, and they are every bit my world, but so was he. My goal is to show the world that talking about infant loss isn't bad, it's not traumatic to the families but instead what most of us want. We want to share our baby. We want you to know what happened to him.

More than anything we want you to know John.




Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Infant Loss Awareness: John William Smith

On Labor Day, September 5th I received what would be the worst phone call of my life at 6:04 pm.

I had just ordered chicken wings for dinner, and we were all about to load up to go get our dinner when my Mom called. She refused to speak to me, she only wanted to speak with Dustin. I knew she was scared, but I didn't know why, I also knew she was talking to him because she was worried I would panic. She was right to worry.

She told Dustin that my 11 month old nephew, John, had been injured significantly at the babysitters while Angela was at work. She told him it was a head injury and there was a bad brain bleed and that he was being taken via life flight from Monroe Regional in Ocala to Shands in Gainesville. This was all she knew and ask could we meet them at the hospital to take my Dad's truck home, as Angela (my sister, John's mother) had their car. I instantly called my Dad, knowing he would be able to explain better since my mom was so upset. He confirmed what Mom said and the first question I had was what had happened?

He didn't know.

I rushed and packed a bag, not knowing how long we might be at the hospital and Dustin drove me to my other sister's (Virginia) house so I could ride with them to the hospital to take Dad's truck home. Dustin took our two babies, and my niece(Virginia's daughter) to get dinner and back to our house since they had school the next day. We headed to the hospital, so unsure of what we were walking into.

When we arrived my Mom and Dad were standing at the corner outside of the children's emergency room waiting for us, and waiting for them to wheel John out to the helicopter. My Mom was crying and my Dad just looked scared. Their faces as we walked up will be forever etched in my mind. We stood there for a few minutes, when the doors opened, and they started to wheel our baby out. He had tubes and wires and people all over. One lady was pumping the oxygen for him while the others rolled his cart. A nurse walking out with Angela took a minute to briefly explain what was happening. She explained that when Angela walked in John was not breathing and did not have a pulse, they immediately administered CPR and got his heart beating again, but he was not breathing on his own. She also said that the CT scans showed a severe brain bleed and swelling. There was a detective present, as head injuries are reported immediately to the Sheriff where we live. Angela was in shock and we still had no idea what had happened.

The sight of John's little tiny body laying in that big hospital bed, with so much life support hooked to him devastated each of us. There are so many images of him over the course of the next 24 hours that play on a constant reel in my head. I work tirelessly to replace those with images of our happy fat man, but they are ghosts that will probably haunt us for the rest of our lives. I can't even begin to put into words how unreal and just unfair this has been.

My Mom told me that when she walked in they were on top of John administering CPR, and that Angela had carried her limp lifeless baby into the hospital in her arms. How do you fix that kind of broken heart? How do you help your sister cope with that? How do you help your Mom cope with that? If only there was a way to turn back time...

Once John was on his way to Shands, we then sorted out the vehicles. I rode with Mom, Dad and Angela, and Virginia and her husband took Dad's truck home, then followed us up there. We waited for what seemed like an eternity when they finally moved us into a small waiting room in the ER at Shands. They were trying to get John into a more stable condition, and run more scans before they came to speak with us.

When a young female doctor finally came in we were given a little bit more information, and some hope. She informed us that they were keeping John sedated because he had began to move, and they didn't want him to. She also ask what event had led to his injuries. The only answer we had was that he had fallen at the babysitters. She informed us that an injury to this extent was NOT from a simple fall. I asked about the severity of his injury and whether he would have brain damage once he came through. All she said was "if" he survived, yes...there would be severe brain damage. She also said that they were looking for abdominal bleeding, or another source of bleeding as they were having to give him transfusions due to significant blood loss. Then the detective came to speak with Angela again.

We joked about having a "helmet baby"... A little chunky butt that might need special care and a helping hand through life. We never thought the worst. We were ever hopeful that his movements were a good sign. We could not have been more wrong, and life could not have been more cruel. They had John listed at this point as stable but very critical and they were moving him to ICU while they waited for all of the test results.

They moved us to a new waiting room, where we stayed all night, all awake. We called every couple of hours for an update, all they told us was the doctor would meet with us when they had more information. It was the longest night of our lives. We cussed. We prayed. We cried. We laughed. But more than anything...we were absolutely frightened.

At approximately 4:30 the morning of September 6th, the pediatric ER surgeon on call came to meet with us, along with the neonatal neurologist. She started to explain just how severe his head injury was. The moment she sat down and began speaking, we all knew what she had to say but we never wanted to believe it. We didn't want to listen. After discussing the technical details of his injury, Angela finally interrupted and ask a question that rings as loud as alarms in my head to this very minute...

"Is my baby going to die?"

She hesitated.

She hesitated...

She did not say no, but she hesitated.

He was brain dead. There was nothing they could do. There was nothing anyone could do. Our baby was not going home with us. Angela was not taking her little man home. What was going on? How did this happen? We never thought this would be our family.

At this point, we were finally allowed to go in and see him.

It was one of the most difficult things I have ever done, walking into that room that morning...I still get sick to my stomach when I think about how scared I was. My little fat-man laying there, so broken, so hurt, and no answers. We couldn't even cuddle with his little tiny love muffin chunky body because there was just...so much. We could hold his hand, kiss his sweet little warm face and touch his little square feet.

Those little moments that we got to steal in that room that day will be the best moments of my life. Getting the chance to love on him while we still could. While we could still feel his warmth. Feel his heartbeat.

He was just so beautiful. So perfect. I just don't understand. I would've given anything to trade places with that baby. Anything. We all would have.



Angela made some tough decisions that day, things no mother should ever have to decide.

She is amazing, and strong. And John got the best mommy ever while he was here. She loved and still loves that boy more than life. And oh how he loved his Mommy. We talk about his big beautiful smile, but it was never as beautiful as when he was looking at his Mommy. It tortures my heart that so many never got to see that smile for themselves, that they never will.

At 2:31 pm...my sister held her little man one last time as he passed. I will never be able to forget the sights or sounds. I will forever be haunted by her broken heart. I will never be as proud of her as I was in that moment. So strong. So in love. So beautifully broken. I wish I could have taken her pain in that moment, still wish I could take her pain in this very moment.

We all held him. Loved on him. Loved him. Kissed him. Talked to him. Stole whatever moments in the flesh that we had left with him. The nurse ask Angela if she wanted to bathe him, so we left her with him and my Dad while she gave her baby one last bath.

When we came back in he looked so perfect. Smelled like heaven. I wanted to scoop him up and run. I didn't want to leave him, but I knew we would have to so they could do what they needed with him.

We gave our final kisses. Said one more goodbye and left. Walking away was the hardest part. Leaving him all alone in a strange place with strange but amazing people.

I had to make a trip back up to the pediatric ICU to retrieve a cast they had made of John's hand and foot. We didn't know they would have it ready so quickly. I couldn't go in to get it. Thankfully the detective that had been with us went and got it for me. It killed me having to leave him a second time. I sat in the truck and cried. Screamed. I was suddenly very angry.

One thing I have to mention is just how amazing the people were at both MRMC and Shands. They were there for our family every step of the way, and answered all questions we had as best as they could. They even provided John with a beautifully knitted blue hat to keep his little head warm. If you have the ability to knit or sew, take  time to make some little hats or mitts and donate them to your local children's hospital. That little knitted hat meant the world to our family in a very hard time. I would love to hug and thank whomever made it. It was a little light in a world of darkness.

Since there is still an open investigation I cannot release any details surrounding the babysitter or the way in which he sustained the injuries. It was not malicious, but mistakes were made, and there will hopefully be consequences. Angela, bless the amazing woman she is, has been forgiving since the start. I'm trying to get there. I just can't. Not yet.

John was so beyond loved while he was in this world. Even though he was my nephew, it feels like I lost one of my own babies. And I know that the pain I feel is nothing compared to what Angela must feel. Every single one of us just loves that baby. The days following have been so incredibly difficult. My sister has been so strong and displayed a level of elegance I could never explain accordingly through words.

She decided to bury John on his first birthday, which was September 14th. He passed one week shy of his first birthday. That's how cruel life can be. That's why we still have so many unanswered questions. The reason I am sharing those horrid couple of days, is not to evoke a feeling of sadness from you, but to show the strength and endurance of our family, and of John's mommy. To show you that even when the world was crumbling around us, we held tight to our family, our love and supported each other.  Things like this can rip a family to shreds, but John brought this family together when he was born, and sealed our bond upon his passing. As bent as we are, we can't be broken. In a time when we could have been spewing hate, we chose to continue loving. That is what you see here, through all the pain, through all the heartbreak... there is still so much love.

I'm also sharing this today because the month of October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss awareness month. Not only is there a stigma when it comes to talking about miscarriage, but there is also this hush when people find out that someone has lost an infant. Yes, it is very hard to talk about what happened to John, but more than anything we love talking about him. The good, the bad, and the hardest part of all. If someone you know has recently lost a pregnancy or baby, just be their friend. Talk to them, don't avoid them. And more than anything, don't tell them they can always have more children.

John, and any child lost, whether we get to hold them or not, is absolutely devastating to an individual and their family. They are not replaceable.

Love your babies. Love your family. But more than anything, love everyone. There is enough sadness and heartache in this world.