I remember the day he died and I remember the days following and how I felt this strong need to do certain things...it was my job as his mother to do them. There were things that I could just let others do, and I had to and was so thankful to be able to hand over those responsibilities so that I could do the things I needed to do as his mommy. In some odd way I felt as if I owed it to him and had to do them myself. There were so many things I was not allowed to do even though I wanted to do them so the things that I did want to do and was able to I did with all my heart as if he would really know how much I loved him by doing these things. I wanted the least amount of strangers involved with my son for the last part of his journey.
The very first thing that I did was remove that breathing tube. It was foreign to his little body and was not brought into the world with it. If I could have taken out his central line (a direct access to his heart) I would have done that too but it would have caused an issue. I know I was not suppose to remove the breathing tube(I didn't think about it until after I had taken it out, but it was considered "evidence") but I just had to and knew there was no way I was keeping that thing down his throat. I untaped it and gently removed it with such loving care...the one thing I had hoped would bring him back to life was now suddenly something I could not stand to look at but had to remove myself...it was my job.
Once I had him in my arms I sat there with Hugh and we rocked him and asked for a minister to baptize him. The minister was a stranger(we had not known our deacon was coming or we would have waited) but it was my job as his mom to have him baptized and dedicated to God. I felt so much guilt at that moment having not had it done when he was alive. Some insane part of me did and partially still does feel as if I had jeopardized his chances of going to heaven! I know it sounds stupid but that Roman Catholic part of me has a little voice in the back of my head telling me I should have done it sooner. I know he was pure at heart and had not had a chance to choose Christ himself but I do believe that God loves us all and that deep in my heart I know he is waiting for me in heave but those moments of doubt are something I still struggle with from time to time. I still however felt the need to have him baptized and we sat there with three nurses that day who cared for our family as they witnessed the minister baptize him...it was my job.
I remember sitting there with him for a while but we did not stay all day long. I knew he was already gone and he had 3 big brothers at home who needed me to be there for him. My job however was not done until I sat there and rocked him and sang to him just about every single song I knew the words to. I would do that a lot of the time when he was fussy and I was the only one who could calm him down. After everyone left, I knew that they would take his little body away and do things to it that I did not approve of. I whispered in his ear and told him that I was sorry for what they would do but that I loved him and if I could have spared him that I would have but I couldn't. I still felt the need to comfort him even though he was not really there...it was my job.
I went to the funeral home on several occasions to make decisions no parent should have to ever make. We had to sign papers to allow someone to cremate our little boys perfect body. That was probably the hardest thing I had to do. I went to the store with my mom and aunt to pick out his last outfit. They called and asked me to choose an outfit for him and all I could do was look through his closet and feel as if nothing was fitting enough and I knew I wanted to have him wear a baptism outfit so I went to the store. It was such a surreal feeling to be walking the mall looking for the last outfit I would ever buy for him. Everyone around me had no idea the torment I was feeling inside as I hunted from store to store with my mom and aunt in toe looking for the perfect outfit...that was my job.
It snowed many of the days following his death and it was pretty bad. Despite it all, we could have waited to do some things but there was no way I was going to let snow get in my way. My older sister drove Hugh and I to and from the funeral home on several occasions. The hardest was the day that I would see him for the very last time. Hugh and I went along with my two sisters and Bill, a friend of ours, to see him for the last time. The minute they called to tell us he was "ready" I felt the need to go. We had asked people to go with us and invited anyone who wanted to go but many people opted out other than those I already mentioned. I remember knowing in my heart that I just couldn't be there for Hugh as I saw my son for the last time and asked Bill to come to be there as Hugh's support since there was no one else going for him to lean on...I still think of how hard it was for him to do and how strong he truly is because although it is hard for me I have many people for support who call or stop by. We all saw him and hugged him and touched him for the last time. I remember turning to them all and asked them if once we were done, I could be the last one to be with him and have a few moments alone...I had a job to do.
I sat there and held my little boy's head in my hands as he laid on the funeral home's table. He was in his beautiful outfit I had bought for him just hours before, covered in the blanket I purchased for him as a Christmas gift weeks before(it was a blue quilt with scriptures sewn on patches), and a stuffed Precious Moments monkey tucked under his arm I had also purchased a few weeks before as a special gift from me to him(for anyone who doesn't know I love Precious Moments and always have). We sat there, just the two of us. I cradled his beautiful head in my hands one last time, kissed him as tears ran down my cheeks, and just sang him his special song. Every single part of me wanted to stay there forever and it tore me apart to leave him there alone on that table. I knew I couldn't stay forever but that I had done all I could do for him as I left him for the very last time...that was my job.
The only thing left for me to do was finish planning his service. I knew exactly what it was that I wanted to do. He was such a wonderful and happy baby, I didn't want it to be sad. That of course was unrealistic so I wanted it to be as happy as possible. I kept it together, even when things didn't go as I had initially planned(the service was canceled due to snow, I still had to endure questions from the police, and a lot of other things that just were not what I had expected them to be.) At night I would return home alone to give myself time to fall apart in the silence, I could be myself there without guilt. The very first time I returned home without him, I went in and made his bed. The police had taken everything from his bed and it was just an empty crib with a mattress, a sad and sick realization that no baby would be coming to be sleeping there ever again. It was a room I had created with such love before he was even born, it now was cold and empty. I would sit on the floor in his room and just cry, feeling so helpless, but having a need to make things as right as they could be...that was my job.
His service came and things just fell into place. I had decorated the hall and church the day before with the help of my sisters while my mom watched the boys. There were balloons and monkeys all over the sanctuary. In the hall below each table had a theme for all the holidays and life events I would never be able to celebrate with him. Some part of me felt like it was my last chance to give him a party or celebrate anything so I wanted to do it all! There were pictures of him everywhere(I am such a photo bug) with the one at the front of the church that my mom and I had gone to get blown up that showed his personality, big blue eyes, and infectious smile all captured from one wonderful moment in time just a few short weeks before. Hugh stayed with the boys(God bless him, he was and still is my rock) while I went out and made the arrangements with my family to make the service as special as it could be...that was my job.
I stood there in front of everyone that day and spoke of this little person who had changed our lives only 4 and a half months before and brought so much joy. Hugh sang our special song with a group of people from the choir and I sang a brief section of it myself in my eulogy. It still amazes me how one little person can change the lives of so many. Most people didn't know him the way Hugh and I knew him since he was so young but he still touched them in some capacity. How do you sum up the life of one person into a few minutes? I remember praying and asking for the right words and I was surely answered as the words just flowed. I had to share him with the world that day in just a few words...it was my job.
We walked outside to the memorial garden. There in the ground surrounded by snow was a hole in the ground. This would be the resting place for my son. I had known before what would happen but I was so unprepared for the actual moment. There were some ceremonial words spoken and the deacon handed me the tiny urn that held my sons ashes. I had thought they would be the ones to place them in the tiny grave but I was wrong. Suddenly I was washed over by disbelief and a wanting to escape that moment in any way possible. Just as fast as that came, I pulled it together in my head and mustered up the strength from way deep down to be the one to walk my son home in one final act. I bent over that cold dark hole in the ground and although I did not want to, I poured some of his ashes into his grave as tears just ran from my eyes. Behind me Hugh followed with the dirt that had to finish creating the grave. The shovel was left for anyone to place dirt too. Later after everyone else was done, I went back myself and put the last bit of dirt on my little boys final bed...it was my job.
As days went by and my grief changed I sat there and still do, trying to do things to make my son proud of me or do things in his memory. I can't just let his death be that...death...I feel as if he can still live on through us and still make changes in this word somehow. We are working hard on putting together "Gift of Safe Sleep" packages together for new parents to be handed out at our local hospitals. We want to have people donate Halo seep sacks/swaddlers or give monetary donations on the 29th that will be put in these packages. We want to make safe sleep affordable for everyone and plan to put together an opportunity for people to trade in smaller sizes for bigger sizes and help those who cannot afford a crib/bassinet obtain one for their baby. I have gotten a hold of our local SIDS foundation and they do seminars for nurses that give them credits towards their license that I am going to look into getting offered at the local hospital on the Mother Baby floors. I want to also work on infant CPR being taught to parents at no cost...everyone should know how to save their child, not just because they can afford a class. There are some things that I didn't know until after George died and wished I had. His memory will live on and instead of looking at all these things as my job, I am now looking at them as my gift from my little monkey!
He gave me the gift of life! In all of this he has taught me more things about life than I would have ever learned but most of all he taught me every moment counts and we can all make a difference in the world. Just because it seems small to some it may seem huge to others. I know his job here is done but that I have more to do in his memory. It is my gift to him since he taught me something that is immeasurable. He taught me how to live!
George's Guardian's of Grace Projects
Stocking project is now in full force collecting donations. We have a list of the items we can use. You can also choose to sponsor a stocking in memory or honor of someone else. We will include a paragraph or two in the cards we place in the stockings to let the recipient know about the person that means so much to you. Our paypal account is posted on this page and ready to take donations. Email us for a list of items needed or with any questions or information you would like included on a sponsored stocking/donation.
Video Tributes/Celebration of Life Footage
Here is a link to a video tribute that was made by Richard's dad in memory of George. Get out your tissues!
We Finally have footage from the service up and running:
It is in 4 sections running about 17 mins each. If you were unable to attend, you can now see what you missed. We were so blessed to have everyone there with us in person and in spirit!