This has probably been the longest layoff I’ve had between writing. A lot has happened, and if you follow me on social media, you know why. I haven’t publicly gone into much detail, so for the purpose of telling our story, and for my own therapy, I’m going to keep tapping away here at my keyboard until I can tap away no more. Perhaps most importantly, it is my hope that telling our story in its rawest form will help someone out there who has gone through something similar or who will go through something similar.
Before starting, I would like to thank the countless people who have shown unbelievable kindness to us. There is not enough room to recognize everyone, and there are people who’s kindness we may never know the names of. Please forgive me if I have not mentioned you by name – but know that we, as the beneficiaries of your kindness will never forget. You have had a lasting impact on us. I specifically want to recognize my mother in law Mona, my sisters in law Allison and Amy, our good friend Rachel who flew in from Pennsylvania to be with us, our nurses Michelle, Kameryn, and Robin. Our doctor Jessica, Debbie the funeral director, the photographer who stuck with us all day to take pictures, the lady who printed our shirts and canvases. Wayne Cone, who did the service at the church, Jonathan Chang who did the service at the cemetery, those who provided us with meals so we didn’t have to cook – there are so many others. Again, I apologize if I left out any names – I know I left out many – but these are the ones who stood out for us in the midst of this nightmare that we still cannot believe happened, and continue to live through. We literally could write a book of adoration for each and every one of you. Thank you all so, so, so much.
In early 2022, we found out we are going to have another child. If there is one thing you should know about Holly, it is that she was born to be a mother. She is a natural – seriously the best mom, ever. Our children have benefitted greatly from being her kiddos. Naturally, she was beyond excited.
If there is one thing you should know about me, it is that I was born worrier. I had a fair amount (read: a LOT) of anxiety when having Atticus at 22, and had tremendous anxiety when having Beckett at 38. This new kiddo was no exception. I love my children fiercely, but concerns of raising them right, keeping them safe, healthy, etc. flood my brain.
Over the next several months, my anxiety grew, but I enjoyed feeling the kicks our little boy gave us when Holly was pregnant with him.
Did I mention our baby was a “him”? We assumed for some reason that he was a girl, so when the ultrasound showed he was a boy, I jumped out of my skin. I know how to raise boys – I’m going to survive after all!
Oh, and by the way, the ultrasound was amazing. He smiled for us, and sucked his thumb. We even got to record a little bit of him sucking his thumb!
One night, I remember laying in bed with my heart pounding. I thought to myself “What am I doing? I’m 42 years old! How am I going to raise another kid?” I guess if Abraham and Sarah from the Bible can do it at over twice our age, then surely we can too … plus, I have the best mom in the world by my side to do this with.
One thing that many people may not know is that we went through a very traumatizing time in our family that lasted a very long time. We were in agony for several years, day in and day out. To me, there was this feeling in the back of my mind that what we went through years ago was our life’s tragedy. Knowing that things could get worse, but likely would not. I was wrong … I was so, so, so wrong.
On September 14th, Holly was a day shy of 35 weeks pregnant. She mentioned she didn’t feel the baby kick much in the past few hours. She poked him in her belly. I got her a glass of juice to wake him up, played him guitar, walked around with Holly, and nothing was working. We decided to call the hospital just to make sure everything was okay. Holly told the on-call nurse what was happening, and then I heard Holly say “Oh, okay.” in a surprised tone. My heart sank. I knew that the nurse was telling her we needed to come in.
We didn’t say much on the drive up there, but we left as quickly as we could, trying to keep our minds off of the fact that we could be walking into hearing potentially the worst news of our lives. We arrived, and the nurse told me to wait in the waiting room as they took Holly back. As I sat down in the waiting room, I prayed and prayed and prayed. I tried to keep my mind off of what was going on. There was a metallic strip that ran across the desk in front of me that I fixated my eyes on. I figured if I could just focus on that, I wouldn’t have to think about anything else. It was painful. Just breathe, Tanner. Just breathe. Focus on each breath. Breathe.
After several minutes, the nurse had me come back, and directed me into the room where Holly was. When she came into view, I saw her noticeably upset and crying. “They can’t find the heartbeat, babe!” I collapsed next to her crying. I found out later when they wouldn’t let me go back with Holly, they kept thinking they found the heartbeat, but it was actually Holly’s heartbeat.
They brought in the ultrasound machine and confirmed our worst fears.
“No no no no no no no no”. Holly just kept saying over and over again. I wanted to make Holly feel better because I saw her heart being ripped out of her chest right in front of my eyes, but couldn’t do anything – because my heart was being ripped out of my chest, too. We sat there and cried, both of us inconsolable. The nurse came in and asked us a question that seemed fit for a nightmare. “The baby has to be delivered. Do you want to deliver tonight, or come back in the morning?” This was a gut-wrenching thought to me. I had never thought that far into it. I didn’t even begin to think we would have to deliver. Of course, it makes sense – our baby was virtually full-term, but the very thought of delivering our dead baby was unfathomable.
I suggested we do it that night so we could get it all over with, but Holly suggested we go home and come back the next day. Atticus and Beckett, after all, were home – we couldn’t just tell them what was happening over the phone. I agreed with her, though I couldn’t fathom having to go home with our precious baby boy no longer alive.
When they asked for his name, Holly looked at me crying in the chair and said through her own tears, “I guess his name is Phoenix” because she saw how heartbroken I was, and knew I wanted to name him Phoenix. She wanted to give me that. This was a detail that I didn’t know about until recently. What a sweet wife I have. Her heart was to still give, even though it was smashed into a million pieces on the floor, right next to mine.
But what about middle name? We talked about Zion and Xavier, so we gave him both.
Phoenix Zion Xavier Jones
We drove home after having the worst possible news given to us, while having to await the most horrendous possible day when we woke up. No sleep was to be had – just uncontrollable sobbing. Absolute horror realizing what was about to happen. We got out of bed around 5am to make the trek to the hospital. Holly had an incredibly difficult time going into our hospital room, and getting dressed. To say it was gut-wrenchingly miserable is a vast understatement.
Eventually, they gave Holly an epidural – one that worked quite well. She couldn’t feel anything from the waist down. The doctor came in, and said she could break her water, and deliver, but Holly wasn’t ready. We were deliriously tired at this point, and the doctor said she can come back in a couple of hours. They turned the lights low, and we drifted to sleep for a while. All of a sudden, Holly jolted up out of her sleep and woke me up in a panic. She asked me to check if the baby was coming out underneath the blankets that were on top of her. I checked – nothing. Over the next couple minutes, she asked me to check two other times, and there was nothing. It was bizarre, because Holly couldn’t feel a thing, but she felt something was “wrong”.
About a minute later, a couple of nurses came in to change the IV fluid and leave, and I told Holly to ask them as well. She thought it would just be a paranoid thing to do, and didn’t, so I spoke up and asked them to check in spite of the fact that I had checked three times over the past three minutes or so. When they took off her blanket, what was there was like a horror movie. Two huge blood clots, and blood soaked sheets beneath her were completely hidden from view underneath the stark white blankets.
I was bewildered – all of that must have happened within a minute, and Holly couldn’t feel any of it. She was just asking what was going on. I didn’t know what I was looking at – I didn’t know if it was pieces of our baby, or what. The nurses said they hadn’t seen anything like that before, and within an instant, the doctor was there, along with others. “Am I going to bleed to death?” Holly asked the doctor through tears. She responded with “I’m not going to let that happen.” Her tone had the conviction that made me want to believe her, but just enough intensity to lead me to believe that she was taking it very seriously – and that ultimately, that it was out of her hands. Within an instant, the doctor ran to order blood.
Holly was crying and shaking, because she was terrified. She looked into my eyes saying “I’m scared I’m going to die!” Within a moment, the freezing cold room that required I bundle up felt like an oven. I was sweating profusely, trying to stay conscious to comfort and assure Holly while I was faced with the very scary possible reality that the love of my life was about to breathe her last breath. In my mind, the two possible outcomes were Holly delivering our baby boy who had already passed away, or Holly delivering our baby boy who had already passed away, and then her dying as well.
The doctor raced back in, and she told Holly to push. As she pushed, a huge blood clot flew out onto the floor, making a loud splattering noise – as if someone had slammed down a large soaking wet towel onto the floor.
I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if Holly was going to make it. I didn’t know if Phoenix was going to be deformed, or what. I just didn’t know anything. When the doctor delivered our baby, they were about to cut the umbilical cord, Holly spoke up “WAIT! Babe, are you going to cut the umbilical cord?!” “Yes. YES!” I didn’t even think about it previously, but I cut the cord just like I had with Atticus and Beckett. The doctor held our sweet baby boy for a moment, and kissed him on the forehead. She then gave him to Holly to hold. Eventually, the doctor assured us Holly was going to be fine, which was the greatest blessing, ever.
Our son, Phoenix. Too perfect for this world. He never took a breath here on earth, and was born into the arms of Jesus. I looked at him, and he was just beautiful. Precious. Perfect. How could he be dead? Holding Phoenix had a calming effect on Holly, but did the opposite for me. I broke harder than I ever had before.
After Phoenix was delivered, the doctor showed that he had an extremely tight knot in his umbilical cord. Something that we found out later to be extremely rare. All of it is beyond heartbreaking.
The nurse gave us an option to take him, or to keep him in our room. I didn’t know this was an option at all. I thought it was “over”, and that was it. Instead, we were able to keep sweet, precious Phoenix with us in our room for the entire stay of the hospital. Keeping him in the room made us react opposite of each other. Holly was more calm with him, and I had a mental breakdown. The closer I got to him each time, it felt like my brain left my head. I just didn’t know what to do with myself, and felt like I was going crazy. Our son was born, but he was not alive, and he was with us. I couldn’t wrap my brain around it.
Here’s a picture of the room they moved us to.
I started hallucinating at one point, to where the bed post became a mailbox, and Holly turned into one of Santa’s helpers with a big white beard, hiding behind said mailbox, waving at me right before my very eyes. It was truly a strange experience that I hadn’t felt before. Eventually, I snapped out of it.
We had lots of time with Phoenix. Holly tried as hard as she could to stay awake that night just to watch him, because she didn’t want to miss out on a single second with our precious baby boy. We got to hold him a lot, read to him, and sing songs to him.
It was all just way too much. Reality set in that this wasn’t a miscarriage – it was a stillbirth. I didn’t know much about the difference before, but ultimately, Phoenix was developed fully enough to where he could have easily lived outside the womb. I tried so hard to bargain with myself in my head that this was just a nightmare, and it was all going to be over soon – that it was a sort of a lesson to not sweat the small stuff. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, and the true fact of the matter was that we had just suffered a devastating loss that would be with us for the rest of our lives.
The more time went on, the more Holly and I both would sob, after uncovering “should have been” moments. We should have been able to have seen him crawl, babble, say his first words, take his first steps, play with Beckett, wrestle with Atticus. Every single missed memory hit us hard. We felt – and feel – robbed in the worst way possible.
To make matters worse, we were tasked with having to choose a cemetery. Holly’s sister is friends with a lady who works with funeral homes, and is the one who brought Phoenix from the hospital to the funeral home. She is the reason we found out about this particular funeral home that gives such love and compassion to the babies that come into their care, and their families.
The last day we were at the hospital was obviously miserable, but our nurse Michelle was simply beyond incredible. She took such good care of us, and unbeknownst to us at the time, stayed two hours after her shift ended to help us get ready to get home. I’ve heard that angels walk around as people sometimes, and I’m convinced that is what Michelle is – an angel.
The funeral home kept him for a couple weeks to allow us time to plan the funeral, and allow us to be able to spend even more time with Phoenix the day of the funeral. Like much of this, I didn’t know this was even an option. It certainly isn’t the norm for funeral homes.
We went home, and from the time we woke up to the time we went to bed each night over the next couple weeks, we were hit with countless impossible decisions to be made. It was so incredibly hard. Holly’s sweet sisters and mother helped navigate us through so many impossible and unthinkable tasks. It made a horrendous nightmare a little easier to go through.
Impossible is a good word to use, because that’s what everything felt like. Living through the two worst days of your life, and realizing more really bad days lie ahead – from choosing a cemetery plot to the actual funeral – all while trying to keep it together as much as possible for our kids.
On the morning we had to pick a cemetery plot for our baby boy, Holly texted Rachael, a woman we had known through some other friends from years ago. Rachael and her husband Reid lost their precious baby girl Jamie nearly a decade ago. Reid and Rachael’s testimony is a powerful one, and they are a true inspiration to all who know them – seriously – if you know them, you are blessed! Rachael said she planned to come talk to us in a few days.
As we pulled up to the cemetery, Holly and I went from whimpering to bawling our eyes out. How is this happening? How are we picking out a cemetery plot for our son?
We walked passed several headstones – many of which were beautiful tributes to those that had passed away. Some with elaborately carved angels, and even benches to sit on. Others were more simplistic in design, but all showing how much those no longer living were – and are – loved.
Then we made it to a place in the cemetery called “Baby Land”. Gosh, we hate that name. We hate that it exists. There is a sign that calls it by another name, “Garden of Innocence”. We like that name so much more, but hate that it exists no less.
As Holly and I walked through Baby Land, we saw no stately upright headstones – just many smaller headstones facing the sky, so close together. It just looked so cold. Holly and I couldn’t help but cry uncontrollably. How were we ever going to choose a spot for our baby boy?
We walked around to look at some of them, and Holly gasped. “BABE! IS THAT HER???” I looked down and saw what she was pointing at “Yes, I think so!!!” We collapsed, and cried even harder. It was the headstone for Jamie – Reid and Rachael’s precious daughter that had been there for nearly ten years.
We had no idea Jamie was buried at this cemetery. We were given a list two pages long of locations that were nearby, and out of all the possible places she could have been, Jamie was here.
In the particular row of cemetery plots in the Garden of Innocence where Jamie is, there were no spots.
Except for one single place next to her.
It is unfathomable to us how or why this was the case. Why would there be a spot open next to Jamie? There were cemetery plots on both sides of her for babies that passed away before and after her. Why was there exactly one spot open? We asked of its availability, and the funeral director said it was. We couldn’t believe it! It made no sense whatsoever. That was the spot we selected, and we count it a major blessing from God.
But as with so many of the blessings that we experienced, it doesn’t change the fact that we suffered a loss that no one should ever have to go through, yet so many do. Holly and I truly learned what bitter-sweet really meant, though, it is borderline painful to even evoke the word sweet in this situation, because we would trade every last bit of it for our son back. Still, we are thankful for these unexplained blessings.
We came back home an absolute emotional mess, with even more decisions to make, a funeral to plan, and appointments to get through. The people we dealt with were all gentle, and kind-hearted, which made our nightmare a little more bearable. Much of this time period is a blur to me, as there was little restful sleep to be had, so many hard decisions to be made, and my attention fixated on the funeral that was to come.
One of the many, many sad things for us is that we never got to see Phoenix’s eyes. One night Holly was talking to her sister Allison on the phone. She said to Holly that Debbie, a very sweet lady at the funeral home told her something that we wanted to know so badly.
“His eyes are blue.”
We cried so hard. God, why couldn’t we ever see his beautiful blue eyes? Again, so bitter-sweet. Bitter because we never got to see them. Sweet because we know they are blue. The three people I love the most – Holly, Atticus, and Beckett – all have blue eyes. Now, I can say the four people I love the most have blue eyes.
In typical Jones fashion, we decided the funeral would not be formal, but rather, we would request that everyone wear blue in honor of our precious baby boy’s eyes. I designed a shirt for all the members of our family to wear. Holly has dozens of people on her side of the family.
Here is what all of our family members wore. The footprints shown are actual copies of his real footprints.
These are what Holly, Atticus, Beckett, and I wore. For Beckett’s shirt, I spelled out “Pheeney” because that is the nickname Beckett gave him. One of the many, many, many things that makes us cry is not being able to see them play together, and hear Beckett actually call him that.
The backs of all the shirts have this – like his footprints, these handprints are actual copies of prints of his hands. Gosh, I love those hands and feet so much.
Much of the rest of time leading up to the funeral is a blur, but the day of the funeral is not.
The day of the funeral started extremely early. Allison drove Holly, me, and our moms to the funeral home where Phoenix was. Holly & I didn’t get any sleep, because we knew we were about to embark upon one of the hardest, saddest days of our lives. It is extremely difficult facing a day realizing this will be the last time you see your son this side of heaven. Since so much time had passed, I worried about what he would look and feel like.
Much like our time driving to the cemetery, a very sleep deprived Holly and I whimpered the whole trip, with outbursts of random wailing from time to time – especially when we pulled up to the funeral home. I wanted to throw up.
We were led to a room with low lights, and little Phoenix was in something called a Moses basket.
Off to the side was a changing table, and beneath it was Phoenix’s name spelled out.
We burst into tears. Just like when he was at the hospital, he was cold to the touch. Gosh, I hated that. It’s not okay. It still isn’t okay. None of this is! But I was also thankful to see him again. Holly and I took turns holding him. Once again, we got to rock him, sing to him, read to him, kiss him, and talk to him. We wrote him a letter and got to read that to him as well. Here is the letter we wrote and read to him:
Perfect, beautiful, precious Phoenix:
Our hearts crumbled to a million pieces when we were told yours was no longer beating. Our dreams of holding you, rocking you, singing to you, and raising you were dashed in the blink of an eye, and it hurts our hearts beyond what words can express.
Delivering you into this world knowing that you were already with Jesus was the hardest thing we have ever had to go through. We wish for this to all be a horrible dream, and so desperately want you to be here with us! Even though we know you are experiencing complete joy and peace with no pain in the arms of Jesus, and are having fun playing with your Papa Bear, our family has a big hole without you here – a hole that will never be filled.
Your mama misses feeling you kick, move, and dance to music. It was one of her favorite things every day. Feeling you move, knowing you were safe and healthy and growing. Oh, how we miss you. Our arms long to hold you, and our hearts ache knowing we have to wait until Heaven to be reunited with you, our sweet precious baby boy.
Your dada regrets not having his hands plastered on your mama’s belly during the entire pregnancy to feel each and every single kick, but cherishes every movement you made that he felt. For the 35 weeks you lived, you were closest to mama’s heart, and got to feel every beat. Knowing that soothes your dada, because he loves feeling mama’s heartbeat, too. During an ultrasound, you gave us an amazing gift – you sucked your thumb, and even smiled the most perfect smile! Thank you, Phoenix! We love you so much.
When we delivered you into this world, you were perfect. Beautiful. Precious. You have features of each of your brothers. You have Atticus’s ears, and Beckett’s nose. They would’ve made the best big brothers on earth for you, and were looking forward to it more than you could ever know. You made Beckett a big brother. He loved to feel you kick and would always ask “is the baby born yet?” He nicknamed you “Pheeney” and wanted to teach you to cry, and to open and close your hand. You made Atticus a big, big brother. He was going to teach you how to escape holds in BJJ just like he does with Beckett.
We are completely and totally devastated because we won’t be able to raise you. Our hearts are shattered into a million pieces, and it feels like we will have to wait an eternity to see you, but we know this life will be over in the blink of an eye, and we will be with you for eternity. Perfect, beautiful, precious Phoenix, we are excited to see you in Heaven. We have wept uncontrollably for you many times. You will always be in our hearts because we are your family, and you are our son. For as long as we are apart from you, the world will know that your mama and dada have three beautiful sons. Atticus, Beckett, and Phoenix.
We love you more than you could ever know, Phoenix. Perfect, beautiful, precious Phoenix.
With the time of the funeral itself approaching rapidly, we had to finish up a handful of things. We wanted to get his footprints on various items, and even stamped his footprints on our shirts. One of my favorite prints utilized rainbow ink.
I’ve gotta do something special with these at some point. My first thought would be to create a booklet out of them, but honestly, I think doing anything with them is quite a ways off.
The most important “footprint” for me was an idea I had at the hospital. I have an official 1989 World Series baseball. For those of you who don’t know already, the 1989 World Series was the pinnacle of my childhood. A marker in time when I can point back as a kid and say “yeah, that was awesome.” Watching the 1989 World Series was one of, if not the most exciting time in my childhood that I can remember.
I wanted to get Phoenix’s footprints on it. My sister in law Amy bought another official baseball for us to test out first. I was able to put his footprints on both baseballs – left foot on one side and right foot on the other side. They turned out great, and now that I have two, I can display his left foot on one, and his right foot on the other. They are the absolute #1 prized pieces in my collection, and I am proud to be able to share them with everyone reading this.
Here is a video of me talking about the baseballs with Phoenix’s footprints on them:
With my newly minted prized possession in my hand, and all of the precious prints we got, a cold and harsh reality sank in: that no matter how many “neat” things that happen – no matter how many blessings – it will never make up for the loss of our son. We would trade all of it…all of it, to have precious Phoenix with us. Again, bitter-sweet.
Phoenix is now in the arms of Jesus, but I want him in my arms. I want to hold him again. I am thankful for being able to hold him for a while here on earth, and am grateful for the assurance that we will once again be reunited one day in Heaven.
When we were done, it was time to go to church for the service. the funeral home had us see his casket before leaving, so we could familiarize ourselves with it. As expected, it was a trigger, so it was good we got to see it first. Before Phoenix was put into the casket, they gave us an option – do we want Phoenix riding in the Hearse, or in our laps while riding in Holly’s sister Allison’s car? To soak in every single moment possible, we opted to have him ride with us on our laps.
We got to the church, and brought Phoenix into the main area where no one else was allowed in yet until visitation started. We brought in Atticus, and he had written a letter to his precious little brother. Through tears, he held him, read his letter to him, and sent it with him to eventually be buried with – along with our letter to him. My gosh, we are so proud of him.
The service was to be held in the front building at the church. It was such a strange feeling having a funeral service for my son in the same building I remembered hearing sermons in a quarter of a century prior.
At the church, we gave Phoenix a few other things to go with him in his casket. A book that we read him (we have another copy of which we stamped his foot on for us to keep, and a ring with a cross. The ring with the cross was placed on his tiny thumb – it matches the new rings Holly and I have now, which we will wear forever. Many of our tears found their way in his casket as well.
Many sweet people came to the funeral to give us tight hugs, and meet Phoenix for the first and last time. Two of the nurses, Michelle and Robin, came. We lost it. They are such angels. We heard our Dr. was set to come, too, but was unable to at the last minute.
In Jamie’s funeral, Reid and Rachael decided to place her in her crib instead of the casket for the service. We loved that idea, so we did the same thing. We used Phoenix’s crib that he would have slept in that was already setup next to our bed.
Since no one else was coming up, halfway through the visitation, Holly got up and picked up Phoenix, then brought him back to our seats so we could hold him more. The pastor who presided over the funeral (and good friend) Wayne Cone walked in, and noticed the empty crib. He then walked over to us surprised we had him while we were in our seats. Through tears and a slight mischievous giggle, Holly spoke a truth to him: “we don’t play by the rules.” Wayne chuckled as well. “Oh, I know!”
Here is a video of Phoenix’s funeral service:
I put together a video to play during the service – it didn’t quite play properly during the service itself for some reason – the music didn’t keep up with the video for some reason, so here it is:
Much of the service is a blur to me. Prior to the service, we were given the option of having someone read “good things” about us and Phoenix, but instead, we opted to read our letter to him. When we were called upon, Holly and I walked up on stage, and took turns reading paragraphs. I’m not a public speaker. I hate it. But when it came to this, it was like no one else was in the building. Through tears, we made it through, not even noticing who was listening in. At one point during the service, Wayne talked to the audience, mentioned 125 or so people – we had no idea that many people came until he said that. It was nice hearing that so many people came to honor our baby boy. Bitter-sweet.
When the service was finished, our family did a small balloon release, and went to the cemetery. Like the trip from the funeral home to the church, we were given the option to allow for the hearse to take him, or for him to ride with us in our laps. We chose for him to ride in our laps. The drive to the cemetery took us right past our home – we told him how much we wished we could just take the exit, and bring him home with us instead. That is really how it should have happened, anyway.
They also asked if we wanted them to place him in his casket, carry him, and lower him into the ground. We opted to do everything ourselves. We didn’t want to miss a single moment.
Eventually, we made our way back home. For the first time in weeks, we didn’t have countless impossible decisions to make, nor did we have a “worst day ever” looming over us. It felt like we could begin healing.
I hope that we are on the path to healing. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. It still feels like we are on a different planet than everyone else. As I type this, the funeral was 6 weeks ago, and his passing was 2 months ago. I can’t believe it – it all seems like yesterday. It is truly bizarre to think it was that long ago.
Waves of uncontrollable grief and anguish hit us from time to time. Holly more than me, but it is all still unbelievable to us. We have begun counseling, so hopefully that will help.
The cemetery has become like a second home to us these days. We visit Phoenix’s grave frequently, and oftentimes bring books to read. We sing to him, talk to him, and cry over him. A lot. Most days, it is just me and Holly making the trip, though, Atticus and Beckett have gone a couple times as well.
Beckett often asks about his baby brother, and he doesn’t quite understand. We bought a handful of children’s books to help explain it – he loves those books. I do not. They make me cry each time. There are so many “triggers” around us. Things that make us long for what could have been. Thanksgiving, Christmas, milestones, birthdays. They just keep coming. It is so hard. We miss our little boy so much.
Pictured here is a bench in the middle of the Garden of Innocence. Whenever we visit, Holly and I sit here to pray for the families of these precious children.
God, please give comfort and peace to the families that have lost these precious children. Including us. Please strengthen and protect the marriages, and families of these children that have had to go through the worst thing ever. Including us. God, please draw the families closer to you and to each other. Including us. Help us, Lord.
Sometimes, I’ll post things on Facebook about something having to do with Phoenix, and I often wonder what people think. Do people still care? Are we alone? Have they forgotten? Do they think we’ve been mourning for too long, and it is time to move on? Do people think we are seeking attention? These little things pepper my head and heart from time to time, adding to the sadness and frustration of it all.
Someone on Twitter once told me “Life is short. Get over it.” After an ongoing battle inside of myself, I opted to simply block the person, instead of tell him off. Another person (who collects the same kind of baseball cards I do and have known personally for years), simply refused to acknowledge the passing of our precious Phoenix in spite of me telling him what happened. He acted as if I told him the weather forecast. Please don’t think I have expectations for people in this situation – I don’t. In fact, I think the less you expect of people, the happier you will be. Still, his response, or lack thereof, hurt.
Those were rotten responses, and there will no doubt be more in the future, but Holly, Atticus, and I can attest to the fact that there have been far, far more people who have loved on us, and supported us through the hardest time of our lives. Ironically enough, a group of baseball card collectors in the same group as mentioned above pitched in and ordered this for us: (the bear shown has special meaning to us, and is attached to our other children.)
Holly and I opened the front door to a massive box. What was inside the box blew us away. To my friends Andrew, Brian, Carlos, Jon, Mark, and Nick – I love you guys, thank you tons for this! You brought our family to tears.
Here is a video of it if anyone wants to see it:
The morning after the funeral, Holly was feeling distraught, and looked outside the window to our backyard. Here are her words on what transpired:
We have seen dragonflies every day since Phoenix’s funeral. We love to see them. The day after his funeral I was looking out in the backyard crying and a beautiful blue and green dragonfly visited me, flying back and forth, back and forth, right in front of me for what had to be 5 minutes. It made me think Phoenix or God had sent that dragonfly to let me know Phoenix is ok. I was told from several family members that there were dragonflies flying over us while we buried our sweet baby Phoenix at the cemetery.
Another day I was just weeping for a LONG time and Tanner was holding me, and we had the shades open to the backyard. Tanner said the whole time I was crying, again, 5 or 10 minutes, a dragonfly was flying back and forth right near the window the whole time. Another time I was looking out the backdoor singing to God, “if we ever needed you, Lord it’s now, Lord it’s now. We are desperate for your hand reaching out….” and as soon as I said “your hand” a dragonfly flew down into our yard and flew back and forth while I finished singing the song to God through tears.
I don’t know how this works, or what it really means, but I do think God is using dragonflies to help comfort us. We go out in the backyard almost every evening and dragonflies come and visit us. Yesterday was the first day we did not see a dragonfly. BUT we visited Tanner’s mom yesterday and she gave me 2 ornaments and 1 candle that have dragonflies on them. So in a way, we did see dragonflies yesterday too. Thank you Grandma Bunny for the dragonfly gifts. We love them.
There have been a handful of times where Holly would be sobbing, and it would seem to attract a dragonfly or two. Because of this, we put a little fake clear dragonfly where Phoenix is buried. The day after we put the dragonfly there, a baby dragonfly actually landed on it. It’s little things like this that make us feel some sort of connection.
Someone once told me that the pain never goes away, but it does become more manageable over time. I can connect with that. There are times when I’m working, playing with Beckett, messing around with Atticus, or just having a good light-hearted conversation with Holly, the sadness seems to dissipate. But grief is just a trigger away from bubbling up to the surface, be it a hard conversation of retelling what happened, a visit to the cemetery, or simply a commercial with a baby. I don’t know if it will always be like this. I hope not.
One thing is for sure, though: Phoenix is our son, and we will always talk about him. As we wrote in his letter – anyone who knows us, will know that we have three sons – two on earth, and one waiting for us in heaven.
Holly and I spent our 21st anniversary visiting Phoenix. It was also the first sunset we spent with him. The running joke we had was we only seemed to visit him on “hot” days. It is no longer hot anymore, but is rather cold. This is a picture of that first sunset at his grave on our anniversary. Tomorrow is his 2 month anniversary in heaven, so we will visit him again. We are both bewildered that it has been two months. Two months! I was just telling Holly tonight that it doesn’t seem like this was more than three weeks ago.
Though the pain lasts, we take heart in knowing that our precious Phoenix is with our Heavenly Father. We thank Him for Phoenix – though he never took a breath on this earth, he lived safe and sound in his mama’s belly, where all he knew was security, love, and her heartbeat.
Beckett did not see him in person, but we wanted a picture of our entire family together, so again, thanks to the magic of photoshop, I was able to put Beckett in this picture. Though the picture is not a “happy” one, it is the only picture I have that shows all the people I love most, together in one shot.
A song we sang (and still sing) to Phoenix:
We’ll see you in our dreams.
God, please send us good dreams with Phoenix. We are desperate for them, as we are desperate for your comfort and healing.