a year of heartache and hope


One year ago today, at 4:21 p.m., my world forever changed. One year. Twelve long months. 365 excruciating days. In the blink of an eye, a piece of my heart was stolen from me. I will never, ever, be the person I was before.
I relive April 20, 2013 every day. I remember each moment of that day like it was yesterday. I remember coming out of the bathroom that morning to find Eric and Jackson snuggling in bed. I remember Jackson walking on the bed, coming over to me with his blanket and bears, wanting me to pick him up and carry him downstairs. I remember thinking he felt warm, but I assumed it was because he was under all of the blankets on our bed cuddling with Eric. I remember getting him a bottle of milk and making my coffee. I remember nestling with him on the floor in the living room while we watched a little TV, waiting for Kate to wake up.
I remember all four of us in the kitchen right before I left to take Kate to Girl Scout camp. Jackson didn’t want us to leave. He kept saying, “Kate, Kate”. She gave him one last hug and kiss and said, “Don’t worry. I’ll be back later today.” And she never saw him again. I remember that was the last time we were all together.
I remember coming home from dropping Kate off, and Jackson was napping. It was quite unusual for him to have a morning nap. I was in my bedroom when I heard “Momma” ever so softly coming from his room. I got him out of his crib, and carried him downstairs to play. In between him sprinting across the living room to run into me, we took some pictures to send to Mimz and Poppa to say hello.
I remember exactly what I made him for lunch…cheese quesadilla and strawberries. He only ate the strawberries. Just a short while later, I could tell he was ready for another nap.  I remember wanting to take his temperature because he seemed a little warm again. 103.4. I took it again, thinking, “It can’t be that high. He doesn’t even feel very warm.” 103.4. I gave him some medicine and then he gave Eric a kiss, and we started up the stairs. I remember we made it halfway up, and he wanted to go back downstairs to give Wesley a kiss and hug. So we trekked down the stairs and found Wesley around the corner. He leaned in and gave Wesley some love, leaning his head against her furry body. We made it up the stairs and sat down in his rocking chair. I didn’t even have time to read him a book or sing to him. I rocked a couple of times, cradling him close to me. He pointed to the crib. I remember asking him if he was ready to go to bed, and he said he was. I laid him in bed. I remember giving him one last kiss, saying “bye bye” and closing his door.
I left to go shopping for some of his birthday gifts. Jackson’s second birthday was the next day. I bought decorations for the house, lots of gifts and wrapping paper. I enjoyed looking through the books and picking out the perfect ones for him. I was so excited to celebrate, yet disappointed that he had a fever and hoping he felt better the next day. I wanted him to really enjoy his special day.
Within hours my life would be a whirlwind spiraling out of control.
I remember dialing 911. I remember being extremely frantic. I remember running to my neighbor who is a nurse screaming for help. I remember too much. I remember the police officer telling me to sit down and take deep breaths. I remember feeling like I was going to pass out. I remember people telling me to pray. I remember the looks on everyone’s faces of extreme worry. I remember being driven to the ER and begging my neighbor on the phone to pray, just pray. I remember getting to the hospital and being scared to go in. I remember walking into the room and a multitude of people working on Jackson. I remember a myriad of wires, machines and noise. I remember hearing a heartbeat on the monitor. I remember feeling a moment of relief knowing that’s what we needed and thinking that everything will be okay.
I sat next to my son who’s tiny body was sprawled on a bed made for an adult. I placed my face right next to his and started singing. I rubbed his hands and head and body, and I talked to him. I remember Eric right behind me and our pastor praying over us. I remember time standing still. I remember looking up at the doctor and asking when they were going to transfer him to Children’s Hospital. I remember the doctor kneeling down to tell me the horrific news no parent ever wants to hear.
They knew he was gone when we got there, but our wonderful doctor said “I wanted to give God a chance to work a miracle.” They fought for Jackson on God’s behalf. And I remember being extremely grateful for that.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my baby boy. When I hear sirens blaring in the streets, I have flashbacks from that day. Kate and I heard sirens a few weeks ago, and she stopped what she was doing and said, “Mom, let’s say a prayer for whoever that is for. And let’s pray they don’t die because that would be really sad.”
It never leaves us. Not Kate, Eric or myself. There are constant reminders, constant flashbacks and constant grief.
I’ve had several people ask me if I think there’s any significance to Jackson’s first Angel Day being on Easter. I’ve really thought about it and tried to figure out some meaning. There has to be, right? I haven’t. All I know is I miss my little boy like crazy! Easter was his favorite holiday. He loved searching for eggs. He loved all of the candy. He loved life. I have wonderful memories of him last Easter with the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen on his face.




Last night, I read Kate the book “God Gave Us Easter”. It talks about how Papa bear loves Easter more than Christmas. On Christmas we celebrate Jesus’ birthday, but on Easter we remember we get to be with him forever.
Throughout this last year, I’ve also been asked on many occasions where I get my strength from. My answer simply put is God. I have never leaned on my faith more than in this last year. The only way I am able to have any ounce of strength is knowing that one day I WILL see Jackson again. God promises me that. Jesus died on the cross so that I would see my sweet baby boy again one day.
When Eric and I arrived home after saying good-bye to Jackson, several of my dear friends were waiting for us. As I was sobbing, I remember saying, “I know God has a plan…” I don’t know why I said those words in that moment, but that’s what I believe. I have from the very beginning. I don’t know how I could have gotten through this last year without my faith. On my weakest days, the promise God has given us carries me through. The day can’t come soon enough that I will see Jackson, but that day WILL come.
While there have been moments of extreme pain and sadness through this last year, there have also been some glimmer of pure hope and encouragement. Eric and I have said from the very first day that something good will come from our heartache. We were and are determined to ensure that happens. It already has and will continue to. These are just an inkling of what has taken place this past year:

Eric, Kate and I were able to start the Jackson Reese Memorial Fund at Children’s Hospital. I would be completely remiss if I didn’t recognize that it’s only because of all of the love from our family and friends. This is Jackson’s legacy that will live on forever, long after we’re gone. He will never be forgotten. Eric and I have this drive and passion now to do so much for others. Prior to April, we made donations to organizations, but now we are throwing ourselves in to this to continue to raise money for something so close to our hearts with our main mission to help others.
Our sweet friends Susan and Al Higgins started a Little Free Library in Jackson’s memory. One of Jackson’s favorite things to do was read books. Mrs. Susan took that and ran with it, starting this library so other children and adults in their town could find the same joy in books that Jackson did.
A sweet little boy’s life, that I don’t even know, was saved because of Jackson. He was not feeling well, and it was time for his nap. His mom thought about our story and her gut told her not to put him down. Instead she took him to the ER. It turned out he had diabetes, and had she put him down for a nap, he never would have woken up. My boy saved a life that day.
I know our immense pain is helping others. I hear it all the time. And while I’d much rather have Jackson here than helping others at this expense, I’m very humbled that in some little way our family can be an inspiration to others.

This has been the hardest year of my life. I have never cried so many tears or felt so much despair. I wouldn’t wish this life on my worst enemy. I can not explain the immense heartache and sorrow. I want to see Jackson so badly that it physically hurts. I cry so hard sometimes it literally makes me sick. I can’t even look at pictures most days because it hurts to see that adorable face knowing I can’t see it in person. And then I feel like a bad mom because I don’t look at them.
The pain is indescribable at times, yet, I would be lying if I didn’t say it is easing a bit. I will miss Jackson every moment of every day until I am with him again, but we are slowly healing.
I did something the other day that I haven’t done in a year. Something that seems so simple, but for me isn’t. I went into the grocery store that is less than a mile from our home. It’s the grocery store I always shopped before Jackson moved to Heaven. I haven’t been there in a year. I couldn’t do it. It was too hard. I have too many memories with Jackson there. I’ve tried before. I’ve pulled up to the store and parked the car, but the pain and memories would overcome me, and I would break down in the parking lot.
It wasn’t easy this week. I had to hold back tears as I went up and down the aisles, but I did it. It’s a small step to take on this new journey, but I took the first step.
Eric and I decided that today, while yes, there will be many tears, we also want to celebrate Jackson. Please celebrate with us. Do something nice for someone today. Read your kids a book. Just stop and enjoy the little things in life. Thank God for the beautiful flowers, the sunshine or even the rain. Be grateful in all you do. Don’t take a minute for granted with your loved ones. Give them “one more” kiss or hug today and really soak it in. And have a wonderful Easter.