keeping my promise more than three years later

“Instead of asking why they left, now I ask what beauty will I create in the space they no longer occupy?” – Rudy Francisco

A couple of days after Jackson passed away, my cousin called to offer her condolences. Through the tears, I told her, “Something good will come from this. I will make sure of it.” I don’t quite know where I found the strength to make such a grand promise because as I sat there on the phone, my heart was broken into a million tiny pieces.

But I knew from the beginning that I would not let Jackson’s death be in vain. One of my greatest fears was that people would forget about my child. It scared me more than anything.

As I started organizing our team for Briggs and Al’s Run just a couple of months later, I think I surprised a lot of people. How was I standing, let alone forming a team of more than 100 people to walk and run in memory of our son. But organizing our team and raising money for the kids and Children’s Hospital gave me a purpose. It kept me going when I could have given up.

Doing something in Jackson’s memory was therapeutic, and with the generous hearts of so many, we raised enough money to create the Jackson Reese Memorial Fund – an endowment fund that will continue on in perpetuity and help us keep Jackson’s memory alive.

But these last three years, my heart has been yearning for more.

Something good will come from this. I will make sure of it.

Eric and I are excited to announce our latest endeavor as we continue to honor and remember Jackson. We recently established JR Hearts, a nonprofit (soon to be an official 501(c)3) dedicated to providing financial assistance to families and organizations with young children experiencing major medical challenges.

JR Hearts has two meanings behind its name. JR are Jackson’s initials, but it also is the abbreviation for junior. We are remembering our son, but we are also taking care of other little hearts and families out there.

Recently a memory  appeared in my Facebook stream from five years ago. Jackson was only a month old and halfway through his two-month stint in the hospital. It read:

*Info on baby Jackson:


Jackson Reese

FRIDAY, MAY 13, 2011 8:52 AM, CDT

Need Some Prayers 

Eric and I got a phone call at 3 am from Jackson’s nurse informing us that he had a “dangerous” heart rate. It suddenly skyrocketed, for no known reason. His stats dipped down and Jackson was very pale and unconsolable. They had the whole medical team in his room trying to get it under control. They gave him medicine, paced him and finally had to shock his heart to get it back to a regular rhythm. They do not know the reason and this is something very unexpected to happen and not anything normal to see at this stage. They’ve ordered a lot of tests and are trying to figure out the cause right now. Today’s prayers are for healing of Jackson’s heart and guidance for the medical staff so that they can find some answers.

Eric and I didn’t know what we were in for when Jackson was diagnosed with a heart defect in utero. We were frightened at the thought of our baby undergoing open heart surgery at five days old. Would he survive? How long would we be in the hospital? What kind of life would he lead? Uncertainty loomed in the air.

I quickly realized the hospital can be a lonely place as you sit listening to the perpetual beat of your child’s heart through the monitor. Some days unable to hold your baby because of the circumstances and surrounded by a lot of medical equipment and jargon that you don’t understand. Sometimes it was day-to-day or hour-to-hour in the hospital with a lot of ups and a lot of downs sandwiched in between.

I can remember crying unconsolably as I drove home from the hospital around the time I wrote that update. My hope was fading. I felt helpless. I just wanted Jackson home with me. We had setback after setback, and it felt like our family of four would never happen.

But Jackson was born a fighter, and he fought hard. Yes, those two months proved very difficult and tested me, but the day we brought Jackson home was one of the best days of my life.

Unfortunately, there are so many children who don’t get to leave the hospital or have to continue their fight at home. We were blessed to enjoy our son outside of a hospital, doing typical kid things for almost two years before God decided to call him to our ultimate home.

As hard as it is, I have tried to find some sort of meaning after our loss. There’s no timeframe or book telling parents how to live after losing a child. Eric and I have found our purpose, and we want to continue to help others. I hope and I pray that we can be a beacon of light for others who are where we were five years or even three years ago.   

Jackson’s medical bills after two months in the CICU piled up quickly. Statements appeared in the mail almost daily. The cost to care for him during that time was astronomical and mind-boggling. However, Eric’s employer offered exceptional benefits, and we had little to worry about. We felt blessed and grateful, and now it’s our turn to help pay that forward.

Everything we do in Jackson’s name is about the kids – all of them. The ones who make it home and the ones that don’t. It’s about supporting and loving their families throughout it, so they always know they aren’t alone.

We will continue to support Children’s Hospital and continue to grow the Jackson Reese Memorial Fund there, as well as continue to fully support Briggs and Al’s Run. But I have always wanted to do something more tangible. Something that would directly impact other families. And this is it. And I am beyond excited about it!

Throughout all of this, Kate continually amazes me with her insightfulness. She joined the art club at her school this past year. One day a week for three months they would meet and work on their projects. She never shared too much about her creations, even though I always asked. At one point the teacher displayed their latest project throughout the hallways. They were huge self-portraits with quotes coming from each image. Kate later told me they had pages of quotes to choose. Some kids selected “Live Laugh Draw”. Another wrote “Dream in Color”. Kate’s choice left me in awe.

“Stars can’t shine without darkness.”

I’ve always wanted good to come from our darkness, and now it will.


Want to help us kick-off our fundraising efforts? Please join us on Saturday, August 6 for the first annual Jackson’s Jam. Jackson shared a love of music with his dad, and always danced when the opportunity arose. So we’re honoring him with a music festival filled with kids activities, food and a whiffle ball tournament! Click here to learn more and please join us for what promises to be a fun-filled day! If you can’t make it, but feel compelled to give, or want to join us for the whiffle ball tournament, please email us at [email protected].