It was a beautiful sunny April day; I had a lot to do and wanted to get started before my two little ones were awake. My oldest Frankie was 2 ½ and my newborn Brian was just 2 months old. I loved being a new mom. I was 23 years old and full of energy and excitement. Brian was going to be baptized on Sunday and I was having family and friends over to celebrate.
I took down the curtains in the dining room to wash. I looked out the large window in the dining room and saw a bright blue sky and the dawn of spring in the fields of the farm. It was a glorious spring day full of promise and hope.
Just 4 months prior, my youngest brother Paul was killed in a car accident. He was 16, a sophomore in high school and a promising future ahead of him. He left on Friday night from my house, with the promise of seeing me in the morning, because he was going to babysit the next day for me. The last words he yelled at me were “See you tomorrow, love you”. And just like that he was gone. Taken away too soon. The loss devastated our family. He was the baby of the family. The “surprise” extra child to make the family complete at 6 children. Brian’s birth just 3 weeks after Paul’s death was a welcome joy and a soothing balm on our hearts. His birth provided new hope in all of our lives.
On that sunny April morning, as I was preparing my home for a celebration of life, Brian had died, in his sleep of SIDS. I heard my oldest son as he walked down the stairs from his bedroom and quickly “shushed” him to not wake Brian. I scooped Frankie in my arms and kissed his neck. I put him down and quietly walked into Brian’s room to check on him.
This was an ordinary day, which would suddenly be etched in my memory forever. I went to the crib to check on him, put my hand on his back to pull up his blanket and was taken aback with fear. His back was stiff, and his little body was cold. My instinct told my brain that it was just because the blanket was off him. I went to turn him over, and it was clear to me that my baby was dead. His beautiful face was mottled and blue, his lips were blue and he was cold, cold, cold. It was a horror that I picture in my heart and mind every day.
I remember that moment with such piercing clarity. A moment of true panic and fear. Fear that I have never felt since. Fear of it being real, of being above myself and not really seeing what I was seeing.
Frankie was laughing at me, I suppose to a 2 ½ year old child, their mom crying out NO and NO many many times would be somewhat disorienting. He does not remember it.
I picked him up, and had enough sense to put his jacket on him and go out to the milking parlor to tell someone what I had encountered.
How could this be happening? Brian was just at the doctors the day before for a well check up. He was thriving! My heart felt like it was being torn in half. The adrenaline of this all was causing me to hyperventilate, even as I ran to the barn. My husband was not in the barn, but my father in law, took one look at me, and knew. I was gasping and crying out, Brian is dead, Brian is dead.
He took Frankie from me, and looked me in the eye and said, calm down as he set his hand on my shoulder and told me to calm down, I knew that was exactly what I needed to do. As, my pulse slowed down, he calmly told me that we needed to go in the house and see. The rest is a blur, calling the pediatrician, the funeral home, the coroner. All the items needed to do.
I sat on the couch in a daze of grief, as those around me called people. All I could think of was my baby was still alone in his bed and I had to be there for him. Someone needed to be there for him, I cried. Someone needed to be there for him…….. as I cried my heart was forever changed…….. and my life would never be the same again.