Shedding Light on Loss Milestones
This week's guest blog author is Jessica Shickel. Jessie, and her husband, Ike, share openly about the loss of their precious son, Jack Edgar, in 2021. You can read more of Jessie's story on her blog. Jessie and Ike live in Harrisonburg, VA with their dog, Huck.
We were approaching the one year mark. One year since we last held our precious little baby named Jack Edgar. One year since my husband, Ike, and I shared with friends that despite two open heart surgeries, we would have to say goodbye to our newborn whose congenital heart defect was not surgically fixable. Now, a year later, those same friends and family were intentionally asking how we wanted to celebrate and remember Jack's life.
As a mother who has lost a child, sometimes you, self-consciously, think people are tired of hearing about the child you no longer get to hold. Thankfully, we have friends and family surrounding us who tell us they love to remember Jack. They talk to us about his bright silvery hair, his sweet face, and the moments they got to spend visiting him at the hospital. They remind us that we have been through a lot and they see us and our hurt.
With the encouragement of our friends and family, we brainstormed a little and took inventory of what was important to us as we planned how to remember Jack's life. We decided we wanted a sunset involved since after Jack passed away we often felt like gorgeous sunsets were a little gift from him. We had a family friend offer their hillside with a beautiful west facing view. Our brother-in-law lost his father tragically eleven years ago and his family has since lit and launched paper lanterns from the same hillside in his memory. So, we ordered lanterns and invited friends and family. Soon after Jack passed away, we had t-shirts made for the healthcare workers that cared for Jack during his 35 days at the hospital as a thank you. Each shirt that friends and family purchased paid for a shirt for a hospital worker as well. So, we invited friends and family to wear their shirts that night too.
We had a picnic dinner, on a borrowed hillside, wearing our Jack shirts, occasionally giggling as we tried not to light each other on fire as we sent lanterns off into the sunset. Each family released a lantern together and Ike and I released the final ones. Our nieces and nephews commented on how the lanterns almost reached heaven where Baby Jack is now as we watched the lanterns become tiny dots way up in the night sky. It was perfect. It was the right amount of sweet and somber with homemade and simple, and with our tribe around us.
Milestones after loss are hard. We gave ourselves grace to do what felt right to us at that time. Really there is no right or wrong in a scenario like this. But we needed our friends to remind us that they wanted to do something with us! And for that we are so grateful.
Photography by Katie Schmid, The Commoneer
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