CHPICCrystal

Mom to Jesco Riley

November 9, 2012 – January 25, 2013

Hendersonville, North Carolina

Sweet Jesco was only 2 months and 16 days old that icy, cold Friday, January 25, 2013. That day was like always. Daddy fed him his morning bottle before work and we slept in. Jesco slept with me and his sister slept in her own bed in the next room. Daddy left for work. Later on, as I woke, I did as usual and rubbed his soft tiny body. This time, I immediately knew something was different.

No Reflex, as I softly stroked his side with my fingertips. No Reflex, as I rubbed his soft, blonde, peach fuzz hair upon his head. NO REFLEX AT ALL!! ONLY AN UNREAL COOLNESS TO HIS BODY. I immediately went into panic mode as I jumped out of bed, struggling to remember how to simply turn on the lights by the switch in our bedroom. As I turned the lights on I jerked him from the bed, looked at him as I yelled his name, “Jesco! Baby!!! Wake-up!!!” I gently shook him, still calling his name. Then I laid him on the bed and stripped his pajamas and diaper off to try and find anything wrong. The only thing I noticed was some bruising on the left side of his face and around his groin area where the diaper was. WHY?? I could not understand. He was so peaceful looking and beautiful as always. How hard it was to realize or even accept that he was nothing more than sleeping. But still…NO REFLEX!!

I called the 911 dispatcher as his Daddy at work. And without hesitation, began CPR. It took less than 3 minutes to jump from the bed, realize and call paramedics. My heart knew he was gone and hope was fading with every tear. But I wasn’t giving up. Every minute still counted. If not to save him, at least to be with our precious son. Believe me, if I had known what the rest of that day was going to be like, I would have NEVER called Emergency Personnel so fast. I would have held him in my arms, waiting on Daddy. At least for a while longer, we would have all been together. Time truly is precious!! Knowing he was gone, I still couldn’t bring myself to put his lifeless body on the cold, hardwood bedroom floor. So I laid his fragile body on a towel that I placed upon the floor then began CPR with the dispatcher on the phone. I carefully swept his mouth and tongue with my finger to clear a path for air. It was difficult, almost as if his tongue was swollen and his jaws locked. I placed my mouth over his nose and mouth and administered air into his lungs. As his body rejected every breath I gave, I repeatedly gasped, “He is gone, He is gone, there’s no use, He is gone,” to the dispatcher. The fear and anxiety and that immediate onset of adrenaline was changing. Now begins the empty, lonely, numb. Lost in a trembling of despair.

As paramedics arrived, I showed them to our bedroom upstairs where our lil’ feller lay upon the floor. They did not ask questions and quickly made me leave the room. I did not know, that was the last time, the last moment I would ever see Jesco in our home again. In their attempt to escort me downstairs, I stopped the responders, asking if I could wake my two-year-old daughter and take her down with me. Dumbfounded and confused, they replied, “You have another child in the house?” Trying my best to shake their untimely ignorance, I opened the door to her room, lifted her from her bed and carried her downstairs. We sat eagerly, waiting for Daddy to hurry home. So many people stood standing around inside and outside of our home. A scene of such chaos. Paramedics, fire and rescue personnel, volunteers and investigators, swarmed all around. Adrenaline must have been pumping through his every vein, for my husband had cut his usual 12-minute drive in half. Then came the poor judgment of first responders that stood outside as my husband arrived. An absolute disregard in showing any empathy, as they callously demanded him not to enter into his own home. It barely mattered to him that it was only 25 degrees outside, only an overwhelming realization. That until now, he had no idea, the last time he would see his boy was earlier that morning when he had fed him his bottle. Eventually, they did allow Daddy to come in. My sister had arrived by now to take over caring for our daughter. In a small room downstairs, we sat impatiently waiting for someone to just simply say something. Paramedics continued to work calmly on our obviously gone, lifeless baby for 45 minutes or so as they decided on what to do next.

I am not an EMT, I am only the mother of my son. But we should have been given that time, those final moments together with our son.

Rather, we stood standing together in our own solitary confinement at the front door of our home, instead of having that last time with our precious son. Denial set in, as I clung to my husband. Believing that paramedics could do something more, I said to my husband, weeping, “They have to make him be ok!” Still, not a single word spoken to us, as we stood waiting at the entrance of our home. Suddenly, as if Mommy and Daddy were clearly invisible, emergency workers walked directly past us. They were taking our little boy away from his home, away from us. With no decency, they proceeded to carry him out into the cold. He was bare, no clothes, no blanket, no shroud to cover his tiny body. We stared in disbelief as they made their way across the yard to the ambulance. In shock, frozen like stone statues, we watched as they drove away.

Family members began to flock to our side for comfort and understanding. Eventually, a detective spoke to us saying, “Your baby is gone.” THAT’S IT!!!! Confusion and devastation set in along with the anger. They never took his diaper, his clothes, none of his or our belongings, not even the pillow that had the tiny blood stain. Emergency personnel began leaving and we began wondering what to do next. Exactly what every Mommy and Daddy would want to do, follow the ambulance and go to the hospital. A parent’s desperate wish, a single last moment with our so very treasured and irreplaceable son. Yes! Time, is incredibly precious. And life, so very fragile. ….BUT NOOOOO!!!! Time wasn’t on our side as detectives had other plans. They told us to directly meet them for questioning down at the police station. My husband’s boss and his wife drove us to the police station where we sat and waited our individual turns to speak to detectives. Of course, we were questioned. Most questions were the same question just worded differently. They treated my husband as if he had killed our baby and laid him in the bed with me. After who knows how long we were there, we were free to go. We went back home because they said we were not go to the hospital where our baby was.

By 9 p.m. that evening, we were visited by a CPS worker, accompanied by a cop. They sat down to speak with us and begin explaining how they were going to remove our surviving, two-year-old daughter from the home. Only adding to our grief, we stared with no emotion. How do we begin to understand? They continued to explain that our daughter would be placed with “Next of Kin” if it suited one of our family members. If we did not have a “Next of Kin”, she would be placed in protective custody. We told the CPS worker that she was already with my sister at her house. I told them that my sister and brother-in-law would take responsibility for our daughter. He concluded his visit, telling us he would be directly going to visit our daughter and the home where my sister lived, making it clear that we could still see our two-year-old under supervision. We were told not to be around her by ourselves, under any circumstance. Our sweet Jesco was gone and now our daughter too. I assume protocol is to blame for our unjust treatment. We were dealt one blow after another and our fragile composure begin to crumble.

As we sat amongst our family and friends, no one knew what to say or do. We cried and acted crazy, hysterically acting out in ways we never thought we could. It is so very puzzling and hard to explain the state of mind of one so grief-stricken. A hurt, angry and confused mind will think and do such erratic and unimaginable things. In a matter of three hours, grief had taken so many courses and it wasn’t over yet. Even to the present day, it is still not over. All at once we were experiencing CONFUSION – SHOCK – DENIAL – DISORIENTATION – ANGER – BLAME. The list goes on and on. YES! My husband eventually (that night) took his pure and complete sadness to the very extent of blaming me for our son’s death. The atmosphere became uneasy and quite intense. With a sense of urgency, my sister in-law felt the obligation to remove me from my home. She proceeded to take me to my sister’s home where our daughter was now staying.

Forced to grieve alone, I would not see my husband for five days. In the days we were apart, my husband mostly slept. I assume from complete exhaustion as his mind raced helplessly with uncontrollable thoughts. And I stayed awake, never sleeping, with continuous thoughts running ramped through my mind. I even thought out impossible scenarios, trying to reverse what had become of our lives. So suddenly, and without warning, life can change. The denial stage of grief remained dominate as I continued missing our baby and my husband.

Finally, my husband was ready to see me again. Five days felt like forever as I waited to see, touch, and talk to my husband. When we got home we sat quietly, staring at nothing at all. Being around each other felt so weird. We had to start over. Even though we loved each other, we acted like we didn’t know each other. Trust and simple things that come so naturally with the one you love seemed almost a joke. We still spent the next three months or more on edge, unsure what was right or wrong. We were so unstable and vulnerable, anything could send us flying over the edge. Anything could happen at any time. It was an emotional roller coaster with no destination in sight.

In the first two weeks following Jesco’s death, we slept downstairs on a pallet made from sleeping bags and blankets. We would hold his tiny clothes that we pulled from his diaper bag, holding onto them like a child with their favorite stuffed animal. It was the only thing left, the only thing we had to smell, hold and touch. Eventually we were able to sleep in our bed upstairs again. We would squeeze ourselves to one side, leaving the area where Jesco had died untouched, (his pillow, blanket and clothes). I still stayed awake most of the time and did not eat, while my husband slept a lot and ate enough for four people. He has gained up to 150 pounds since the baby died and I continue to keep the appearance of an anorexic. My husband is the type that wears his heart on his sleeve, so crying and anger and lashing out anytime and anywhere is what he does. I am more shelled with somewhat of an armor. Thoughts and tears aren’t easily expressed. In the days I stayed awake, I wrote the obituary for our son and his funeral myself.

Excerpt from the obituary: Jesco was such a “Lil Feller”, so pretty and perfect. He displayed such amazing strength, so pure and full of affection. He was so flooded with happiness, his smile so bright and contagious. Our buddy, so tiny, yet he was larger than life. As if by example, he was an inspiration to all who knew him. With our life rich, our minds full and our hearts whole. Mommy and Daddy are so blessed and proud, with Love Always Baby Boy…

I felt I had to somehow tell everyone about our precious boy, our treasure that was here so briefly. As we prepared for his funeral, we still struggled with deep sadness. In the days that followed, we begin trying to except our new “norm” for rest of our lives.

We were struggling with obvious devastation and pain from the death of our son and losing our daughter through crazy CPS protocol. In order for us to get our daughter back, we would have to wait for autopsy results, take drug tests, and seek counseling for depression and bi-polar disorder. We were even promised bereavement counseling. Yet, to this very day, we still have not [received that promise] (thanks to groups and individuals on Facebook, I believe much of our bereavement has come from that). Anger monopolized a lot of our grief as we were told to do things that clearly made us believe we murdered our own son. We had a burial and two services for Jesco. My husband was escorted from the second service as his grief got the best of him. It was so much to handle as he lashed out in anger at God and those who had come to the service.

We eventually got our daughter back after almost 3 months. Also thanks to the most wonderful funeral directors who handled us with such care and empathy. They gave us what no one else ever dreamed of giving us. They allowed us to hold our precious boy, giving us all the time we needed and wanted. They gave us the dignity to treasure the last moments we had wanted with our son. Almost like the missing piece from a puzzle, the simple care and kindness we had hoped for came from the humbled hands of a devoted funeral director. With steady, careful hands, the director lifted our beautiful son from his tiny white casket and gently placed him in my arms. “You may take as long as you wish, just let us know if you need anything,” he softly spoke before leaving us to treasure everlasting final moments. YES, it takes a funeral director to show you true sympathy as the emergency personnel and others forgot or failed to do so.

Today marks a little over a year since Jesco died [at time of writing]. We continue to find our own ways to ease the pain. Simply remembering our son helps a lot. We often visit the place we laid him to rest. We visit on his birthday and on many holidays like Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. We throw birthday parties, inviting family and friends for food and cake. Enjoying the company and carrying on just as we would if he were here. I write a lot of poetry and stories about our journey and openly share with others on the internet and such. Jesco is the theme behind all of my arts and crafts. When I decorate our home, most of it is meant as a reflection of him, such as the curio cabinet that displays all that is his. His crib and things are still in place, untouched. His daddy works very hard on daily basis. He battles the hardest role, continuing his fatherly duties and doing exactly what he would do if his boy were still here. And his sister, now three years old, still worries about the “Brodur’ she loves so much.

Grief will take its own time and path and there will always be days that seem harder than others. Faith has helped lead the way and courage allows us to let go of what we cannot change. As we learn to accept change, we find comfort in what remains constant. There is peace, knowing what will never change and what will always stay the same. Nothing can ever take away our pride. We will always be Mommy and Daddy and Jesco, our son, will be forever ours. He was so perfect and pure, an unforgettable treasure. He was a strong soul. Powerful. Determined to leave a lasting impression. He amazed so many by his power of love, so deep and unconditional. The happiness he possessed was extraordinary. He seemed to have the ability to bring peace to us all. In fact, that little boy, our son, Jesco has held all of us together even in the times we thought we would fall apart.

JESCO ~ FOREVER & ALWAYS

You can email Crystal at: crystal.kelly.hensley@gmail.com

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