Extra, extra! Read all about it…

24 Aug

“Don’t do anything or find yourself in any situation that you wouldn’t want reported on the front page of the local newspaper.”

That was the often-repeated motherly advice given to one of my friends throughout her teen years.  As parents, we never want to see our child’s name in the newspaper for something negative, but instead, we hope that our children will be recognized publicly for good works and accomplishments. It’s a joy to see their name in print, and when it happens, we buy multiple copies of the newspaper, we email the online version to our friends, and we grab the scissors and glue so that we can add it to the scrapbook.

15 years ago, two of my very good friends experienced the death of their 4 week-old infant to SIDS. As I read her obituary in the newspaper, it saddened me that this would be the only time my friends would see their daughter’s name in the newspaper. No awards, no dean’s list, no game-winning home runs. Simply an obituary.

When we learned that Sammy would be born with HPE, we understood that he would have profound mental impairments, and we grieved the fact that he would never be a scholar, athlete or leader. Although I never vocalized it, in my heart I feared that the only public proof of his existence would be simply an obituary.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Psalm 37:4,“Delight in Me, and I will give you the desires of your heart.” On a spring morning in 2005 just after Sammy’s 2nd birthday, I received a desire of my heart as Sammy’s name and a color photo appeared on the front page of the Metro & State section of the Indianapolis Star. Although I hadn’t expressed my obituary fears to anyone, the Lord knew my heart’s secret desire, and He provided me with a moment of joy and pride to see my son in the newspaper.

When it became time to write Sammy’s obituary, he had already made the newspaper, been featured on our local tv news, had his story told on the radio, along with other miscellaneous newsletters, websites, and more. The obituary was no longer simply about Sammy’s death as I had once feared; instead, his obituary became a tribute to how he lived.

(The infant I mentioned above, Miss Mary Clare Hook, has had her name published in the newspaper several times since her passing as her parents have been active in fundraising and awareness campaigns to support SIDS research. She may have lived only 1 month and 2 days, but she still remains in my heart 15+ years later.)

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