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Grief, Tragedy, & Love: A Fathers Journey Through Child Loss.

"This is my grief story. It’s about how I felt before, during, and after our son, Rush, passed:


I had been gone totaling numerous months of Rush’s 7-months of life, due to being away with the military. It’s always very difficult to leave, because I know my family doesn't want me to go. I don’t either. My kids miss me, my wife needs me to share my responsibility as a husband and father, and it makes me extremely sad feeling like I’m neglecting them. But it’s what I “signed up for” and it’s “my job”. I always told myself, “I have their whole lives to make up the time I was gone” or “we’ll do it this weekend.”

Putting work first led to great opportunities. It led to wild adventures, getting to do things, and visiting places that most people never will. It even led me to a potential opportunity to fly for the Italian Air Force as an exchange pilot. However, I knew I could not do that to my family. Knowing that I would be gone often, in a small town in a different country, where no one spoke English. Although it was a wildly cool opportunity, it wasn’t good for my family. Following the decision to not pursue that path, along with having gone on a TDY and seeing what the life of a General Officer was like, I came to the realization that I just wanted to be with my family. I didn’t want to be gone all the time, I didn’t want those opportunities if it meant my family had to take a backseat. While I was gone, I became depressed as I felt like I neglected my family and my fatherly and husband responsibilities. I made the decision to take time off and spend it with them. I am glad I did, because it was the most time I got to spend with my baby boy out of the entire time he was alive, it was also the last times I would spend with him.

Rush’s Passing

When I got back home from the series of trips, Hannah and the kids got back as well. That was Dec 15, 2022. We spent the following days together, as Rush developed his illness. Both Rush and Emmy were sick that whole weekend. As it worsened, we both got worried for Rush. Hannah’s amazing motherly instincts reached out for medical care. Hannah brought Rush to the ER, while I stayed home with Emmy. After the ER visit, which told us Rush would be okay, I kept trying to reassure Hannah that he would be fine, even though Hannah said otherwise. Hannah wanted to call 9-1-1, but I assured her Rush would be fine, because that’s what the doctor said. We agreed if he wasn’t better by the morning, we would take him to the pediatricians. Which is what happened the next day. Rush got worse, so Hannah scheduled an emergency appointment to be seen by the pediatrician, who again, reassured us Rush would be okay and it was just the common cold. It made me feel like we were over exaggerating and blowing things out of proportion, because these doctors kept saying it was just the common cold.

During this time, Rush would not sleep well unless he was being cuddled. I am thankful I was able to be home and cuddle him so much, and just be with him. Even on the last night of his life, I went to bed early, due to work in the morning. I cuddled him to sleep. A while later, since I had to be up early, Hannah stayed up/slept with Rush, so I could get some sleep. They sat in a vertical position all night to bring him relief.

I woke up early that morning to get a workout in before going into work, as well as take pictures of items for sale (we were getting ready to move). Looking back, I have no idea if Rush was alive or not at this time. I was stupidly taking pictures of items in our basement and riding a bike, when my son was struggling to take his final breathes. I got ready for work, said goodbye to Hannah and gave her a kiss, and said goodbye to Rush and Emmy (who were both asleep at the time I left). I do not know why I did not give Rush a kiss. I always snuck in before I left for work to give the kids a kiss and check on them. I didn’t do it that morning and I do not know if Rush was alive or not when I left. It is something I’ll always live without knowing and always regretting.

I went to work to go get qualified on a new handgun at the shooting range on base. The roads were a mess. Covered in ice and snow, with numerous cars in ditches. I made it safely, but the class was delayed due to road conditions, which I remember making me upset, because I could’ve been home with the family during this time (one of the biggest regrets of my life and something I will always kick myself for). But I knew I would be able to head home early after I was done at the range. I had taken my phone out of my pocket and put it inside my hat in the classroom, so I could comfortably wear my leg holster. I did not know that during this time, Hannah had found Rush, limp, unconscious, & blue in his bed. She was trying to get ahold of me, and I wasn’t there for her. I never picked up the phone, and never knew it was even ringing. It wasn’t until a range instructor came running and telling me and my director of operations that we were needed immediately. I thought it was about flying. She told us to grab our stuff as we wouldn’t be returning. When we did, she started running. She yelled out that someone was on the phone and it was for me. My heart sank, as I knew it was about Rush. When I answered, my senior enlisted leader was on the phone saying Hannah was trying to get ahold of me, and our son was being taken to the hospital. I will never forget that call. I immediately ran outside and saw dozens of missed phone calls. I was able to get ahold of the hospital, who told me to get to the ER immediately, as rush wasn’t breathing and would not survive. My director of operations drove me in my truck to the hospital. I am extremely grateful for him doing this, even in the nasty road conditions.

I was able to get in contact with our neighbor, who informed me Hannah and Rush were being taken to the hospital. Then, I was able to communicate with Hannah, who was just arriving at the hospital and screaming asking me where I was. It’s about a 25 minute drive from base to the hospital, but it felt like hours. I knew what was happening, but I didn’t want to believe it.

When I arrived to the ER, I was told to get to the room immediately. I saw dozens of medical staff surrounding a bed, and on the bed was my little baby boy. They were trying their best to perform continuous CPR. He was covered in tubes. Hannah was standing next to him, hunched over him, and crying. I tried my best to consul Hannah, while trying to hold Rush’s hand. He was motionless, and you could feel him getting colder. You could feel his hand becoming stiff. That ER medical staff tried so hard. Out of the dozens of different personnel, not one of them gave up. I knew Rush was gone, and he wasn’t coming back. But they still kept trying.

After what seemed like hours, but in reality was probably 15-20 minutes, a doctor told us that they would keep trying for a few more minutes, but they would have to stop. They fulfilled that promise and kept trying. But the time came that they had to stop. They marked the time that they discontinued CPR and staff started to leave. We were left with our lifeless baby boy. Hannah and I were a mess. Hannah was yelling out to God, praying, pleading, for Rush to come back. Begging Rush to wake up. She was saying how it must’ve been a dream and that it wasn’t real. I remember thinking about how this isn’t supposed to happen. Bad things happen, but they get better. Things ALWAYS end up getting better. He just had the common cold. There’s no way our little happy boy was dead.

I knew I had to be strong for Hannah. She was a mess. We both cried and were in disbelief, but I tried so hard to be her rock. To be the husband that she needed and be the person she could lean on. We spent the next few hours with Rush, holding him, before taking him to the morgue. We called our parents and told them what had just happened. Before we could leave the hospital, I had to make the decision of what funeral home Rush would be taken to. That’s not anything I ever thought I would need to do. I just wanted to be with my baby boy, I didn’t care about a funeral home. I ended up just choosing the first one on the list.

Following that, my commander, DO, and a base chaplain met us when we left the ER. My DO again drove us home. When we got home, Hannah was in shock. She could not talk, and did not want to see anyone. Now was the time that I needed to be the strong one. Hannah is the mother and just lost her baby, who she created, that she carried for 9 months, and nurtured for 7 months. I needed to be there for her. I ended up going and picking up Emmy and our dogs from our neighbors, and telling them what happened. I called our family and Hannah’s close friends to tell them the news. I talked to the hospital and the funeral home to talk about Rush. In the following days, I took it as my responsibility to make the decisions about the service, coordinate friends family arriving, and a plethora of other things that I didn’t not have the energy to do, but that had to be done. I felt that I had to be the strong one.

Mental Health