Our Little Warrior Owen

This blog is dedicated to our little sunshine angel Owen. We named him Owen because it means little warrior and we knew he would have to be with two older brothers. He was our little sunshine and his heart stopped beating unexpectedly on his 5 month birthday. We are devastated by the loss of our little guy. Hopefully, this blog will give readers a sense of what a beautiful spirit he was, how he completed our family and will help to keep his memory alive. We hope this gives light into our grieving process and can help other families that suffer a similar tragic loss.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Thank you

Dear Owen,

I am sure you have seen the outpouring of love and support our friends and family have shown us.  It has been amazing.  I don't even know how to begin to thank them. 

I know no one expects it at a time like this but maybe because I am a true southern girl at heart I feel like I have to make sure everyone is thanked for ALL they have done for our family over the past few months.

Owen, I know these entries are normally written to you, I am going to take this time to address all of those who have showed tremendous strength, support and love during the most difficult time in our lives.

First, to our family and friends who supported us and drove all night to be by our sides and care for us and our boys when this tradgedy struck.  Thank you.

To those of you who answered our early morning calls on July 12th and though shocked and saddened yourselves, took on the task of informing other family and friends of the awful news and communicating details on Owen's memorial.  Thank you.

To those of you who helped with every aspect of Owen's memorial, we are so grateful.  We could barely function and each of you took on the daunting task of planning a memorial for a 5 month old.  This is a task I hope no one ever has to do again but each of you did it with strength, love and everything turned out better than we could have ever imagined.  Thank you.

To those of you who traveled near and far to gather in Yardley as we celebrated Owen's short but sweet life.  We were so blessed to see all of you there, gathered in shock and grief but filled with neverending love.  There is no way we could have gotten through that day without each of you there.  Thank you.

To those of you who were unable to travel but shared your grief, support and love in other ways.  Your endless calls, texts, emails, cards, gifts, donations, and meals have made it easier for us to get through each day and continue to move forward.  Honestly, without these constant reinforcements knowing how much we are loved and supported, we probably would not have survived.

To those of you who have continued to show your love and thoughts months after Owen passed, I am forever grateful.  As the days go on, moving forward has become even more difficult as the shock begins to wear off and I realize that my sweet sweet angel has left this earth.  You give me the strength I need to get out of bed every morning.

To those of you have supported our two living children, we are so thankful.  Connor and Liam have so many people out there that love them and care for them.  We know we can call on many of you any hour of the day to take care of Connor and Liam and you have allowed Jim and I to have the time we need to ourselves to process this immense grief.  Connor and Liam know they are loved and though they ache for Owen, they continue to move forward with smiles on their faces.  Thank you.

Finally, I am sure I have missed something so I just want to thank all of you that understand when Jim and I drop the ball on things and don't thank  you for the amazing things you  have done.  Know that you are ALWAYS appreciated and every gesture is so helpful and supportive.  Just knowing we are thought of and loved helps take away a little bit of the neverending pain we have in our hearts.  Thank you.

I know this journey will never be over but we are comforted in knowing that we are not on this journey alone.  Though it breaks my heart to think of Owen taking his journey to heaven alone, I know that he is now there and he is loved.  He sees the love we have here on earth through all of you, our friends and family, and knows that we are ok. 

Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.

Just have to look at pictures from your birth sometimes to make me smile.  I just loved your hair.  You were perfect.  You are perfect.


Owen, thanks for letting me share this with you as well as all our friends and family.  Thank you for gracing our lives, even though brief.  Thank you for being you.  You have changed our lives forever.

I miss you and love you. 

Your one and only Mom

Friday, September 21, 2012

Caring brothers & heaven

Dear Owen,

Did you ever notice what sweethearts your brothers are?  Liam may come off as the comical, athletic one but he has a sweet soul, just like you.  He misses you more than words can ever describe.  Connor may seem to only be into video games and boys stuff but when it comes down to it, he's a mamma's boy. 

Here is Connor admiring you on St. Paddy's Day
Here is Liam checking you out on Easter - He's wondering why he isn't in the middle :)
We all miss you. Last night as the sun was setting, we went outside to look at the beautiful colors in the sky. Connor thought you were in the pink cloud because it was so beautiful. Liam agreed. I just started balling because I missed you so much and realized that half of my heart was in that cloud too. As I held Liam and cried, Connor patted my back and told me we would be ok. I have to believe we will be but at times I don't believe it because I can't imagine continuing to wake up every day without you here.
After the sunset and I put the boys to bed and turned off the lights, Liam started to cry.  I asked him why he was crying and he said "Owen is in the clouds right?".  I said "Yes, Owen is up in heaven".  He said "I am so scared for him because the clouds are dark now, there is no sun out now".  I told him "Don't worry Liam, it is always light in heaven so Owen will never be in the dark" as I cried myself.  I couldn't keep my composure and was astonished how your 2.5 year old brother was worried about you being in the dark at night.

You were my light Owen.  Your smile was so contagious and any time I was having a bad day I would look at your innocent smile and smile myself.  We amazingly had a very mild spring here in PA and I took you walking every day.  Even if you were cranky, as soon as we got outside either in the stroller, in the ergo carrier or just being held, you calmed immediately.  We spent endless warm spring days strolling the canal and looking at the beautiful flowers blooming.  I took this picture one warm day in March as we strolled the canal, you sleeping against my chest. 

You reminded me of what is beautiful in this world while you were here and you continue to do the same now that you are in heaven.  Every time I see the sunset I think of God opening the doors to heaven for you.  I hope you are playing with Weston and our other friends and family that have passed.  I know there are endless people in heaven and on earth that love you. 
While on our annual Gerster family reunion trip to Hilton Head in May, I took you and Liam for a walk on the beach early one morning (yes, you two are early risers!).  It was before 7am and the sun was still rising on the horizon.  It was so peaceful on the beach.  We were the only people on the beach most of the time.  Just before I turned around to head back towards our hotel, I saw a runner approaching us on the beach.  He came up to us and offered Liam a beautiful conk shell he had found on the beach.  Liam was so excited.  I took this picture of you as Liam was enjoying listening to the waves in his new shell.  I think of this picture when I think of God opening the doors of heaven for you.  Your dad and I have this picture framed on the bookcase in our living room and the conk shell we were given on the beach next to it. 

May you think of us in  heaven when you see beautiful things just as we do here on earth and may the lights of heaven always remain on for you so you aren't scared.
I love and miss you.  More and more every day.
Your one and only mom

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Thank you God

Dear Owen,

This weekend I drove to Boston to meet your dad and the rest of your O'Brien family to celebrate BC's 150 year anniversary with a mass at Fenway. It was surreal because this was the weekend we were going to baptize you at BC like we did with your brothers. it just made me cry every time I thought about baptizing you on the table at Capital Health as they tried to save you life.

As we sat in Fenway waiting for the mass to start, Liam wanted to cuddle so I just held him tight and cried as the music played. I had envisioned this as your first introduction to Boston and Fenway. I was thankful Liam was cuddly so I could imagine you there with us.

As the celebrant started the mass, he asked us to bow our heads and asked for our prayers. I bowed my head, closed my eyes and asked God for a sign that you were with him and you were ok. Out of nowhere just then something flew and hit my face and landed on my arm. Normally I would have swatted it away thinking it was a crazy bug but I looked down and saw a little ladybug crawling on my white sweater. It was a sign. Finally. Wow. I turned to Connor and Liam and passed the ladybug to them. They played with the ladybug until it flew off.

It brought tears to my eyes to see them playing with the ladybug because it reminded me of them playing with you, they were always so gentle an caring.

Tonight going to bed Liam held your lovey and the turtle that plays you are my sunshine. He had been laying down for a bit but then asked me to tell him a story about you and him. After the story he got up and went to his framed picture of you and said "good night Owen. I love and miss you". Omg. I was so balled up. He did it all on his own and quietly went off to sleep after that.

I love and miss you too. My sweet bear.

Your one and only Mom

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

2 months too long

Dear Owen,

Happy would be 7 month birthday Owen. Unfortunately it's been 2 months since you took your angel journey too. Tonight we went to Shady Brook farm and got some mums to plant at your grave. We went there at sunset and it was beautiful. Your dad planted the mums in the shape of a heart while Connor and Liam watered the grass above your grave and the newly planted flowers. They also put rocks from our yard (ones you know so well because you were out there with me every day this summer working on the yard) around the mums in the shape of a heart. As the sun set a bag pipe began to play. How random but how appropriate. Your brothers held me tight and kissed my tears as I wept for you. We are teaching the boys specific prayers and they love talking to you in heaven. They have so many questions about your body and try and understand what your soul is and how it got to heaven. I never thought I would have to explain all of this to them so young. It's insane how comfortable they are at a cemetery now. Every time we pass one Liam says "that's where Owen lives!". Crazy huh?!?!

Last night we also went to a paint your own pottery place to paint two planters. Connor and Liam did a great job. You will love them. They have their hand prints on them, stencils of dragonflies, honeybees and suns (Connor's classrooms at TcDc) and Connor also wrote all of our names. They will be a beautiful addition to your gravesite as we finalize your gravestone.

I watched the video of your giggling with me many times today. I screamed, I cried, I punched the seat. I want to see it again. You would probably be crawling by now since you were commando crawling to join your brothers. Today in the car we talked a lot about you. Liam misses taking baths with you. Connor misses tickling your toes and kissing you. I miss holding you as you cuddle your head on my shoulder. Your dad misses singing to you while he rocked you.

We all miss you and ache to see you again. Friends have been amazing to remember you and our suffering. Thanks to all of you who remembered how hard this 12th day of the month is for us. It's funny because people always think the 13th is unlucky. Your nano was born on the 13th so I have never thought that. We thought it was great you were born 2-12-12. 121212. Now I dread the number 12 since you passed on 7-12-12. You will have been gone 5 months on 12-12-12 - the same amount you lived with us on earth. So needless to say, I wish the number 12 would go away. Good thing our house number is 11.

Here's to lucky number 13 tomorrow.

We love and miss you every second.

Your smile makes me smile and cry.

I love you dear Owen. My heart aches for you.

Your one and only mom

Monday, September 10, 2012

Loosing it

Dear Owen,

Today is one of those days.  I am loosing it.  I just hate life right now.  I miss you.  I want you to be here.  I woke up at 6:15 and just sat in bed.  Normally I would have been up with you but you weren't there.  Your room was empty and quiet.  I laid in bed and asked God why he took you.  As your brothers slept, I sat there and cried for you.  I hate that you aren't here for us to hold, love and care for. 

Yesterday I was fortunate to hold our good friend's baby for the first time who was born a week ago.  This was the first time I have held a baby since I held you in my arms as you passed into heaven.  To say it was difficult is an understatement.  It was excruciating.  Not because I wasn't happy for our friends and their beautiful new baby but I was so sad for our family.  I was so sad that you had been that little and I had nursed and cared for you as you grew a whopping 14 lbs in 5 short months.  I was blessed to be able to hold this miracle of joy but ever since then my heart has been broken for how empty my arms are for you.  (For you two that may read this that know who you are, I know you know how hard it was for me but I am SO thankful I was able to hold your bundle of joy and he is beautiful.  We are blessed to have you and your family in our lives!)

Ever since you went to heaven, I have stopped checking Facebook. I know you know what Facebook is because I spent WAY too much time during our endless feeding sessions looking at mindless crap on there.  Yes, I loved the updates from near and dear friends but there is some stupid crap on there.  I hate that I am missing those happy family updates from dear friends because I just can't stomach them right now. I don't know if I ever will be able to.  When I see friends with 3 kids I cringe because you are no longer in the photos with Connor and Liam.  When I see friends complain about stupid crap I get so angry because you know what, life could be a lot lot worse.  When I see friends post pictures of babies my heart sinks just a little bit deeper as I long to have you here with us on earth. I  made the mistake and logged in at work onto Facebook under my personal account and I saw all of these updates this morning.  As I started to ball at my desk, I quickly logged out and logged in under my sutto work account and proceeded to dry my tears as I looked at PetArmor's page and other dog brand pages.

Owen, I am slowly loosing it.  As the world moves on, I don't.  I don't want to move on because you were my third son and I don't understand why you just stopped breathing and aren't here with us anymore.  As we await the final autopsy reports, I dread the words that so many other SIDS moms have seen in the past.  Cause of death "Can not be determined, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome".  Not knowing why God caused you to just stop breathing as you went to sleep one night I will never understand.  The world is moving on as life is back to normal for them but my life is not.  Your brothers see me cry all the time.  On the way to school this morning I heard Zac Brown's "Highway 20 Ride".  I just lost it.  Your daddy and I put on Zac Brown in the delivery room while you were being born.  I remember pushing and that song came on and I just lost it.  Tears were streaming down my face and the same thing happened to me this morning.  I was driving down the road I drove down twice a day, 3 times a week while you were here with us on earth as we carted your brothers to preschool. 

I wish there was something I could do to bring you back and stop this pain.  My only hope is that one day my time on earth here will end and once again I will hold you in my arms.  I know that as each day passes, I am one day closer to being with you in heaven and that does bring a light of hope to the darkness I now face.

I know I have to live on because your brothers and your dad need me here with them.  The questions are starting to come from Connor about what happened the night you passed.  He hasn't started asking your Dad but they have started with me "What did Owen look like when you found him?", "Why were you screaming at him when you found him?".  They break my heart every time.  I try and explain that I was screaming because I was scared and I was not screaming at him.  I try and explain that you looked peaceful and still.  I don't want him to feel the pain that I felt and still feel every day.  Liam has now started sleeping with not only your baseball lovey but also the little turtle that plays "You are my sunshine" because he says "This is Owen's favorite song".  They both miss you so much and always talk about how they want to tickle you, kiss you and hold you.

You are missed and loved by so many.  I know you know that.

Please guide my way today as I struggle with how to put one foot in front of the other.  The only thing that gets me through is to think of your contagious smile.  We took this picture of you one late in June after we arrived at Spring Lake Beach in NJ.  You hadn't napped on the car ride there and we thought you would be soooo tired.  As you can tell, you were bundles of smiles as we took you out of the car and put you in the stroller, one of the first times you rode in the stroller as a big boy.  You managed to fall asleep shortly after we walked on the beach.  I guess you just wanted to hear the humm of the ocean waves as you drifted off to sleep.  Just like your mother.

I love you and miss you.

Your one and only Mom

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Left or right

Dear Owen,

So I am on my third week of work at my new job as a brand manager for PetArmor.  Though it has been somewhat nice to be distracted, nights are so difficult becuase I can't mourn all day long.  Sometimes I just stare at your picture when I am on conference calls and I know I am not as focused as I am supposed to be.  I miss you.  I miss my role as a stay at home mom.  Days that were filled with endless feeding sessions, cuddle sessions and giggle sessions. 

So every night after work as I leave my office, I am torn between turning left or right out of the parking lot.  If I go left, 2 miles down the road will lead me to your grave site.  If I go right, it will lead me to your brother's daycare, our house and your dad.  I am torn every day.  I still want to be your mom and I still want to hold you every day.  Though I know I will always be your mom, my heart and body aches daily because I can't hold you.  I want to visit your grave every day just to be within arms length of your body.  Though I know your soul is now in God's hands I am still attached to the physical connection of your body.  I think it is because we were literally attached to each other physically for 10 months in the womb and 5 months outside the womb. 

So most days I do turn right because I have to get your brother's at school but one day this week I turned left.  I went to visit your gravesite for the first time by myself.  That was a big step for me because I am always scared.  Scared of freaking out, scared of not being able to leave or drive because my emotions are so intense.  Scared that I may just dig you up just to hold you again.  I know that sounds TOTALLY insane and I know it and I know I won't do it but it does cross my mind.  Right now I break down every time I visit your gravesite and every day after I leave work, regardless if I turn left or I turn right.  I think having to control my emotions all day long makes me want to just release as soon as I am done at work for the day.

Owen, I wish it was as simple as turning left or right to see you again.  My mind is still clouded with memories from your final hours and the days of your service and I can't seem to recall the endless hours we spent together for the 5 months you were here with us.  I am grateful for that time and I will forever ask God why he cut it so short!  I don't believe that taking you from me was part of God's plan but I sure do believe that you are now with God and he will help your father, your brothers, your extended family and I through the rest of our lives.

Every morning when I wake up I also have to make the decision.  Do I turn left and get out of bed and get ready for work or do I turn right and cuddle with your father and cry as I cringe at another day I have to face without you.  Most days I do turn left and get out of bed but there are still days where I turn right and I stay in bed a bit longer and think about you and miss you.

I love you and I miss you.  I miss the way you always followed me with your gorgeous brown eyes around the room as I tried to get stuff done while the boys were at preschool.  You looked at me with complete adoration and I miss that.  I miss checking on you at night when I check on all my boys before I go to sleep.  Your room is still so dark and quiet. 

Keep on fighting my little warrior.

I love you and miss you.

Your one and only Mom

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Something about the holidays

Dear Owen,

As we approach our first "official" holiday since loosing you our sweet angel, I think about the holidays.  Labor Day is the end of the summer and the start of a new school year.  Our family has somehow managed to arrange our births around holidays.  Your dad was born on Feb 22, George Washington's birthday and often President's day.  I was born the day after Mother's day and my birthday often falls on Mothers day, May 9.  Connor was born on Thanksgiving day, Nov 22.  This year his birthday will also fall on Thanksgiving.  Liam was born on Dec 27, two days after Christmas.  Finally, you were born on Feb 12, Lincoln's birthday.  I am sure we could find a random holiday for each day of the year but these are all pretty legit days that most people know about.  How I wish you were still with us here to celebrate your first Labor Day.  We are here at my parents in VA where we spend most Labor Days and you are only here in spirit.  I miss you.  How I ache to have you here.  How I wanted you there last night at the Sarnowski's annual party.  You would LOVE being in the pool, dancing to the music.  You are not here.  You are in God's hands.  I hope you are looking down on us and smiling.  I don't think there will ever be a day goes by that my heart doesn't ache for your sweet smile.  To hold him, talk to you, cuddle you.  Holidays are especially the worst.  I feel a hole in my heart and I know this won't get easier as the more significant holidays approach.  Life is just so incomplete.  I look at my boys play with their cousins and Liam is always lagging behind because of his age.  How I wish you were here with us to lag around with him.  You and Liam could gang up on Connor and the older cousins but now it's just Liam in the younger category.  Liam aches for you, his little brother so much.  Every time he goes to sleep he cries that he misses you.  He has to sleep with your baseball lovey and cuddles it so tight.  He always wants me to tell him stories about you, Connor and him playing and in the stories he always wants to be holding you.  He is so protective of you.  He wants to still be a big brother so bad.  Owen, my sweet sweet angel, know that you will always be Connor and Liam's little brother and my little baby.  We miss you more than words can say.  We miss you on this first "holiday" without you.  How I wish I could put you and your brothers in your matching American Flag shirts again like I did for you on July 4th and hang around all day and smile.  I love you.  I miss you. 

Love your one and only,