Happy 13th Birthday, Jax

Signs signs

Everywhere there’s signs…

— Five Man Electrical Band, 1971

This describes my wife’s last week. As Jaxson’s birthday approached, she’s been hit with sign after sign.

Last week, on their way home from preschool, Phoenix grilled my wife with questions about Jax. How did he die? Where is his body? My wife was having a particularly hard week emotionally. She gave him simple answers. Our family talks about and includes Jax constantly and both little boys talk like they know him. But the topic of his death just doesn’t come up, so for Phoenix to ask a week before his birthday was curious.

A day or two later, a co-worker of my wife approached her at the end of her shift at the hospital. The co-worker told my wife that she dreamt of her and Jax. Now, understand that this coworker doesn’t know a lot about Jax nor our home. She explained her dream to my wife. My wife was sitting in a barstool and Jax was standing next to her, trying to get her attention. But my wife was distracted by our twins asking about hand gel. The co-worker said that she sensed Jax trying to sit in my wife’s lap. But he’s no longer 4-years-old. The co-worker described Jax as 12 or 13. Again, the co-worker doesn’t know that Jax was 12 at the time of the dream or that we have bar stools at a counter in our home. She explained to my wife that Jax wants her to know that he is constantly around. And to us, he always seems give her signs when she needs to see them the most.

Over the weekend my wife was shopping at a flooring store. She said that in her time there, two different families were shouting “Jax” or “Jackson” to each of their boys. My wife said that the boys were 4 or 5-years-old.

Yesterday, things ramped up. My wife saw a firetruck, Jax’s signature sign to her. She took all the kids to In N Out to grab lunch while I worked. At the window, she was given five kids stickers, without the In N Out employee asking if she wanted any. We have four children alive, with Jax being the fifth. Last I noticed one of our children placed the stickers next to Moo and PD, his favorite stuffed animals.

Finally, my wife was in line at the grocery store to pick up cupcakes to take to Phoenix’s preschool. Phoenix has the same teacher Jax had and every year we bring cupcakes to her class so they can celebrate Jax’s birthday. In front of my wife was a person with two blue balloons that read “Birthday Boy.” Right behind her a woman held a red and black balloon, the same color balloons that my mother-in-law buys for us to release on his birthday.

Our birthday plans for Jax are slightly different this year. I’ll drop Phoenix off at preschool with cupcakes, plates and napkins and his class will sing to Jax. After we pick him up we’ll head out to Los Angeles. While the Natural History Museum of LA is closed, we’ll walk around the property, likely in the rain, yearning for a sense of normalcy to honor our missed boy. Later, we’ll pick up some take out from Ruby’s Diner or Red Lobster – two of his favorite restaurants – and sing Happy Birthday to him.

Today, keep an eye out for fire trucks, black and red balloons or anything that reminds you of Jax. Everywhere there’s signs.

Happy Birthday, Jax. My love for you knows no limits. My heart aches beyond comprehension. And my soul longs to be with you again.

Happy 12th Birthday, Jax

Sunday was a mother fucker.

Phoenix hit day three of a cough that progressively worsened over the weekend, and now had light fever. It was my wife’s first time seeing him, as she just got home from her shift at the hospital. His breathing labored. I just thought it was from a runny nose. She knew better. When he breathed, sometimes it was through pursed lips. Other times he appeared barrel chested. My wife was coming in the middle of a brutal work schedule, and needed to grab sleep as she had to get back to the hospital Sunday night. She asked me to wake her if he didn’t feel better in a couple of hours, and we’d take him to urgent care.

I took the kids over to DICK’S Sporting Goods to look at softball and baseball bats, as there was a weekend sale for the local recreation leagues. Phoenix is starting tee ball, and Ellie is back at it in softball. Gray found a mini UCLA football, and hoped that he’d find a West Point football, as he’s a fan of the military academy. So we were on the hunt. That’s when my phone buzzed, and I glanced at the TMZ notification.

I had to read the headline a few times before it made sense. It took my breath away. I’m sure I cursed, prompting the twins to ask what happened. I tried to keep my composure, and gathered them up as I pushed Hendrix in his stroller to leave. I text some friends. The news spread fast, and it was all unbelievable.

We grabbed some lunch on the way home and ate while KTLA covered the tragedy. Meanwhile, Phoenix’s condition was deteriorating. His cough was worse and more often. His eyes watered. He looked miserable. Reluctantly, I went upstairs and woke the wife up. I let her know that Phoenix wasn’t going well, and we should take him to urgent care. I gave her a couple of minutes to gather herself before I told her.

“Kobe died today,” I said softly.


“He died in a helicopter crash.” I couldn’t hold back the tears anymore. “His daughter was on board, too,” I added, agains, softly.

I went downstairs to check on the kids as she woke up. We found the closest urgent care our insurance would cover, and decided that I’d take Phoenix so that she could go back to sleep when Hendrix napped, as she needed to rest for the night’s shift.

As I drove, I figured the doctor would check Phoenix out, give him a breathing in treatment, a prescription and we’d be on our way. Phoenix wailed from his car seat as the radio aired Los Angeles’s mourning in the background. He was coughing every 10 seconds, often uncontrollably. He was beyond miserable. And then we waited two-and-a-half hours to see a doctor.

After finally getting in to a waiting room and running through breathing treatments, I noticed they wanted to keep checking Phoenix’s pulse. They were concerned about the heart rate, so now I was concerned. It was up to 153 beats per minute before he even started the breathing treatment, which was only going to increase it more. The doctor tested P for the flu, strep throat and Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection (RSV). The nurse commented about how much of a champ Phoenix handled the nose swab, throat swab and breathing treatment.

Then the doctor returned. She said Phoenix tested positive for RSV, the breathing treatment didn’t have enough of an effect on him and she was recommending us to the ER at Children’s Hospital of Orange County. I text the wife with the update. She was  now awake and getting the kids ready to be dropped off at a friend’s so that she could get to work. I asked the doctor if I had time to run home two minutes before driving out to the ER, which was another 30 minutes away. Phoenix puked on me during our wait after a coughing fit, and I wanted to clean us both up before an anticipated four-hour ER wait.

She said I needed to go straight to the ER. Then came my wife’s texts. Her panic leaped out of the phone. And it all became very serious.

At this point, Phoenix just wanted to go home. As we pulled out of the urgent care parking lot, I started to tell him we weren’t going home. But I couldn’t get the words out. I was trying not to cry. The weight of the day felt heavier, and it was jammed in my throat.

Through the tears, I told him about the ER. I expected an outburst. He was tired, he didn’t feel good and he just wanted to be home. Of course he did. But that’s not what happened.

“Dad, you need to calm down,” he said in a parental tone. Comfort was in his voice. “I’m going to be okay. I feel better.”

A friend of the family happened to be the charge nurse at the children’s ER. I text her, she was on shift, and she either pulled some rank to provide us with immediate care, or the RSV was that serious to them, too.

A return to CHOC’s ER is not something my wife and I ever wanted to experience again. Jax died here. My wife was now getting off of work to meet us. The thought of returning to CHOC is one reason my wife sobbed as she dropped the other kids off at our friend’s.

In 2013, I drafted a post about why we participate in the CHOC Walk. It was extremely detailed and vulnerable, and my wife and I decided not to post it. Below is a snippet.

For about three hours, the hospital staff did everything they could to save our boy. But it was after he left us that the CHOC staff’s grace, compassion and solace left an overwhelming mark on my wife and I. We lost our boy, but it was if they lost him with us.

After two-and-a-half hours of breathing treatments, vacuuming mucus from Phoenix’s nose, steroids and cuddling with mom in his bed, Phoenix was released. His chest sounded much better and his breathing improved. The respiratory distress was gone. The CHOC staff was amazing at treating and releasing our boy in the same time it took for us just to get in to a room at the urgent care.

I left the ER early to go pick up the kids and get them to bed. I showered and cleaned up. As my wife drove home, Phoenix asleep in the back of the van, a fire truck pulled out of a driveway within a half mile of our house. It was after 10 P.M., and sirens and lights were not activated. It was as if Jax wanted her to know he was with us today, keeping his brother safe and comforting him – and us.

While the two are very different in so many ways, Phoenix reminds me the most of Jax, mainly due to similar hair color and texture, the chubby cheeks and goofy, eye-rolling faces they make. There are times that it hurts, a gut punch of pain reminding me what is lost when Phoenix flashes a Jax memory. But then there is today, when their strength and love and compassion shine. And I’m so honored to be their dad.

Today we will celebrate Jax’s 12th birthday the same way we have since he left us – delivering cupcakes to his preschool teacher for her class to celebrate, a trip to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles and meeting family for dinner at Ruby’s Diner.

Happy Birthday, Jax. My love for you knows no limits. My heart aches beyond comprehension. And my soul longs to be with you again.

Love you,


Happy 11th Birthday, Jax

Kristina and Phoenix just walked out the door to deliver cupcakes topped with little plastic dinosaurs to the preschool that Jax went to. His teacher remembers him every year on his birthday, and her and her class sing happy birthday to him.

The baby (we don’t really call him much other than that) is napping, and Gray and Ellie are at school.

“Watch that video while we’re at school,” Gray told me while putting his pants on this morning.

It took a bit for me to register what video he was talking about.

“Oh, you mean Jax’s video?” I asked, referring to the slide show of photos and short that was shown at his funeral.

That was the one.

“You don’t want to see me cry?” I said.

He does not. I told him I won’t watch it in front of him. Truthfully, it’s been a while since I’ve watched the video. But I think it’s time for Phoenix to see it and get to know his big brother. The little guy is very excited to go see dinosaurs today at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum.

All weekend he’s alternated between having dinosaurs fight to the death in his room and then apologize to each other in sweet, innocent toddler voices and playing with a figure that Kristina and I have named Scuba Steve. It’s a plastic scuba diver he got from the Aquarium of the Pacific. He thinks that the scuba diver swims up in the air, so he says that’s what he wants to do. He plays with him while wearing swimming goggles, and he asks for flippers.

But P’s excitement today makes me excited to experience it with him. It’s somewhat softened the blow of an emotional day. In a couple of hours I’ll wrap up work, we’ll pick up the kids and head out to LA. And, as always, we’ll meet up with family for dinner at Ruby’s Diner to be together.

I’ve stopped trying to figure out what Jax would be like as an 11-year-old. It’s too hard. I mean, I have my hopes. I hope he’d be kicking everyone’s ass in baseball and playing fantasy football with me and serving as my assistant general manager for my Strat-o-Matic baseball team. I hope he’d still love puzzles and dinosaurs. I hope he’d be a protective, loving and teaching big brother to Gray and Ellie. But then I realize these hopes are impossible dreams, and pain sets in.

My hope today is for a peaceful, loving day together as a family remembering Jax, honoring him by doing the things we know he loved.

If you think about it today, do a puzzle. Watch Jurassic Park. Grab a shake at Ruby’s. And smile when you think of our little man.

Happy Birthday, Jax. My love for you knows no limits. My heart aches beyond comprehension. And my soul longs to be with you again.

Love you,


The One Where We Finally Choose a Name

We did it, guys. We chose a name before discharge day. Without a poll.

But before I share the name, let’s review some ideas that didn’t quite make it to the final list.

*These are in fact legit ideas suggested by myself or the wife (mostly myself)

  • Wally (Walter)
  • Boone
  • Knox
  • William
  • Cohen
  • Quentin
  • Brooks

Enough of that. And the name is…………

Hendrix Asher. Yes, if you recall from Baby Name Watch of 2016, we chose Phoenix over Hendrix for the symbolism. This time around, nothing leap-frogged Hendrix for us, although Asher was close. So instead, the runner-up, which we love for the meaning (below) and tie-in to Phoenix’s symbolism (rising from the ashes), becomes the middle name.

And I think we’re going to call him Ash. Of course, we also thought we’d call Phoenix “Finn”, and here we are two years later, calling him P all the time. So we’ll see what happens.

Ash and wife are both doing well. The pediatrician said he looks great, and an echocardiogram cleared Ash of any heart concerns, which there was during the pregnancy. They’ll get another full day in the hospital Wednesday, and then we’ll bring him home Thursday, where the reality of having four kids in the home will smack us right in the nose.

Love you all,


In Case You Didn’t Know

The wife is pregnant. I realize this is the first time I’ve posted the news in this space. Kristina posted it on her Instagram and Facebook accounts a while back and tagged me, but unless you stalk my feed or have seen her within the last six months, this may be news to you.

In fact, she’s so pregnant that the c-section is tomorrow morning at 9:30. It’s a boy. We don’t have a name picked (shocking, huh?). Ellie is pretty excited, Gray is less than excited and Phoenix just wants to name him Chewbacca.

This pregnancy has had a couple of concerns, but from what we’re now told, baby boy appears to be healthy as can be. We’re looking forward to getting the sucker in our arms about this time tomorrow, and then we can breathe easier.

I don’t plan on posting a live blog, like I did with Phoenix’s birth, as the WordPress app sucked. But I will be posting on Instagram @sethtearz and Facebook throughout the day with meaningful updates or trivial silliness.

Love you all,


The First Sunday Since

I woke up Saturday morning at 3:30. It wasn’t on purpose. I had to pee and grab a drink of water. When I lied back down, I wasn’t sleepy. Typically, this isn’t a problem for me. But this wasn’t a typical morning. It’s a day I was dreading. And, mostly because of that, I never did get back to sleep outside of 20 minutes before the twins woke me up a little after 8.

Jax died on a hot, sun-filled Sunday. Yesterday was the first June 24 that was a Sunday since he died six years ago. It was definitely sunny, and mostly hot. And I was dreading all of it. I didn’t want to pretend to be okay, and I really didn’t want to have to talk to anybody.

I managed to wear enough of a smiley face once we arrived at Angel Stadium, and it helped to watch the kids play at the Family Sunday zone before the game as friends and family snuck some shade under a tree and listened to mediocre kid-bop cover songs of some decent artists.

Soon it became a place of warmth (not just because it was hot), positivity and love. It wasn’t anything that was said or done. It was just loved ones, being with us in support, all together in whatever each of us were feeling – and not doing it alone.

I’m continually overwhelmed by the amount of love and support everyone has, continues to, and will give us as we continue to mourn the loss of Jax. I get lost in my own junk, and it clouds my vision of what’s real and what’s imporant, and it’s a day like yesterday that helps me to see and feel what is real, and what matters.

I love you all. My family loves you. And thank you.