CHOC Walk 2017 – How to Register

REMINDER! The CHOC Walk is August 27 this year. 

Two goals with this post:

  • Remind everyone that the timeline for the CHOC Walk was pushed up by two months this year. Remember to register if you plan on joining. And if you can’t join us but would like to make a donation to team Iron Jax, you’re more than welcome to do that as well.
  • Assist those with the registration process. CHOC has decided to use another new platform this year, which means another new way to register. Hopefully the instructions below are easy enough to get you signed up and fundraising in a jiffy.

How to Register

1. Go to CHOC’s registration page here.

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2. Sign up for a new account by entering your name and email address and creating a password, or click the Sign Up with Facebook button.

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3. If you’re signing up as a Walker, click the bear on the left.

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4. Fill out your Account Information (name, address, fundraising goal, t-shirt size, etc.).

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5. To join team Iron Jax, enter “Iron Jax” at the very bottom where it asks for Team Name. From there, it should switch your options of create or join team to JUST join team. Then click Next.

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6. The next page confirms your information, and then click Continue.

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7. After choosing to add a donation under your name, you’ll be taken to the Complete Registration page. Sign your rights away and then Complete Registration.

Bam, you’re now signed up for team Iron Jax. If you have any questions, please let me know and I’ll do my best to help.

Thank you for joining us in this very meaningful experience for our family. Whether you’re Walking or Donating, it means more to us than you’ll ever know.

Thank you.

OC Family Published My Story – Check It Out

UPDATE 1:58 PM 12/29/16: Direct link is up, which you can find HERE. 

UPDATE 3:25 PM 12/27/16: Apparently viewing the web version is not mobile friendly. But the good news is a direct link will be posted within the next week or so. Once I get that link I’ll update this post with it. 

Just a quick note for those not following me on Facebook or Instagram.

OC Family today published an essay I wrote for them for their January edition, which can be found throughout Orange County starting today, or online at ocfamily.com. I wrote about Jax, dealing with grief and our New Hope (to borrow the Star Wars idea – Phoenix). On the top right click on the January digital magazine, go to page 60 and you’ll find it.

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Just a reminder you can always follow me on Instagram @sethtearz or Facebook here.

Was That Dead Pigeon a Sign?

Last Thursday a pigeon decided to get super comfy on our porch mat. My wife was leaving to meet a friend for dinner when I heard a shriek. She never shrieks. I ran to the front and she showed me the bird. Our porch light is out and it was dark. She almost stepped on it, which would’ve been messy. We both had an eery feeling, mainly because it was dark. So she left through the garage and I hoped it’d fly away. It never did.

As she left, my wife told me there were two packages left on the porch, as UPS and Fedex often leave. I circled around the house and crept up the front lawn towards the packages that lay/lied/laid three feet from the pigeon. I cursed at myself for not bringing a flash light. I slowly reached for the packages, scooped them up and back peddled the hell out of there. Those Hurley sandals CHOC sent us for reaching a fundraising goal were safe!

Later in the night I showed the kids and snapped a pic and shared it on Facebook and Instagram, as some of you might recall. Before my wife came home I checked the porch and text her to let her know the bird was still there. She came home through the garage and I went to bed with a plan to call animal control in the morning if it was still there.

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It wasn’t still there. The kids and I looked in the morning. I started to turn around and close the door when Gray suggested we look outside further to see if it moved. Makes sense. So I rubbernecked out my front door, looked left, and damnit there’s the bird, face down on my porch. Directly in front of the window to Jax’s room. What the shit. Later in the day I shoveled the carcass in to a trash bag and dropped it in the trash can.

The whole thing is very curious. Now I’m not the most observant when it comes to birds in our neighborhood, but we don’t really see pigeons on our street. And how the hell does a bird find our porch and plant itself inches from our front door step? And then it decides to die right in front of Jax’s room? C’monnnnnnn universe.

My wife Googled it and came across a common theme about the signs/omen of coming across a dead bird.

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A new beginning, a fresh start. We could use those. And from this website:

Dead bird in the yard or on the highway – if you’ve seen a dead bird in the road or perhaps you accidentally hit a bird on the road, this usually feels like a bad sign. Actually death is typically a good sign showing us that an end to turmoil or pain is ending. This doesn’t necessarily mean physical death, just a metaphorical death. Perhaps you’re going through heartache of a break-up, perhaps you are struggling to find a job…this dead bird marks the end to your search and struggle. A new beginning is just around the corner.

An end to turmoil or pain is ending. The end of our search and struggle. I think we can use that. And here I was, thinking the only gift that pigeon left us was white polka dots of crap on our porch.

 

Just Love the Hell Out of Him

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Yesterday, towards the end of work, I came across a post at FanGraphs, the mecca of baseball statistics web site that ultimately led to the birth of TechGraphs, my part-time employer. Written by Managing Editor Dave Cameron, the post asks invites guidance for a first-time father on how to introduce his son to the beautiful game of baseball.

I read it, and just about moved on, when I got an itch. An itch to share my story with my first son. It ended with my face puffy (more so than usual, jerks) and trails of dried tears. Here’s what I wrote.

I raised a naturally left-handed tow-head with bright blue eyes and an even brighter smile. And by naturally left-handed, I mean I didn’t force him to be a lefty, like a lot of other parents in Southern California seem to do. He hit, threw, kicked and wrote with his left hand.

At about 18-months-old we got him a plastic tee, ball and bat – one of those Fisher Price things. Just before turning 2 he moved up to a smaller ball and thinner bat. He’d swing from the living room and run and slide in the kitchen. My wife works nights as a NICU nurse. When she worked, our nights were spent playing baseball inside.

He had a sweet, natural swing. Hitting always came easy for him. Before he turned 3 I pitched to him over hand, so he’d get used to the motion. I was going to make him in to a big leaguer, whether he liked it or not. Fortunately, he liked it. Up until he died. He drowned at 4 1/2-years-old at a neighbor’s pool party. Just a couple of weeks after finishing his first tee-ball season on the Brewers.

I grew up an Angels fan. I lived in Orange County and the friends I wanted to be friends with at my new school liked the Angels. It helped that it was Wally Joyner’s rookie season and the Angels were good. Really good. My boy was growing up an Angels fan. Torii Hunter was his favorite player. He got to see him one last time, four days before he died, when we celebrated his great grandfather’s Father’s Day at Angel Stadium. After the game he peed in the parking lot. As a true baseball fan should experience.

It wasn’t the same watching baseball after he died. I didn’t have my padawan next to me to explain bunt defense to.

He was really good. His favorite position was third base, despite playing with the wrong hand. I’m staring at a note his coach wrote him following the season:

Very solid baseball player with a great looking swing. Always very focused when in the batter’s box and ready to go.

At 4, he was one of the younger boys on the team. But he didn’t play like it. One game, playing the “pitcher” position in tee-ball, a kid lined one back up the middle in to his gut. It looked like it hurt. A lot. He picked the ball up, threw it to first, and then held his abdomen. Coaches went out to check but I stood on the side trying not to make a big deal out of it. He didn’t cry. Though I knew he wanted to. I had seen that face many times. It always ended with tears. But not out on that field. Not in front of all those people.

About the last 5-7 games of the season the league went to coach pitch, where a coach pitches softly to the boys. They get three swings, and if they don’t hit, they move back to the tee. Jax never swung and missed once. He always at least fouled a ball off. After my Dad encouraged him to find his inner Incredible Hulk (he was a huge Marvel fan), the balls started jumping off the bat.

It was a great, great season. That one season of his.

Dave, I just wanted to share my own experience with Jax, my son. Baseball was so special to us as a father and a son. Don’t push it on him, but educate he is willing to be open to. Get him swinging, throwing and catching as early as you can. Make it fun for him. And whatever happens, just know that your time with him is precious. Even when he’s driving you nuts.

Just love the hell out of him.

That’s all we can really do, right?

It’s Okay Not to Be Happy at New Years

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New Years has been a shit time of year for us. Presley, who we lost at 16 weeks gestation, was due 1/1/07. New Years Day had been a thorn prickling the pain that always remained from losing our first baby.

Then Jax died. On 12/31/12, six months after he died, we were both still off of work. We didn’t celebrate. Instead, I brooded and fumed at all the Happy New Years texts that buzzed my phone. I’m pretty sure I wished a violent case of crabs on everyone that included me in their innocent well-wishes. There’s nothing HAPPY about it. It would be the first year without Jax. It was a reminder that two of our babies were in heaven now. Two too many and totally fucked.

New Years last year wasn’t any better. A fog of depression had built up since just after Halloween in 2013. The only two posts I wrote after a 11/1/13 T(GIF) post was this one, and that’s only because it had to be shared. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have heard from me until Jax’s birthday in January. This year, it was a bad mix of post-Christmas blues and the dread of New Year’s approaching. It was a bad, bad week. And again, the Happy New Years wishes rolled in with my brain cranking out automatic replies of “Fuck New Years” to just myself.

I mostly thought maybe my wife and I are just too bitter to hear the word happy, or try to be happy. And with the two losses always coming back to us at this time of year, it’s just too much pain to deal with when surrounded by messages of hope, fresh starts and being happy.

This year I felt more calm. I only received one text message (a group one, so several in it), and like every year, I didn’t respond. But this year, I didn’t wish harm on these peeps. I said or wrote “Happy New Year” to people, but it was mostly to strangers, as it seemed to be the polite thing to say at the moment.

My wife worked, as she did last year, and the twins and I stayed in, got some food, and raised our glasses (theirs punch, mine a beer), said “cheers” and hugged at 9 p.m. They seemed to think it was neat. And, as I mentioned on Face Book, Gray found a new crush in Fergie.

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I put them to bed, then spent a couple of hours releasing angst playing Grand Theft Auto V. The next day we watched the Rose Parade. They changed from one set of pajamas in to another. It was one of those days.

Three days ago my wife shared a post she read over at Rockstar Ronan, the blog created by Maya Thompson, who lost her 3-year-old son to cancer and inspired Taylor Swift’s “Ronan” which is pretty much the anthem for anyone that’s lost a boy toddler. I’ve posted it on the blog, and we included it in the first memorial for Jax.

Thompson wrote:

In this life I live now I don’t have the luxury of saying things like, “I cannot wait to see what 2015 has in store! I just know it is going to be the best year yet!” How do you have the best year yet after the death of your child? I don’t think that you do. I guess I cannot speak for the other bereaved parents who walk beside me, but in my mind the best year yet just does not exist anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I am capable of having really, really, really good days. I have those days a lot, especially with all the happiness that Poppy and your brothers fill me with, but you will never not be missing from my blissful days of always almost perfect. What are my hopes for 2015? That we all stay healthy and don’t die. That I have more smiles than tears. That I get more little signs from you. That your brothers and sister continue to flourish, grow, and be happy.

I don’t want this part to be lost, as it struck me the most.

“What are my hopes for 2015?” Thompson wrote. “That we all stay healthy and don’t die.”

It’s true. And really, just almost true. I really don’t care about myself. And my wife’s told me the same about her feelings and her own death. But for our kids? Fuck yes. And the rest of our family.

Thompson’s post brought me peace of mind. I’m bitter and jaded and resentful, but I’m not the only one. And that’s okay.

Maya, you’re not alone. You DO speak for other bereaved parents that walk beside you. And you nailed it. And while it can feel hopeless and empty and bitter, we can walk it together. And not feel so alone.

Christmas Shopping for Jax

Last night we took the twins to Toys “R” Us to pick out Christmas presents for Jax. The first Christmas after Jax died, my wife and I dropped the kids off at my parents and shopped at Target by ourselves. It’s hard buying gifts for your 4-year-old son who isn’t there anymore.

My wife gathered up some treats for the fire station that responded the day Jax died, and she somehow persuaded me to drop them off, alone, along with the toys we picked for Jax to give to Toys for Tots, just before Christmas day. It turned in to me sobbing in front of these two men that probably really didn’t understand why I was there, then walking away feeling lame. I walked in the door and told her I’d never do it again.

Last year we took the kids shopping with us. Which was a pain in the butt, because trying to get 2-year-olds to not think about themselves for a minute is tough. And then I became emotional, tearing up in Target, pissed that I don’t know what 5-year-old Jax would want for Christmas. It tore at me. After shopping, we went to Panera Bread, picked up goodies, and my wife and the kids dropped them off at the fire station, along with the gifts, while I sat in the minivan and avoided that cry fest. She returned with her eyes red, looking drained.

“I told you,” I said, trying to defend my choice to stay in the van.

Now, before I go on, remember this:

On the day of Jax’s viewing, five days after he died, my wife got a voice mail on her cell. Now, before Friday, she’d received many texts and voice messages. Everything worked fine. The voice mail she got was from my phone. Sirens screamed. It was chaotic. I pocket dialed her or didn’t hang up when she didn’t answer. It’s eery that the voice message, recorded Sunday, didn’t land on her phone until Friday, the day of his viewing.

She told me she remembers thinking that it had to be Jax sending her a sign. Since that day my wife’s had a strange relationship with fire trucks. She sees them when she needs them most – to remember that Jax is close by. She saw one drive by our church the day of his funeral service. After a hard commute home, she saw one pull out of our tucked-away residential street. On holidays she finds them driving around town without sirens or an emergency to respond to. The engine that responded when Jax died was number 6. She’s also had a handful of run-ins with engines with number 3 (Jax’s number in tee-ball).

Some people have butterflies follow them, which are supposed to be the spirits of their dead loved ones. Kristina gets fire trucks.

At 12:17 p.m. yesterday, she text me that she’d seen two fire trucks that day. She had taken the kids to the dentist and was bringing home lunch. Then she went to counseling while I watched kids. Exactly one hour later she text me that she saw two more fire trucks on the way to her appointment. One of them was coming out of the back street where we took Jax and the twins to swim lessons. She parks there for counseling. I guess Jax knew we were shopping for him, and wanted us to know he was with us.

It went better this year. For the most part, the kids did a good job shopping for Jax. They picked out good gifts, but did get distracted with their own wants. Gray picked out an Avengers longshot bow. He loves bow-and-arrows, Jax loved the Avengers, and I can totally see Jax blasting Gray in the head while Gray laughed, just happy to be played with by his big brother.

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Ellie picked out a Baymax helmet and rocket hand set, from the movie Big Hero 6. I’m positive Jax would’ve loved the movie, as super heroes enthralled him. And again, he could shoot Gray in the head with it, which I’m positive would make Jax’s day every single time.

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My wife picked out a Flo’s V8 Cafe play set. Cars was Jax’s thing. He knew all the characters, their traits, personalities and constantly played with a race track that my aunt and uncle gave him one year. He’d love it. I love it. I can see him recreating his own Radiator Springs in his room with this.

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I selected a remote control Triceratops that roared and slugged along with glowing eyes. Another obsession of his was dinosaurs. Like the Cars characters, he knew all of their names, and was destined to be a paleontologist. That is, if baseball didn’t work out.

After shopping some more for the kids, somehow unbeknown to them (I love how we bought seven gifts and they had no clue), we drove over to Panera, got the goodies, and dropped them off at the fire station with the toys. The kids got stickers and we were set to leave when my wife looked at me. I just stared back. Then she explained why we did this. The tears rolled. I couldn’t look at the fire men watching us with their pity. Just nodded, watched the door to leave, and waited to scoot out at the right time.

But I’m glad she has the strength to do it. To talk to them, tell them why we’re there. Keep our boy’s memory going.

Merry Christmas, Jax. I hope you love your gifts.

It Happened Again

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Shattered Faith

Shattered Faith Part II

Shattered Faith Part III

At the risk of sounding like spirit stalkers, we went to another Theresa Caputo live show. It’s our fourth experience. I didn’t write about the third, because nothing happened. She happened to be back at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, the same venue Jax came to us, so we decided to give it another try. You might think we’re nuts. But really, we just want to hear from him as much as we can. If you haven’t read the our previous experiences, click the blue links above. 

Earlier in the day my wife explained to Gray what we were doing. The twins have watched a few recorded episodes of the Long Island Medium with me before, so he vaguely knows who she is. My wife explained she talks to dead people and asked him if Jax was going to show up that night. Gray paused and looked towards the sky.

“I think he’ll come down,” he said.

He was right.

* * *

Next door to the Saban Theatre is The Hill Bar & Grill, tucked away on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and South Hamilton Drive. It’s a cramped neighborhood bar which I’m sure locals avoid on nights that the theater holds a show. My wife, her mom, my dad, our friend Megan and I grabbed some dinner and I threw back a Maker’s Mark and a couple of Bud Lights before heading over to the venue.

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As we people watched the always interesting Los Angeles population from the lobby of the venue, I felt a sense of calm. We found our seats, which were towards the front left of the theater, on an aisle, but well removed from the front of the stage. I didn’t expect anything to happen tonight. Nothing happened last time, and it was just great luck that Theresa came to us a year ago.

The show began exactly as it had the previous three experiences. While her jokes were the same, she didn’t dawn the disco ball heels this time. I mean, they were still sparkly enough to make Ellie jealous, but at least they were different.

Split the theater in half down the middle. Once Theresa began to let Spirit lead her, she started on the right half of the audience and spent about 45 minutes on that side. That sense of calm still flowed through me, caused by either the booze or something unexplained. At this point I’m just along for a fun night out in L.A. and a show. Theresa’s back faced us.

And then it happened. Again.

“Who here lost a boy that drowned?” she asked.

I looked around the theater as I felt my wife or her mom or Megan, if not all three, raise their hands. No one else in the theater did. It took her a couple of seconds to find us, but she did. My wife stood up and I just sat there like a sack of potatoes. I have no idea why. That calmness still weighed on me.

At this point, I’m just going to reel off what we can remember happening. It may not be in chronological order.

Theresa asked us if he drowned but shouldn’t have. She saw shallow water (this pool’s step extended about 10-15 feet out which he was last seen playing on) and lots of people around (a grandmother played with her grand kid right next to Jax, there were other kids in the pool and lots of adults outside of the pool looking on).

“He tells me knew how to swim,” she said. Jax and the twins were in swim lessons for about a month. It’d make sense that in his 4-year-old mind, he thought he could. But he couldn’t.

She knew I was at the pool that day with him, and asked if I tried to resuscitate him. I explained, no, but I was there when it was happening. She told us he was already gone. To give us peace that know matter which hospital he went to or what could’ve been done, it was already too late. My wife questioned this, and now, doesn’t have to doubt any more. Also, this matches what Theresa told us a year ago, when Jax told her he went in an instant.

She asked if we had a daughter, but then never followed up with that. Later she asked “What’s with the twins?” We told her we had twins. So did Jax show her Ellie or Presley? We lost Presley, my wife’s first pregnancy, at 16 weeks gestation.

As Theresa stood directly in front of us (only one row separated us and the medium), she looked at my wife only and asked if Jax wrote his name, and if she had a tattoo of something he wrote. She pulled up the sleeve of her sweater and revealed her tattoo, which is “Jax” written by him.

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“Do you have a necklace you wear for him?” Theresa asked. My wife pulled out the necklace Children’s Hospital of Orange County gave her after he died. It’s a ceramic heart empty inside. We cremated Jax with the smaller heart that fit inside hers. She’s worn it every day since he died.

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She asked us about the color green. I had no idea how that was relevant. My dad, seated to my right, spoke through a throat of tears. “We got him a dinosaur costume that was green that he loved.” I think this was a way for Jax to speak to my dad.

On Halloween a friend of mine posted charming photos of her son playing in the fields with an orange dinosaur costume. I replied in the comments below.

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On October 20, my mom text me a heads up that Gray was wearing Jax’s dinosaur costume. She didn’t want me to walk in to their house and lose my shit, as we haven’t seen it since Jax wore it.

“He was your side kick, right?” Theresa asked. “He would follow you around?.” If my dad didn’t believe before, this slammed the door shut on any doubt he had. Because calling Jax my dad’s side kick, or little buddy, is an understatement. They have a very special connection. My dad retired around the time Jax started preschool, and as my wife was on modified bed rest pregnant with the twins, my dad helped pick Jax up from school, take him to speech lessons, hang out at Bass Pro Shop, etc.

Remember that calm thing going on with me. It almost made me feel like a heartless robot. I didn’t shed one tear. I’m a crier. A year ago when Theresa spoke to us (I stood up that time) I sobbed. If anything was going to punch me in the gut and make me spill tears, it would’ve been the side kick thing. But it didn’t. Anywho, back to the show.

Theresa asked my dad if he had something in concrete with Jax’s writing. There’s a stone with his name and hand prints with gems set that stands in my parents’ backyard.

She asked us about angel wings. Three of us had different interpretations, I found, talking after the show. But during the show none of us spoke up.

Two nights before I talked to Jax out loud before I went to sleep. I told him about going to the show, how my dad was going to be there and would love to hear from him, how my wife would love to hear from him, and how he needs to mention something specific that only we’d know, so I know it’s true. I told him to talk about the Angels or Torii Hunter or something. Angel wings. Was this how Theresa knew to mention something about angels?

My dad thought it could be his mom, who died years ago. Earlier, Theresa asked us about the mother figure. My wife’s grandmother passed a few years ago, too, so it could be either one, or both. My dad’s mom had an affinity for angel wings. After she died, my cousin got a tattoo of her face on his inner forearm with angel wings.

My wife thought it could be a wooden angel wing decoration she almost bought online. She flagged it so if it goes on sale again she’d get it. Since we have four souls in heaven (Jax, Presley and two other miscarriages), she wanted it.

Or it could be all three. I don’t know how any of this works.

Theresa asked us about a vacation. We shrugged. That’s what people do, right? They go on vacations. Then she said she saw Disneyland. That’s her image for vacations. I explained we just went to the Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland, and he loved Disneyland and Halloween, so that could be it. Megan reminded my wife about the CHOC Walk, which was just two days before that Halloween event. My wife explained the walk and the reason behind it. He knows about it.

She brought up another memorial. She asked about a balloon release, which we did for the one and two-year anniversaries of his death. She asked about a lantern, which we tried to do for his first remembrance, but found out they were illegal, and a huge pain to do when we illegally tried to send a couple off after the park’s lights shut down and most everyone at the remembrance left.

She also asked about a tree or bench in his honor. A co-worker of mine got us a memorial tree, which we had planted in my wife’s grandpa’s back yard. Apparently Jax wanted to touch on all the ways we remember him.

Theresa talked to us for a shorter time than a year ago. And while skeptics may say she remembered us from before, or found info on my blog, or whatever (it’s crossed my mind, too), she brought up some very specific things she’d never know. The biggest being my dad’s side kick, and their strong bond. And just as a side note, at the last show we went to in Long Beach, Theresa acknowledged speaking to a woman she’s “read” to before. It was clear, looking in to her eyes four feet away from us, she had no recollection.

Theresa moved on to speak with others, and I just sat there, calm as all heck, as if nothing happened. I don’t know what my deal was. But I was still calm. And full of peace. And ready to move on knowing Jax is always with us. I didn’t have this feeling a year ago.

We carpooled back to my parents’ house where my mom watched Gray and a fever-fighting Ellie. My wife and I drove separately, and she drove the kids home in the minivan. Gray was awake, so she told him that Jax did come and talk to us. She asked him if Jax ever came and talked to him. He said no, they just played. She asked if that was when he was a baby or now, that he’s bigger. He said when he was a baby.

“Now his soul just watches over me.”

What 3-year-old talks like that??? We may have our own medium in the family.