CHOC Walk 2014: Iron Jax Details

Registration for the 2014 CHOC Walk in the Park is and team Iron Jax has been created. This year’s Walk will be Sunday, October 12 at 6:30 a.m. It will kick off at Disneyland’s Main Street U.S.A.

For those that don’t know, Jax passed away at CHOC’s pediatric intensive care unit. The entire staff was so compassionate to us and treated us with so much respect that this is our little way to give back to the hospital and the community in memory of our little hero.

Iron Jax group shot at California Adventure.

Iron Jax group shot at California Adventure.

What is the CHOC Walk?

The Children’s Hospital of Orange County annually raises funds to support the care, services, research and education that CHOC provides children. Last year more than 15,000 participants raise $2.1 million from the event, which was presented by Disneyland Resort.

Gray and I.

Gray and I.

The Walk is a 5k stroll through Disneyland, California Adventure and Downtown Disney. You do not receive entrance into the parks after the Walk, however, walkers have the chance to buy discounted tickets on the day of the event:

1-Day Park Hopper® ticket for $78 or a 1-Day 1-Park Ticket for $50 for use on this or your next trip to Disneyland® Park and Disney California Adventure® Park!  A maximum of 5 tickets may be purchased per wristband. Offer valid on 10/12/2014 and tickets expire 11/7/2014.

How to Register

Go here and click on “Join an Existing Team” on the right-hand menu. Scroll down and enter “Iron Jax” as the team name. It takes you a page to verify this is the Iron Jax that you are looking for (Kristina is listed as the captain) and then click on Iron Jax. At the right of the team page you’ll see the active roster and a “Join Team” button. Click it.

You can sign up as an individual walker (no fee required but you’ll need to raise $50 minimum) or as a sleeping bear, which allows you to raise funds in your name, for Iron Jax, and take part in prizes. But you aren’t able to walk.

Sponsor a Walker 

If you’d like to simply make a donation as a non-team member, click here. Full disclosure, that takes you to my personal page. Click the “Donate Now” button to proceed. If you want to donate to a specific person on Iron Jax, go to the Iron Jax main page, click on the Walker you want to donate in the name of and go from there. Please keep in mind to walk, a Walker needs to have raised a minimum of $50. Children ages 3 and up are required to be Walkers. Two and under are free.

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Iron Jax T-Shirts

We will order t-shirts again depending on the demand. So if you want one, let us know. Otherwise we’ll assume most everyone has one by now and won’t place an order.

Must Read

CHOC created two pages worth reading before the event. Please refer to these pages for any questions that you may have:

Event Information

Frequently Asked Questions

Prizes

As an incentive, CHOC has laid out a prize structure which is found here.

Thank you in advance for those that choose to take part in this event as a walker, fund raiser or donor. It means so much to our family to give back to the community in Jax’s memory.

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Two Years Later

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It’s been just over a million minutes since I last saw Jax smile. Two years today. He still hasn’t walked out of his room, like I keep hoping. Maybe someday I’ll stop.

We only visited two grieving parents support meetings. They said the second year is harder. So did a lot of things I read online. Having finished the second year, I can definitely see that. It’s been a lonely year. Two miscarriages. More loss. More pain. And more dreams crushed like the spider in my bathroom. It’s easy for me to hate. To withdraw. To say fuck it about everything. It’s harder to climb out of that sand trap.

Jax should be wrapping up All-Stars in baseball. Starting first grade in August. Bossing around the twins, who ache for a big brother, to be the villains to his Iron Man. This is all fucked.

Thank you to everyone that is coming out tonight to remember Jax at Angel Stadium. It mean so much to us that we continue to receive your support. When I bought the tickets I told the group sales guy I expected around 50 people. Instead, we’ll have about 160. And thank you to others that can’t make it tonight but continue to think of us, pray for us, cry with us. Just because it’s two years later doesn’t mean it gets easier. Or that we can ever start to move on. Some days the pain is just as deep as it was two years ago. We need your love, your support, your prayers.

And thank you for helping us to keep Jax alive in all of our hearts. Whether it’s the Iron Jax shirt you wear on a random Tuesday, $20 you donated at the CHOC Walk for team Iron Jax or just mentioning his name to us in a funny story or cute memory you have of him, it’s all very meaningful to us.

I’ll leave you with a link and a video. But first…

We will always remember you, Jax. 

Always.

Last year’s Remembrance.

Video montage of Jax, thanks to Uncle Tommy.

Jax Remembrance Update

With Jax’s Remembrance two weeks away, I figured I should get some details up. First, let’s start with meeting areas.

As the image below indicates, we’ll meet in the parking lot around 5-5:30ish. Come hang out, bring some dinner or drinks and whatever else you’d like. The key is, bring your own stuff. I picked this spot as it’s far enough away from most everyone else. And, if you want a legendary Dragon Dog, it’s just across the street (Orangewood).

Our seats are in left field, so keep this in mind when you decide where you want to park if you’re not going to meet us early.

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At 6:30 we’ll start to meet in between the two large Angel helmets. Jax’s brick is over there. Hopefully at that time we’ll be able to walk in together. The goal is to walk in at about 6:45. So if you’re NOT going to be there by then, let us know. More importantly, please arrange to get your ticket before the game if you can’t meet us before it starts. 

Our family is wearing our Iron Jax t-shirts. If you have one, maybe you want to wear it, too. If you don’t, wear what you’d like.

If you haven’t paid, here are your options:

  • Mail us a check. Email, Facebook message, text or call one of us if you need our address. I don’t want to post it on here. There are some freaky deaks that end up on this site from Google searches.
  • Paypal. This is the easiest method for everyone involved, once you’re signed up. My account is austin5377 at aol dot com (spelling it out to avoid getting even more spam than I currently get….type it in normal in Paypal).
  • In Person. If you’re going to see us, or want to see us, hit us up and let’s schedule something. We’ll bring the ticket, you bring the cash.
  • At the game. If we can’t work anything out, just bring the money on the day of the game. Check is preferred.

To arrange anything with us, Facebook, text or email one of us. We’re pretty flexible. This includes getting the tickets before hand.

Our seats are in sections 301, 302 and 303. We couldn’t get them all together, so Kristina created a seating chart. There are 165 of us, so in order to maximize the experience for everyone, we wanted to make sure people sat next to others they knew. I’m sure we’ll all be mingling about anyway, but at least it’s somewhat structured to start.

We don’t get handed the goofy 1960s Angel hat as we walk through the gates. Instead, we get a voucher to go redeem at the Stadium during the game. So you’ll get a ticket and a voucher, which looks like a ticket.

For those keeping score, the scoreboard message for Jax will run in the middle of the fourth inning.

If you have any ideas, suggestions, thoughts, please comment below. Questions, too, as I’m sure another person might have your same question.

Thank you so much for this fantastic showing of support. It means more than you’ll ever know.

Jax Remembrance 2014 Details

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAThis year’s Remembrance for Jax will be at an Angel game on Tuesday, June 24. The Angels host the Minnesota Twins, tickets are $14 and you get a nifty vintage baseball hat thrown in.

angelshatpromo

If you’d like to join us in remembering our boy, his love for baseball and the Angels, and being together as a community to cry and laugh and hug, let us know. We will buy group tickets so we can all sit together.

Some other ideas we’re kicking around:

– If you have an Iron Jax t-shirt, wear it.

– Tailgate before the game. If you have the time, join us for some pregame community. If we have enough people, maybe we can carve out a portion of the Angel Stadium parking lot to play catch, let some of the little kids take some swings and munch on snacks or a meal, whatever you wish.

– We can meet in front of Angel Stadium at Jax’s brick. It’s hard to find alone, but together, we can accomplish anything. Maybe we’ll even find that missing Malaysian airliner. AS A GROUP WE’RE INVINCIBLE.

– Scoreboard message. We’ll get a message up on the scoreboard so we can cheer, snap pics and celebrate Jax.

– Any other ideas? We’re open to ideas. Pitch ‘em to us.

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If you want a ticket, please let me know immediately. We should buy tickets within the next 10-14 days. But please don’t wait that long to tell us. If you’re on the fence, let us know that too. You can comment below, reply on Facebook, email me, text me, email or text Kristina, give us a call like in the old-fashioned days, stripper gram (females only, please)….carrier pigeon. Just let us know. Once we get an idea of how many tickets to buy, we’ll finalize the details of where to meet, how to pay for the ticket, etc. Right now we just need a head count.

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We hope you can all join us in remembering, honoring and celebrating our little hero.

What: Jax Remembrance

When: Tuesday, June 24 meeting between 5 – 6:30 p.m.

Where: Angel Stadium, either in the parking lot to tailgate or in front of Angel Stadium, between the hats.

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Little League Remembers Jax

My wife and I have two purposes in our “new life” (I fucking hate that term, by the way). The first is to make sure Gray and Ellie grow up loved, protected and know how to execute the wheel play flawlessly. The second is to make sure as many people as possible know Jax.

It’s why we walk every October with his cartoon super hero across our chests to raise money for Children’s Hospital of Orange County. It’s why we give to the scholarship fund his preschool started in his name. It’s why we held a remembrance last June. And it’s why my wife and I jump at every opportunity to talk about Jax to Gray and Ellie. Everyone needs to know him.

On May 6 of last year I emailed the president of the Corona American Little League with an idea to help further our efforts. And to give back to something that meant so much to him and our family. Baseball.

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“Jaxson played as a 4-year-old on the tee ball Brewers last year,” I wrote. “Shortly after the season ended, he died from a drowning accident.” Then I shilled this blog. I’d rather just link to the About section than type much more than that. It’s easier for my psyche.

Anyway, I’m writing because my wife and I want to give back to the league. He loved baseball, loved his team and baseball is a passion of mine. I’ve been meaning to write this email since December, but kept putting it off because I knew I’d cry (which I’m doing now). 

I finished with my idea that our family sponsor the Brewers tee ball team permanently. Chris, the president, replied compassionately that same day and said he’d review it with the league’s Board of Directors. You see, each season the league determines which teams they’ll purchase jerseys for in the league. The Angels and Dodgers are always popular. The Brewers? Not so much. Two weeks later he wrote that the Board approved of my suggestion.

In December the league’s new president, Jeff, said they wanted to design a patch to sew on to the Brewers jersey to honor Jax. My wife and I decided on his number three and “Jax”. A week after Jax’s sixth birthday, Jeff invited our family to walk with the Brewers during the league’s Opening Day parade.

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“F that,” I initially thought. That’s not comfortable. But I knew it was the right thing to do. I talked to my wife, who felt the same, and we accepted Jeff’s invitation. Then I blocked it out of my head. When I over-think things I become anxious. I didn’t need my hypertension getting any more hyper.

A weekend of rain pushed Opening Day back a week, which was initially scheduled for the same day as Gray and Ellie’s third birthday. We were late out the door because Gray decided he wanted to leave the house as dressed as the Lone Ranger. He couldn’t figure out why we wouldn’t let him out the door with his white cowboy hat and shit-kicking boots, which my parents got him earlier that week for his birthday. He screamed, cried and yelled. He has the kind of complexion that when he cries hard, he ends up with red blotches covering his face. Which wouldn’t go well with photos.

Reasoning wasn’t working. Somehow, after gentle touch and a bribe of watching the Lone Ranger when we got home (with the condition that he was good), he cooperated. We hustled over to the packed park and found the tee ball Brewers lined up. No more than ten seconds later Jeff came by and found us. He presented Gray and Ellie with Brewers hats and jerseys. He saved the number three for us. My eyes started to mist. Ellie chose three and Gray grabbed the number one.

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I stood at the back of the Brewers lines with the kids and tried to explain the significance of the patch on the jersey while using my tattoo as illustration. My wife introduced herself to the coach. It turns out that he is the lead pastor of the Baptist church that supports the preschool Jax went to. He knew our story before he signed up to coach the Brewers. He went out of his way to make us feel a part of the team. He encouraged the twins to shag balls and run the bases at their practices, invited us to take pictures with the team at photo day and shared the team’s game schedule.

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My heart warmed. What I thought was going to be a very difficult, sad day turned in to a day of love for Jax and for our family. I breathed the anxiety away and allowed myself to soak in the rest.

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The parade began and we walked from the left field foul line towards home plate as Jeff quickly introduced the team to the crowd of parents, grandparents and siblings looking on. The Brewers banner read “In Memory of Jaxson Keichline” at the bottom. Jeff mentioned our family to the crowd who clapped. I kept clutching Gray’s hand, looking down. I didn’t want to see them. And I didn’t want them to see my tears.

We sat on the infield grass and watched the rest of the league parade passed us. I recognized one former teammate of Jax. He’s the same age. It was hard for me to watch. Jax should’ve been there.

Gray wished he brought his glove. He didn’t understand why he couldn’t play baseball when we were done. It stoked Ellie to see so many girls on teams. As sexist as she is, it was important for her to see baseball isn’t just for boys.

Next spring Gray and Ellie will join the league. Jeff already said they’ll be on the Brewers. No doubt our number three will be with them. With that sweet lefty swing, laser-sharp focus and gorgeous smile.

Taillights Fade in to Darkness

taillights fade

Four years ago I surfed my way on to a eulogy of sorts for Los Angeles Times sportswriter Mike Penner. I grew up reading the Times while I chomped on my cereal before school every morning. I remember Penner, Mike Downey, the best-ever Jim Murray and his page two replacement Alan Malamud.In a 2007 Times column, Penner announced to the world that he was a transsexual.  He returned from a vacation as Christine Daniels until March of 2008. In October of that year, he returned to using Mike Penner as his byline. He never explained the change. Penner killed himself November 27, 2009 after he ran a hose from his car’s exhaust pipe into the car while it ran in the underground garage of his apartment building.

Penner’s friend, Kevin Bronson of buzzbands.la, wrote beautifully about his friend and former colleague two days after Penner’s death.

Bronson’s ending haunted me.

Penner would smile knowingly whenever I effused over the years about the staying power of that Buffalo Tom selection from 1992. “Taillights Fade,” the Boston trio’s epic anthem of anguish and isolation, embodied that vague sense we had of the inevitability of sadness — but with a cathartic roar that made us hungry to embrace the next moment. When they lower me into the ground, I remember telling Mike Penner with a wink at my own mortality, this is the song I want them to play.

The liner notes to “KPEN 1992″ captured the song in six words: “A suicide note set to guitar.”

I opened another tab in my web browser, fired up You Tube (I’ve embedded the song at the bottom of the post), and listened to Taillights Fade as I re-read the column. And I wept. A lot. The song tore at my guts. I was a mess.

A few days ago Taillights Fade popped up on my Pandora custom station. As I went to thumbs-up the song as a favorite, my eyes set on the lyrics. This is me, I thought.

Sister, can you hear me now
The ringing in your ears
I’m down on the ground
My luck’s been dry for years

I’m lost in the dark
And I feel like a dinosaur
Broken face and broken hands
I’m a broken man

I’ve hit the wall, I’m about to fall
But I’m closing in on it
I feel so weak on a losing streak
Watch my taillights fade to black

I read a thing about this girl
She was a hermit in her world
Her story was much like mine
She could be my valentine

And although we’ve never met
I won’t forget her yet
She cut herself off from her past
Now she’s alone at last

I feel so sick, lost love’s last licks
But I’m closing down on it
I feel so weak on a losing streak
Watch my taillights fade to black

Lost my life in cheap wine
Now it’s quiet time
Cappy dick nor Jesus Christ
Could not help my fate

But I’m underneath a gun
I’m singing about my past
Had myself a wonderful thing
But I could not make it last

I’ve hit the wall, I’m about to fall
But I’m closing in on it
I feel so small, underneath it all
Watch my taillights fade to black

Watch my taillights fade
Watch my taillights fade
Watch my taillights fade

In grief recovery people say you don’t move on from losing your loved one, you move forward. After Christmas I stopped moving forward, and slid backwards. I fell to the ground, too tired to get up. My luck’s gone dry and I’m on a losing streak. I’m a broken man. F it all, I thought. F. It. All.

My luck’s gone dry. I’m a broken man. Lost in the dark. Down on the ground. I feel so weak, on a losing streak.

And I feel alone. This has changed everything. The way I relate to people. The way people relate to me. Broken relationships. Apathy. The fake smiles. I feel myself pulling away. Anguished and isolated.

I wanted to write a post and update you all, since I went about three months silent. This song does that for me. These feelings, these thoughts. It’s why I haven’t updated this site until Jax’s birthday. I’ve been too tired, too overwhelmed and would rather just pull away. I’m not going to sugar-coat anything, it’s been pretty dark. I’ve felt extreme hopelessness. The anger has returned. And I don’t want to feel better. I just want to stew in my shit.

Had myself a wonderful thing. But I could not make it last. 

I’m sorry, Jax. I’m so sorry.

Shattered Faith, Part III – The Final Chapter

To catch up on this series, check out:

Part I

Part II

Sunday night my wife, her mom and our friend Megan went to another show of Theresa Caputo’s, the Long Island Medium. We hauled out to the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills (oohhhh la la) with seats on the floor this time. Jax came to Theresa again, and this time she saw us stand up and flail our arms for attention. This is our story.

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Life’s been busy. I haven’t written anything on this site since November 1. Mostly because I don’t have the energy. Two-and-a-half hours in a car, a new job that requires full brain power and juggling the crazy schedule of a NICU night nurse have worn me down. So I completely forgot that my wife bought tickets for us to see Theresa Caputo again. A friend also going to the show kept reminding me.

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As last Monday rolled around, I began to feel anxious. With seats on the floor this time, my expectations and hopes of Jax coming through and Theresa reaching us were sky-high. As the days led up to Sunday, I started talking to Jax. I told him the date, time and place. Described Theresa’s big hair and loving personality. Reminded him this was the same person he connected with last time. But that she couldn’t see us or reach us. I told him that his mom and I wanted to hear from him so badly. I told him he’d have to be strong. He’d have to speak up and be loud so Theresa could hear him.

I also prayed. I asked God, again, if Theresa’s gifts are from Him, that she could see/hear/feel Jax. That whatever Jax is doing for God on the other side, that He’d let Jax use his energy to reach Theresa.

As the weekend approached Sunday was all I could think about. My wife worked. We took the kids to see Santa Saturday night. But it felt like it was all just time filler until Sunday night.

On Sunday morning I got the kids’ breakfast ready and tried to wake up my wife to go to church. I failed. As they chomped on donuts and bananas, I felt anxious. Not a pleasant anxious, but a fearful anxious. What if we just got really lucky last time? What if it wasn’t Jax last time? What if nothing happens? I tried to spin it in my head that it was a night out to see a show. I made sure we had some good pre-show dinner options. And that all of our options had booze. My mind game didn’t work. I just kept hoping, hoping and hoping.

I took the kids to my parents to spend the night and talked to my mom a bit. She was anxious for us. I could see how deeply she just wanted something good to happen for us. I went home with thoughts of football and my dorky fake baseball draft preparation to look forward to. It helped distract me.

Megan met at our house, we got in the car and I forgot to print the tickets. Back on the road for a second time, we met my mother-in-law on the way there, picked her up and headed to Beverly Hills to eat.

We ended up at Rocco’s Italian Kitchen about a mile away from the theater on Wilshire. It scored four stars on Yelp and reviews praised their pizza. The service, though, was horrible.

About halfway through dinner two fire trucks pulled in front of the restaurant. The ladder truck was number 61 and the other was number 261. My wife either looked at me or said something, I don’t exactly remember. But there it was. More fire trucks.

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.

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So there we were. A fire truck parked outside Rocco’s window. Right in front of our Camry. With the number six in it. Coincidence or an omen?

While we were eating, Theresa finished the 3 p.m. show. We found out later that Jax talked to her well before our show at 7 p.m. She picked up a boy who drowned. And he told her that his parents would be at the show and that she needed to talk to us. I was likely licking my hot sauce-soaked fingers from the buffalo wings I clutched around that same time. Go me.

We packed our to-go boxes in the Camry and hustled on over to find parking, which isn’t very convenient in the area. With about 20 minutes until show time, Megan and I hit up the tiny bar and grill next to the theater for some shots while my wife and her mom found bathrooms in the theater. The two Miller Lites at Rocco’s didn’t calm me enough. But that large kamikaze shot sure helped.

After waiting for a mom and daughter to get out of the single-toilet men’s restroom, I peed and we found our seats. My wife had butterflies in her stomach. I was calm. The booze washed it away. Or, more likely, God brought me peace.  He knew what was going to happen.

Saban Theatre

Saban Theatre

Theresa came out on stage. The show was beginning. I’m not positive, since I don’t remember this kind of thing, but she might have worn the same outfit in June when we saw her in Cerritos. I know she was wearing those same disco-ball like high heels. Those are unforgettable. She gave the same spiel and then finally started to talk to Spirit.

“Who has a finger print and ashes with them?” Theresa asked the crowd to start. “This is from a boy.”

My wife, her mom and me instantly stood in unison and waved our arms. But Theresa got stuck with someone closer to her. No one else, at least that I saw, raised their hands. This other person only had a finger print – no ashes. And it was for a girl, not a boy.

My mother-in-law was wearing a necklace with Jax’s finger print, just like the first show. My wife couldn’t connect the ashes, and I quickly said “tattoos” and pointed at my forearm. Both of us had very small portion of his ashes in the ink we were tatted with. Then she really started waiving her arms.

Theresa moved towards us. HOLY SHIT JAX YOU’RE A STUD! YOU DID IT AGAIN! YOU’RE SUCH A FREAKING STUD! That’s all I thought. How in the hell did he pull this off twice? If you don’t recall, he was first at the Cerritos show, but we were too far away for Theresa to see or reach us. We stayed standing and they passed us mics. Two camera men set up on each side of Theresa as she faced us from the aisle.

“You lost your son am I correct?” she asked. “And you lost him suddenly and/or tragically?” We nodded.

Now, I’m not going to get into the play-by-play of what was said. Simply because I don’t want to misquote or anything. The four of us spent the drive home talking about the experience and I tried to take notes. But I will paraphrase what Theresa told us.

Understand that we’re standing this whole time at our seats holding the mics, Theresa’s in the aisle and the entire theater is watching us on the big screen. She told us twice that this is the first time she’s ever started a show in the back of the room.

She began by telling us that he took responsibility for the way he died. That confused me. She said she felt like this was a preventable accident. Like it shouldn’t have happened. And it’s mysterious how it happened. Which it was. An adult right next to him, adults all around the pool. Very preventable. The guilt weighs on me daily. It’s the cross I carry. How could he take responsibility???

Theresa said it happened in an instance. She saw a snap of a finger. He didn’t suffer. 

She said there was a father figure with him. We couldn’t think of anyone. After she moved on from that, my Uncle Tom popped in my head. He’s the only male figure in my life that has passed. He also passed tragically and unexpectedly. Could it be him? She then asked about a motherly figure. Kristina’s grandma died when Jax was 2. That was her. He’s with loved ones.

“He told me he’s making himself bigger,” Theresa said with a smile, as if Jax was so proud to tell her.

She described Jax as so full of energy. Radiant. He’d run up to her and jump in her arms. Those of you that knew Jax could see this. So happy, so much energy. So passionate.

Theresa got on a roll. Is his room untouched? Did we release balloons in his memory? Yep and Yep. Then she asked how we related to the number seven. We told her we didn’t.

“Something about a daughter and the number seven,” Theresa said. Holy crap that’s Presley, our first baby. She passed in July at 16 weeks gestation. She told us he brings this up to let us know that she’s with him.

Theresa asked if I carried Jax after his death. I did. I carried him from the hospital bed to the couch my wife sat on to hold him. And then back again to the bed. She asked if we spent time talking with him before the funeral. And we did. She said nothing was left unsaid. He got all of it.

“Was he buried in casual clothes?” Kind of. “Because he showed me dressed in a suit, then he spun around and was wearing casual clothes.” And she knew that we kept the outfit from his funeral. He was, however, cremated wearing an Iron Man costume.

Jax told Theresa his mom was pretty. Random, eh? In the middle of everything he said that.

Theresa asked if we had a dog. Which, if you know my wife, is laughable. No, we answered. She asked because she sees something being attracted to his room. Something that senses his spirit.

“Those are our other kids,” I answered. Gray is fascinated by his big brother and his room. Sometimes Ellie will join him in knocking on the door, looking underneath the door and asking to go in to his room. Fortunately they don’t open the door themselves. They respect it. But those are our “dogs.” They want inside.

She looked at me. My long-sleeved shirt covered both arms to my wrists ever since we parked the car. For a reason.

“Do you have his face or a picture of him tattooed on you?” I rolled up my right sleeve to show her. I told her I purposely made sure to keep my sleeves down. A little later she asked my wife if she had anything with her that Jax had written. She showed Theresa her small tattoo on her left wrist. It’s a copy of J-A-X in his own writing.

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Theresa told me she sees Jax standing behind me, saluting. That’s her symbol that he’s proud. He’s proud that I was his dad. I lost it. Strangers were handing us tissues.

She asked if we took a family portrait before he died. We couldn’t think of anything. Then Megan reminded us of a giant photo in our front room of us at the Angel game. It was taken four days before he died. It was the last family photo taken of the five of us. Gray looks at that photo when he’s missing his mom, or me. And he likes to look at Jax.

She also asked if we’ve taken a family picture lately. Which we did, last Monday. She said he was with us.

Theresa asked if we’re grieving differently. We are. I was at the pool party, she wasn’t. I had control of the situation, she didn’t. Then Theresa asked if one of us felt guilty for not being there. My wife shared she did. She struggles with it a lot.

“But you weren’t supposed to be there,” Theresa told her. She described to us an episode of her show. A mom spent every day with her son. The one day she didn’t, the son drowned and died. When Theresa communicated with the departed son, he said she wasn’t there because she wouldn’t be able to handle it.

Theresa put her finger to her mouth, put her head down and thought for a few seconds. She asked if we’re worried that he’ll be forgotten. My wife and I have discussed this. We both have this fear, but my wife really struggles with this. We want to keep his memory alive. It’s why we do the CHOC Walk. It’s why we’re going to sponsor the Brewers tee-ball Little League team in Corona. And it’s why there’s a plaque hanging in his preschool with a scholarship in his name.

She went on to tell us that our situation was similar. It’s my soul’s burden to live with the fact that I was the one at the pool party that day with Jax. Because I wouldn’t want my wife to have to live with that. And that’s true. But damnit that’s a heavy thing to carry around.

I know this has been jumbled and probably doesn’t read well. I’m just listing shit. I don’t know how else to let you know all that was said. As she moved on from us we sat down. My brain was fried. It was hard to pay attention for the next 115 minutes.

The show ended and the theater emptied out. We stayed near our seats and talked. My wife’s mom and Megan went upstairs to the bathroom and my wife and I stood around the theater lobby. We talked a little. Hugged. Then I started to feel stares and looks. A few people came up to us. One asked to see my wife’s tattoo. Others offered condolences and joy that Theresa found us.

Over 24 hours later I don’t feel closure that I thought I would. I mean, what happened is f’ing awesome. And I’m so grateful and it puts me in awe of Jax. Maybe I’m still wrapping my brain around it. Maybe what I thought would fill the giant hole in my heart only numbs the pain, like everything else I’ve tried.

Or maybe it’s a level of peace built to last. I don’t really ever talk to him. That’s going to change. I know he’s safe. I know he wasn’t scared. I know he’s with us. Maybe that’s the foundation that will build the new me. The me that won’t let grief keep me from becoming the person God intends me to be. The me that can enjoy Gray and Ellie for who they are; they aren’t Jax.

The me that doesn’t sit around waiting to die and see Jax again.