Life can change in an instant

I wrote those words eight years ago soon after my infant son, Noah, and our whole family received care at the end of Noah’s life at George Mark Children’s House. One day I was the parent of two healthy thriving children, four year old Sofia and her almost four month old brother, Noah. The next I was a heartbroken mother whose sweet baby boy suddenly had less than two months to live.
When our family first heard of George Mark Children’s House (GMCH), we had just been informed 48 hours earlier that our beautiful, healthy son had suffered irreparable brain damage, due to rapid onset acute liver failure attributed to a rare childhood disease.

Because of the generous support of George Mark Children’s House, my family was able to move through these painfully abrupt and life-altering months in a compassionate and supportive environment, allowing us time to grieve while also building a legacy of memories. When we arrived at GMCH, we didn’t know how much time we had left with Noah, but we were assured by the staff at George Mark, that there were no time limits. We were part of the George Mark family now; they would be there to take this journey with us as long as we needed, even after Noah was no longer with us.

Now, eight years later, twelve year old Sofia, and my four year old twins, Emily and Lila, and I continue to draw love and support from George Mark. Grief isn’t so much felt in stages that one moves through; instead, it is a continual process that ebbs and flows. I will always miss my son, and I have had to find a way to move forward as a mom, caring for Sofia, and my twins, while keeping Noah present. I feel Noah’s presence when I’m at George Mark, and for this reason I love to come back with my girls to visit. At George Mark, it’s okay to laugh, ride in a wagon, chase butterflies, and to cry.

I have only to look at my daughter Sofia to see the influence that George Mark continues to have on our family. She is such an empathic, resilient child who benefited from her two month stay at George Mark during which the four of us had time to snuggle in a big warm bed and have picnics together. We had time to explain the situation to young Sofia, rock Noah all day long in our loving arms, and create sweet memories of life with our beloved son.

 

After we left George Mark, Korie, then the Child Life Specialist, came to Sofia’s kindergarten class and provided an age-appropriate presentation for all the children and teachers about the death of baby Noah, easing Sofia’s return to school. Sofia’s connection to the families and staff she met while staying at the House, and later at family events where she has met other children who have lost a sibling, have helped her realize she wasn’t alone, and wasn’t abnormal.
Sofia and I attend the annual Remembrance Day event at George Mark, and I was gratified to be able to interpret for Spanish speaking families, with Sofia by my side. It’s deeply satisfying to me to give back to George Mark in any way possible by speaking publicly, and by participating in the Parent Resource Group which supports grieving parents and those caring for children with life-limiting illnesses.

My twins, Emily and Lila, are now the age Sofia was when Noah died. When I explain to them that Noah lives in Heaven, they ask the kinds of questions that Sofia asked when we stayed at George Mark: “Can Noah slide down a rainbow to see us?” “How can Noah take his little blue bunny up to heaven when he’s so little and can’t carry it?” Their curiosity and concern for their brother is both heartwarming and heartbreaking.

Through my grief, and the ebbs and flows of life, I see that it’s all part of our story. Some hard things happen to families. There are places that hold us up, and George Mark Children’s House is one of those places.

George Mark Children’s House’s support has made a profound difference in our lives – Because of GMCH, I am the proud and loving mom of four children – Sofia, Noah, Lila, and Emily.
Jennifer McKay-Weber

 

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