Child Loss · Grief · grief support · Mattie · mourning · Uncategorized

Let the Words Fall Out


The words are really going fall out in this post.  

Trigger warning: please do not read if hearing about  the night Mattie died will trigger you or be too much to process. 


I don’t want to forget. I need to get this down on paper, where words live.

I don’t want to forget that day. I want to remember every moment, but from the moment of his death, there are somethings I can’t remember.

I can hardly remember what I did that day before the moment. I sort of know cognitively the things I did, but they are gone from the movie in my mind.

I don’t remember where I was standing when our nurse called for us to come. I just remember being there- in an instant.

I remember seeing him and knowing what needed to be done.

I walked quickly into the room and saw him, he was blue. I said, “John, call 911.”

I told the nurse (who had already done a trach change to eliminate that as a problem and who had cranked up his O2) to hand me the ambu-bag, and I started bagging him. I speed dialed his doctor and put the phone on the floor on speaker.

Dr. G spoke calmly as I gave her an assessment of him- his sats, physical appearance. She ordered a series of breathing treatments which I was administering as the paramedics arrived.

The paramedics assessed him and took over his care. In minutes, we were loading him into the ambulance.

My heart raced as a paramedic picked up my limp son and carried him out. I followed, grabbing his red bag on the way out the door- the bag I had grabbed 100’s of other times that held his to-go supplies.

I got in the ambulance, realized I had no shoes, and yelled out to John to grab my shoes and my purse so I would have my ID at the hospital.

They were situating Mattie in the ambulance and stabilizing him.

I posted quickly to Facebook (a post that was terrifying to many of you, a post that was followed by my silence for over 12 hours), and I sent one desperate group text to family.

I yelled quickly at John to call Nick and Amy and tell them to come be at the house with the other kids to support Taylor and Isabelle. He jumped in the truck to follow the ambulance, as he dialed the phone.

We drove off. The driver asked if he needed his siren (whatever that status is), he was told no, we were stable. I held Mattie’s face. I whispered to him as I always did, that he was strong and brave and kind and good. I told him I was so proud of him. I told him to breathe, and then reminded myself to do the same.

I remember the feeling of helplessness. I remember the feel of his hair in my fingers, the blue of his skin, the stillness of his body.

They drove about 4 minutes down the road and before we hit the highway, everything changed.

Mattie coded. The sirens went on.

The paramedic handed me the ambu bag, and I continued breathing for my son. He started chest compressions, crushing my son’s tiny chest over and over again. The other paramedic was ordered to give epinephrine. He drilled into my son’s tiny leg. It blew in his leg, never making it into the bone.  Again he tried, in the other leg.

I cried out JESUS JESUS JESUS, over and over again.

I told Mattie to breathe.

We pulled into the ER dock, and they rushed him in. Everything in me was shaking. I couldn’t feel my legs. I grabbed my things and followed them.

I ran.

The shoes John handed me were Isabelle’s flip flops. They were too big and were tripping me up. I kicked them off as I raced through the electric doors. I ran bare foot down the hallway where they pulled up a chair for me outside his door.

I was watching my worst nightmare unfold.

Seconds after I sat down, John raced in and my face surely told a terrifying tale.

I don’t remember what I said.

Possibly something like, “This is not good.”

They worked on our son, shouting out orders that I understood. Each new order more terrifying than the next.

The paramedic walked out to leave. His face was sunken. He said, “I’m sorry.”

I wanted to say, “I’m sorry for WHAT! He’s not dead. He can’t be dead. Don’t tell me your sorry,” but I was silent.

I remember John and I saying, “This cannot be happening. This is a nightmare.”

And then it happened, the doctor came and said, “One of you can come stand by the head of his bed.”

“WHAT THE HELL? What the hell are you talking about?” I screamed inside my own head!

I sent John in. I had already put my hands on his sweet head and John needed his turn.

Moments later, they made room for me.

Then they stopped. Everything stopped.

“Time of death, 9:30PM.”

Everything inside of me revolted at the sound of those horrible, horrible words.

The machines became silent, and I watched as my son’s lungs voluntarily released the last bit of oxygen that had been pushed into them.

I cried out, “Oh, my son, Oh my son. My son. My son! No!”

John wrapped his arms around us both.

We wept.

John told me, “You’re not going to lose me.”

Significant words, a promise that he has kept.

And there was silence. Nurses who loved him came down from the PICU. They lifted our sweet boy into our arms and we rocked him for the last time.  I held him, then John.


We made phone calls. The chaplain made phone calls for us.

We arranged for our children to come, so we could tell them something that would change their lives. So they could say good-bye to the boy who changed us all.

I’ll save that for another day.


As I write this I stop every few moments to sob. This is the story I that has tormented me for a year. The story that has woken me in the night, drenched in sweat and tears. The story that has greeted me many mornings. The story that I have to will myself to stop replaying. This is the story that I must tell so that I don’t have to keep playing it over in my mind. So that the written words will somehow take the place of the movie in my head.  

If you listened, I’m sorry. If you listened, I thank you. 

I needed to tell the story. My story matters.

This is my truth. And it must be told. 



13 thoughts on “Let the Words Fall Out

  1. Hugs Tracie and prayers that you will be tenderly yet thoroughly aware of Holy Spirit’s comfort all around you and your family

  2. I am honored to be able to listen to your words. To your story. To Mattie’s story and Johns. Your truth is a painful one. One that we all wish we could somehow make less difficult, less painful, less traumatic, less sad, ….we wish we could bring Mattie back for you. I love you friend.

  3. My heart aches for you and your family. I never got to meet Mattie but I felt like I knew him. I cried when he died and a few times since then. He made an impact in my life and the lives of many. This writing will be healing for you. Keep writing.

  4. I have never lost a child. I thank God for that and I can only feel empathy. But I do know that I feel a great deal of sadness and emptiness when I read your words. I feel the heartache that I can only imagine is millions of times worse for you. You are loved. More than you wil ever know

  5. Oh Tracie, so glad you let the words fall out. Our children’s stories need to be shared. I too had that movie in my head of the day my baby Samuel died. It took me a while to write out his whole story including my thoughts and feelings. I also made a scrapbook of everything I had of his around his first heavenly birthday, I cried rivers of tears doing it but yet it brought healing. Maybe you could make one for Mattie ( if you haven’t already).

  6. I won’t be able to write anything fancy, just know that my heart aches and weeps for you. I’m sorry for your loss doesn’t even match up to what I am. Nobody who hasn’t been through something similar to this will ever know what you feel.
    If you ever need an open ear/a shoulder to lean on, I’ll be here for you. I have so much love for you and your family.

  7. I am remembering Mattie today. I am praying for you as you cling to the One who loves you with a profound, all-encompassing love. I am praying that you feel Him hold you today. May you find joyful reminders to celebrate Mattie’s life as you are showered with God’s incredible grace.

  8. Please share EVERYTHING you need to share. You have listening ears and open hearts to support all that is raw. The closest I have come is my young son going through cancer treatment for almost the last 3 years. I weep with you.

  9. It is your truth and it is part of you just as surely as the love is part of you. I think the depth of grief must match the depth of love, they are like bookends.

    One day, these images will become a bit less vivid, and the memories of love and fun and family times, snuggle times, play times, will be stronger. Like two towers, the love tower will get taller and the grief tower will get a tiny bit smaller. It’s still there, will always be there.

    Be sure and keep a library in your head of those wonderful memories. And visit there often.

    Blessings. And much love.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s