The Value of Community

Losing Jack has been no less gut-wrenching than losing Isaac. However, this experience has been very different in a variety of ways. Obviously we are at a different point in our lives this time. We have three living children to care for. We are not away one vacation in New Hampshire, but we are in our forever home in Pennsylvania. One of the really significant differences has come from having far more friends and a larger community of our own these days. In 2016, we had just moved to Pennsylvania. My husband, Warren, was still commuting to Aberdeen, Maryland regularly. I’d reconnected with a single high school friend, who had introduced me to two other women (these women are still my close friends and an amazing support system). That was pretty much it for our social circle in 2016. Everyone else we knew locally came from working as an attorney at my own father’s company, and it was easy to use my parents as a buffer against what was probably much needed contact with the outside world.

The people we knew then were extraordinarily supportive. They made donations to Speare Memorial Hospital in Isaac’s honor, sent kind words and care packages and would have done anything if we had asked. However, nothing forced us to interact with friends or the real world. My three girlfriends checked in regularly, but somehow I managed to avoid all in-person interaction until months after Isaac died. Things are different now. Our kids go to a local private preschool that has created a really amazing and supportive community. We have actual parent friends from this community. On the day Jack died, I had someone I trusted to call to help with the kids overnight. This community has banded together in the aftermath of our loss. I don’t even. have words to express how great they have been to us.

Within a week of losing Jack, we had a month-long meal train established. People we haven’t even personally met yet lined up to make sure we were fed. They have cooked for us. They have donated to provide gift cards for food delivery. New friends dropped off the most thoughtful treats and notes to help us heal. People offered to entertain our kids. They gave my husband a way out of the house to blow of some steam. The school’s pastor even visited us in the hospital and wrote the most touching letter to us. My memories of the ICU are spotty, but I know multiple friends came to see us. It’s been three weeks, and the support has not wained. The community hasn’t forgotten us. They still invite my kids to get out and play. They still want to visit. They provide options to get me out of the house and respect that I am not ready for outings yet. I don’t know when we will return to some semblance of “normal” socially, but I have all confidence that this community will be waiting for us when we do.

This has turned into somewhat of a jumbled rant, but I’m just trying to express our gratitude to our school community and friends. You have made such a difference in these hardest of days. We are so fortunate to have your support. Thank you.

February 10, 2023

Back in 2016 (and beyond), I used to write letters to our first stillborn son, Isaac. When I finally gathered the courage to reopen the journal, this time to write to Jack, I couldn’t do it. Instead, I wrote to Isaac again. He’d be turning seven years old this July, and I will never stop thinking about who he would have been. I share these profoundly personal letters with the internet, not for attention or pity, but so that those who go through this horrible experience might find they are not alone. I share so that people might better understand what their friends or family are going through.

Dearest Isaac,

I haven’t written in years, and life has changed so much. You would be six years old, almost seven really, if you were here with us where you always belonged. I didn’t plan to write to you tonight, but when I opened the journal the idea of writing to you felt more tolerable and somehow right.

I never pictured you alone. I’ve always imagined you were somewhere with Bup Bup Sandy. I later assumed you’d been joined by Nana (but Nana at her peak, not how she was in her last years) and, eventually, Bup Bup Saul. Now you’ve been joined by someone very very special. On January 27th, your youngest brother, Jack, came to be with you. Mommy, Daddy, Max, Asher, and Caleb all wanted to keep him here, but for some reason we could not. Maybe you needed him more? Honestly, that’s the ONLY reason there could possibly be for us to live through this pain again.

Losing Jack has torn open wounds in my heart and mind that I had so carefully worked to patch together over the past six years. You and Jack are part of a life that I will never have, but will always want. This time, there is no trying again. There will be no health milestones as we prepare to add another baby to our family. There is no patch for this loss, and I might be forced to face it head-on this time. It’s not that I ever replaced you. However, I certainly distracted myself from the gaping hole in my world by having your brothers. I love them with all I have left, but right now, when I look at them, I only see that you and Jack are missing. I see how big they are getting and wonder what you would be like. You would probably be in First Grade. I’m sure you would love our new house and would wrangle your younger brothers like a champ. I look at Caleb, and he is such a big boy compared to sweet and tiny Jack. It feels like people are missing.

This still feels like some bad dream that I am bound to wake up from soon. But it is not. You and Jack are gone. PLEASE take care of him. Protect him and ensure he knows how loved he is and always will be, just as you are.



Jack Immel – A New Reason to Write

IMG 3259

On January 27, 2023, our surprise last baby, Jack Immel, was born painfully silent and had already gone somewhere far less scary than this world with his oldest brother, Isaac. He was gone before we even got to the hospital, much like his brother had been. He was perfect in every way, and our hearts will have yet another hole in them for the rest of our days.

This experience feels so similar to losing our firstborn, Isaac, in 2016. Yet it couldn’t be more different. We have Max, Asher, and Caleb to stay strong for. I almost died, had emergency surgery, and spent time on a ventilator this time. There is a lot to share, and I’m glad I still have this platform to share our experience. I hope, somehow, this can help others know that they are not alone and that no feelings are wrong. I hope this helps Isaac and Jack matter in their own way.

We are so grateful for the outpouring of love and support that we have received during this difficult time. Thank you so much to those who have reached out, contributed to the meal train, or kept our family in your thoughts. We appreciate your support more than you can know.

Now we heal. We’re starting this process all over again six and a half years later. I don’t know what it will look like, but I guess that’s just life.