While people across the nation were celebrating Independence Day last year, Frederick Huffin and Sherica Becoat were mourning the loss of their newborn daughter, Jordyn, who had to be delivered early when Becoat suffered from a life threatening complication.
HELLP, a variant of preeclampsia, was causing Becoat’s vital organs to fail. The couple’s tiny daughter held on for 12 days before succumbing to an infection.
“It’s had a great impact on me – it still does, to this day,” stated Becoat, a dialysis technician. “I never want to bury another child.”
The short time they had with their daughter was precious, Becoat said.
“We did get a chance to have plenty of pictures with her and spend time,” she related.
“It was sleepless nights, but it was not time wasted.”
Huffin and Becoat were among the hundreds who took part in the Walk to Remember Memorial Service in Lewisville’s Town Square Oct. 13. Sponsored by Novant Health’s Maya Angelou Women’s Health & Wellness Center, the event, now in its tenth year, gives family, friends and others the chance to remember and grieve for infants lost to miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death or ectopic pregnancy.
For Huffin, a nursing student at Winston-Salem State University, it was a chance to pay homage to the daughter he still loves and misses.
“She’s not forgotten,” he declared. “Just because a person’s not here doesn’t mean they’re not thought about. (It’s important) just to keep the memory.”
In addition to a short walk of remembrance, attendees heard reflections from area parents and took part in a memorial balloon release.
“Today we are remembering each life – each little boy, each little girl,” said Sheree Jones, a chaplain for Novant Health. “We have sadness, but we have gratitude for the life – no matter how brief – of each child.”
Four mothers offered reflections on their experiences with love and loss during this year’s ceremony.
“The worst feeling I’ve ever experienced was holding my dead son in my arms, unable to look into his eyes or comfort him,” said WXII Meteorologist Michelle Kennedy, who lost a son, William, in 2008, whom she delievred at 22 weeks. She lost a second baby before the births of her two sons, Cody, 3 and Dawson, 18 months. “…Whenever I think of Will, I remember that he is with God, the ultimate parent, and there is peace with that realization.”
Lucretia Pruett and her husband, Chuck, suffered the loss of three babies before adopting their daughter Kimberly, now 26. The family refers to the day Kim came home as their “gotcha day,” and celebrates the milestone every year. Though she admitted she was nervous about adopting a child, from the moment she laid eyes on a photo of Kimberly in the adoption agency file, Pruett said she knew she had found her daughter.
“This is Kim and this is her story,” she said in introducing her daughter to the audience. “The Lord has done great things with us, and we are filled with joy.”
Mandy Grice gave birth to her daughter, Kortlyn Grace, on April 23, 2007. Kortlyn was just one pound, six ounces at the time of her birth. Though small, the infant was strong, and doctors were optimistic about her chances of survival, Grice said. When Kortlyn was 13 days old, Grice was allowed to hold her for the first time.
“I’ll never forget that moment,” she related. “It’s almost as if the world stopped turning and the earth paused; all I could feel was her tiny heartbeat.”
Hours later, Kortlyn took a turn for the worst, and Grice was forced to say goodbye to her baby girl, who died in her arms. Six months later, Grice lost her mother to a massive heart attack. It was a desolate period in her life, she said, but in time, she found healing, hope and even joy.
“Hold on. A brighter day is coming,” declared Grice, who is now the mother of a two year-old son. “If I can heal, if I can smile, you can and you will.”
Losing a baby is a deeply personal experience that is largely incomprehensible to those who haven’t endured it, said Charmara Mahan-Ratliff, who lost five babies prior to the birth of her son Ra’Shawn three years ago.
“When you lose a child, it’s like a part of you died, and a lot of people don’t understand that unless they’ve been through it,” she remarked. “They told me I would never have a child, but you can’t tell me what God can do.”
When her son was still a toddler, Mahan-Ratliff was diagnosed with breast cancer, which she says was triggered by her pregnancy, but Mahan-Ratliff said her son’s existence is well worth the hardships she has had to face. She encouraged the other parents in attendance not to lose hope.
“I’m a living testimony, ladies. Don’t give up,” she declared. “I had a 34 percent chance of living, but I chose to fight, and I’ve been cancer free for two years. Everything is possible. Your heart’s desires He (God) will give it to you. Everything may not come when you want it, but He is always on time.”