“Adam” The scream came from the nursery followed by hysterical sobbing. Relaxing in bed, Adam Banton sprang to his feet. Charging down the hallway, he slid to a stop at the door to the nursery. He grabbed to the doorjamb for support. Color drained from his face.
Holding Adam junior, their 9-month-old son, his wife stared at him with terror-filled eyes.
“He’s dead.” She screamed. The baby’s head lolled in her arms. She plunged to her knees, howling. He knelt beside her, tears streaming down his face. Adam reached tensive fingers, praying she was wrong. Maybe… just maybe little Adam was sleeping. He touched the baby’s icy hand. Then he knew without a doubt their treasured baby boy had died during the night.
His wife lifted streaming eyes to him. “Do something, Adam… please do something. Make our baby live.”
Adam felt helpless. What could he do? It was not possible to bring their son back to life. Scrambling to his feet he ran toward the kitchen. The farthest room in their home. Passing the bedroom, he ripped the charging cord from his cell phone. Tears blurring his vision, he punched in 911.
“911, what is your emergency?”
“Our baby’s dead, our baby’s dead, our baby’s dead.” He screamed into the phone. His sorrow fogged mind seemed to block him from saying much more. “Please help us.
The 911 operator hated these types of calls. She felt so helpless. Her eyes moist, she punched in the address appearing on her screen. Taking a deep breath, calming her voice, she said. “Have you checked the baby’s respiration?”
“No, no no. He’s cold. You don’t understand he died during the night.” He sobbed. Sirens came down the street. Charging into the living room, he threw the phone on the couch, and tore open the front door.
A patrol car stopped in front of the house. Two officers jumped out and hurried up the sidewalk. An ambulance skidded to a stop behind the police car.
“This way, “the father of the dead child shouted. The two paramedics and police officers followed the trotting man down the hallway.
“Please, please do something. Save my child.” June pleaded with flooded eyes.
One paramedic, a woman, knelt in front of little Adam’s mother.
“Can I see him, please? “she said in a quiet, soothing voice.
June uncovered the baby’s face. “I loved him. I would have done anything for him. Why did he have to die?”
June gently lay the baby in the paramedic’s lap. From the feel of the body, the paramedic knew the child had died hours before. For the sake of the mother and father, she held a stethoscope to the boy’s chest. No sound, no heartbeat.
“Come ride to the hospital with us.” She said, laying the dead child back in his mother’s arms. To her partner, she whispered. “Lights and siren.” He nodded. The two police officers looked at each other. Together, they rushed out of the house.
“Sir, follow the ambulance. Please be aware we will slow down for stop lights.” One officer said to Adam.
In the ambulance, the paramedic did all the things she would do for a dying child except administer drugs. Never removing the baby from the mother’s arms. Tears constantly flowed down June’s cheeks.
Tears blurring Adam’s vision they sped through the street at 60 and 70 miles per hour. “Oh, please God, don’t take my little boy. Please don’t take him. Take me, take me, not him.”
In front of the ambulance, the officer riding shotgun said. “Why are we doing this? We know the baby’s dead.”
”Yes, we know the paramedics know and the parents know “.
“But it’s useless.” The younger officer said, glancing back at the ambulance.
“Yes, but it’s to give them hope.” He sighed. “Just one more hour of hope.”
“Do you think they killed him?”
“If they had anything to do with the death, there would be certain signs.” The sergeant said, slowing for a traffic light. They blocked the intersection, and waited for the ambulance to pass, then speeded up until they again took the lead. “There would fugitive looks between the mother and father. They would be very careful of what they said. Also, there would be no remorse. These people are all broken up.”
“So, what do you think killed the boy?”
“Sudden infant death syndrome.” The sergeant said, pulling into the emergency drive of St Luke’s. “We’ll know soon enough.
The female paramedic helped the mother down from the ambulance. Still carrying little Adam, June rushed inside. Parking the car, Adam ran into the emergency room. Two nurses and a doctor met them. In the treatment room, the couple stood in the corner holding hands, watching a team worked on their precious baby boy.
After 10 minutes, the doctor nodded to the nurses. “Time of death 9:27 AM.” He said quietly. June screamed, falling into her husband’s arms. Burying his face in his wife’s hair, Adam sobbed. The two nurse’s softy exited the room.
The doctor ushered the couple to two chairs, helping them to set down.
“I’m very sorry. But I must ask you some questions. “Raising Adam stepped to the bed.
“I’m so sorry, buddy. Daddy loved you so much.” He stroked the baby’s forehead.
June joined him on the other side of the bed. She held onto the baby’s cold hand, caressing his tiny fingers.
“Has he been ill? Any signs of vomiting diarrhea?” The doctor said.
“No, we were playing last night.” Adam said.
“He just learned to roll the ball back to us.” June said. Another round of sobbing took her.
“We were having so much fun.” Adam said. “Everybody was laughing.”
He just saw the pediatrician last Tuesday. Doctor Scott. “June wiped her eyes with a balled up tissue. “She said he was so healthy. She was very pleased with his progress.”
“Ok.” The doctor stood to his feet. “Again, I’m very sorry. I wish there was something we could have done.”
With tears still streaming down his cheeks, Adam said. “Why doc? Why did our little boy die?”
“My guess is SIDS, or as it is commonly called, sudden infant death syndrome.” The doctor sighed. “Excuse me, I’ll leave you alone with him.” Quietly, he left the room.
In the waiting room, he spoke to the two officers. “No bruises, marks, or internal damage. He just went to sleep and didn’t wake up.”
The sergeant nodded. “We need to speak to the parents to complete our report.”
”Give them some time. Right now they’re in shock.” The doctor said.
“We’ll swing by the house this afternoon.” The two officers left.
In the room, the husband said. “Honey, we got to make some calls.”
”I know, oh poor baby. Mommy is so sorry.” Picking up their little boy, she held him to her breast.
Helen Oak, little Adam’s grandmother, was preparing to go to yard sales. The wall phone rang. “You go on. I’ll meet you in the car.” She said to her husband.
“I hope it’s not Emlin. She talks forever.” Art said, going to open the garage door. He had just started the car when his wife ran out of the house, her face pale. Tears glistened in her eyes. Jumping in the car, she shrieked, “The baby’s dead!”. She threw herself into the car seat.
Art’s heart dropped. “What?” He said in disbelief.
Sometimes his hearing failed him. He prayed this was one of those times.
Tears flowing down her cheeks, Helen said. “June found the little Adam dead this morning. They’re at Saint Luke’s emergency room.”
His hands trembling, tears blurring his vision, Art navigated the Saturday morning traffic. At the hospital; he let his wife off at the emergency room entrance and parked at the first available space in the parking lot. He rushed into the hospital.
“Treatment room 5,” a nurse said, pointing to the door of the last treatment room at his inquiry.
“Thank you,” Art said, hurrying past. Opening the door, he found his daughter in the arms of her mother. On the bed lay the baby. He appeared to be sleeping. Bent over the child, Adam stroked the baby boy’s head. Big tears ran down his face, falling onto the white sheets. On unsteady legs, Art held onto the foot of the bed.
His grandchild, whom he had seen just yesterday laughing and smiling, lay so still. He wanted to hug him and bounce him on his knee and make him alive.
“Wh… what happened?” Art said, his eyes spilling over. “He was so full of life yesterday.”
“He… he just went to sleep and didn’t wake up.” Adam said, breaking into sobs. Moving around the bed, Art put his hand on Adam’s shoulder. Together, they stared into the face of the dead child.
Too soon, Adam said to his wife. “I have to call the funeral home.”
“No honey, not now, not yet, please.” She said horror stricken.
Turning away, he didn’t answer her. He called his mother. How would she take the death of her only grandson, he wasn’t sure? When his father died unexpectedly six years ago, she was like an iron woman. Until after the funeral, then she collapsed and for three days took to her bed. On the fourth day, he found her in the kitchen of their family home frying bacon.
“Mom, I’m surprised to see you up this early.” He said, pouring himself a cup of coffee.
“Adam, your father is dead. He’s with The Lord enjoying heaven. I miss him now and will until I die. But he would want me to get on with life.”
And she had become a vital part of their lives. They never had to hire a babysitter. The two grandmothers always stepped in.
He punched in her number.
“I ask you not to call them.” His wife said harshly.
“I’m calling my mother. “He said simply.
“Oh sorry. “she said, Caressing the baby’s hand
“Hello?” Janet Banton said, answering on the third ring.
“Mom.” He broke down again.
“Adam, what’s wrong?”
“The baby’s dead.” Was all he could manage.
Collapsing into a kitchen chair, she said. “What?” Her hand shook color drained from her face.
“Oh, mom he died during the night just like dad.
”She stood up. They needed her. She would go to them. She must be strong for them. “Where are you?” She said, calming her voice.
“Saint Luke’s emergency treatment room 5.” Barely getting the words out. “Stay right there. I’m coming to you.” She ended the call before Adam could answer her. She rushed out of the house, forgetting to lock the door.
A minute later, June took a deep breath. Her cheeks glistened with tears. She said. “Ok, I’m ready.”
”Are you sure, honey?”
Adam made the call. He felt as if he were living in a nightmare. ” Unger’s mortuary. How may I help you?” The words were soft. Mark Unger had trained his voice. Those calling the funeral home were going through the worst time of their lives.
Swallowing the lump in his throat, Adam said. “Our baby died. “
He broke down, unable to say more. Taking the phone from him, his father-in-law give Unger the needed information.
On the way to the hospital, Janet wept. Half way there she pulled off the highway. Burying her face in her hands, she sobbed. Both for losing her only grandchild and the baby’s parents. After five minutes, she dried her eyes, set up straight, and drove the rest of the way to the hospital.
In the worst crisis, Janet always came through. In the privacy of her home, she would fall apart, but now they needed her. As she stood looking at the door of treatment 5, she saw Mr. Unger come down the hall pushing a small gurney.
He stopped when he saw her.
“A sad day Mrs. Benton.” He said, his face reflecting the family’s sorrow.
“Yes, indeed, Mr. Unger, it certainly is.” She straightened her shoulders. “Please say nothing to the rest of the family, but I will foot the bill for the funeral."
Unger nodded. It was rumored her husband left her millions but her lifestyle didn’t reflect it. “Thank you,” he said simply. She had taken care of other funerals as well.
“Please give me just a minute with the family.” She said, her hand on the door.
“Of course.” He said, pushing the gurney to the wall.
Taking a deep breath, she opened the door.
She almost swooned. Those surrounding the bed looked up, their eyes red and moist. On the bed, wearing only a diaper, lay her dead grandson. Steeling herself, she hugged first her daughter-in-law, her son, and then the rest of the family. Her son told her of finding their son unresponsive.
Quietly, she said. “Mr. Unger is waiting in the hallway.” This brought a fresh round of sobbing to June. Putting his arm around his wife, Adam opened the door to the treatment room. Hugging each other, the family watched as the mortician gently picked up the child and lay him on the gurney.
As he wheeled it past, the mother and father stepped forward.
Smoothing his tuft of hair, his mother whispered. “Mommy loves you, sweetheart.”
“I’ll see you in heaven, little buddy.” Tears streamed down Adam’s cheeks. “We’ll roll the ball all over the streets of gold.”
“I have a new suit of clothes I bought for him yesterday if that would be, ok?” Adam’s mother said. Watching Unger push the gurney down the hall, June nodded.
Everything moved in slow motion for the rest of the Day. June set in the nursery and wept for an hour. The two police officers came at 3PM to complete their report. They left shortly thereafter. At 4 Mrs. Benton drove home to pick up the suit she bought for the child the day before. It was still in the bag from the store. Setting in the rocking chair in the living room, she held the bag to her face and wept. Drying her eyes, she dropped the clothing off at the funeral home.
At the local Kroger’s, she purchased the ingredients for beef stew. Back at the home she busied herself in the kitchen. It seemed as if the doorbell contently rang. Friends and family members dropped by. At 8, she announced dinner was more than ready. Adam persuaded his wife to join them at the table.
Her eyes red and swollen, she picked at her food, eating very little. Halfway through the meal, she fled the kitchen. They could hear her in the nursery weeping.
Her husband’s eyes followed her. He lay down his spoon.
“Go to her, Adam, she needs you.” His mother said.
“Excuse me.” Adam said, raising from his chair.
Seated in the rocking chair, she clutched the blanket from the crib. As he watched from the doorway, she held the blanket to her face. Her sobbing broke his heart. What could he say? What could he do to ease her pain? Silently, he knelt beside the chair and folded her in his arms.
After a few minutes, she allowed him to lead her to their bedroom. He undressed her and lay her down on the bed, covering her with a sheet. Closing the door, he turned out the light.
Her parents had already left. His mother stood at the kitchen sink, drying the last of the silverware.
He gripped the back of a chair, leaning into it. “I don’t think I can do this, Mom.”
Untying the apron around her waist, Janet said. “I know it will be one of the most difficult things you’ve ever gone through. But we just have to picture your little boy sitting on Jesus’ lap smiling into his face like he did you.”
“I know, but we waited so long for him. We were so excited when June finally became pregnant.”
Gathering her purse, his mother said. “Call me in the morning.”
“I will.” Thanks mom.” He watched from the front door until Janet’s car turned the corner. Turning out the light, he stood for several minutes at the door to the nursery. As he shut off the light, the Disney night light came on. For just a few seconds, he thought he saw his little boy smiling at him through the bars of the crib. As he switched on the ceiling light, the illusion disappeared.
June was so exhausted she didn’t think she would ever sleep again. She closed her eyes. In her dream, the baby grew into a beautiful child. He chased another boy. Soon, other children joined them. They chased each other through a stunning field of flowers. Suddenly her son stopped and turned his eyes on her. He smiled. “Thank you for loving me mommy, I love you.” Another little boy run by, touching him. Laughing, he turned and chased the children. The dream dissolved. June drifted into a peaceful sleep.
Adam woke. During the night, he brought June to his chest, hugging her. Carefully, he withdrew his arms from around her. She opened her eyes. “Sorry, I’m going downstairs to make coffee.” He said.
She smiled a sad smile. She mumbled into her pillow. “I saw our son in heaven.” Quietly, she told him about her dream. Together, husband and wife prayed for the comfort of The Lord.
Later that day, they stood with his mother and her parents looking at a tiny white casket with gold trim. With moist eyes, Susan touched the satin interior. She pressed down on the padding. “She looked at Adam.
“It’s so soft. Softer than his crib.” She traced the outline of a clown holding several balloons.
At the funeral, Adam, June, his mother and her parents occupied the front row. Their pastor, a man of 70, had known Adam and June all their lives. He smiled at the young couple he had married. Countless hours, he and his dear wife had counseled Adam and June. Frist on marriage, then on her infertility. How they rejoiced when she became pregnant after several years of trying.
“Sometimes its very difficult for us to except the plan of God.” He said. He went on for several minutes to speak of the joy, however brief the baby brought in the lives of all that knew him. Concluding his message, he said. “Years from now we will not remember the pain, the sorrow we are feeling today, but the happiness and joy this child brought into each of our lives.”
Adam and June returned to an empty house. June lay down for a nap, crying herself to sleep. Quietly Adam went throughout their home gathering diapers and other essentials, storing them in the nursery. He closed the door, something he would never have done when their child was alive. In the backyard, he set on the steps to the deck thinking about the years with their son that would never come.
Returning to the house, he found June seated at the kitchen table. Sipping coffee, looking at the baby’s album.
“Pastor’s right.” She said. “Years from now, we will think of him with joy in our hearts.” Pouring himself a cup of coffee, Adam set down opposite her.
“Yes, I know. I wish there was some way to erase the pain.”
The next day was easier, yet the pain, like the dull throb of a toothache, never went away. After 6 months, June, with Adam’s agreement, gave away the babies’ toys crib and other furniture. On the anniversary of his death, they took a bouquet to the baby’s grave.
Two months later, June woke up nauseous and scared to death. She said nothing to Adam. A month went by with her, hiding her secret. One day in late May, she woke up and knew she couldn’t hide the fact of her pregnancy. It was Saturday morning. A time of relaxation for both of them. At 9, her parents were picking them up for a morning of yard selling. Adam was reading the newspaper with a cup of coffee in front of him. Pouring herself a cup, she set down, crossed from him.
“Morning sweetheart. Did you sleep ok?” he said lowering the paper.
“Pretty good.” She swallowed the lump in her throat.” I saw Doctor Scott yesterday.”
“The pediatrician? Why?”
Her face pale, she said. “Adam I’m pregnant.”
Having a mouth full of coffee, Adam blew it over the paper. He jumped to his feet, brushing the front of his shirt with his hand. June giggled. He stared at her, a big smile spreading over his face.
“Really! Honey, that’s wonderful.”
” I’m scared. What if he dies?”
“He’ll know that his mommy and daddy love him.”
“Yes, he will.” She said, holding her abdomen.
There was a toot from the driveway. That day and many days thereafter in a joyous celebration, the family searched the yard sales for furniture for the nursery.
4 and a half years later
“Are we ready?” Adam said, smiling at his pregnant wife. June returned his smile. “Yes, can you bring the ice cream, please?”
Together, husband and wife joined the grandparents to celebrate their son’s fourth birthday.