While typically Mother’s Day is a time for celebration, some mothers are remembering the piece of their heart that’s missing.
Mothers like Aileen Green, of Holly Ridge, and Erin Peoples, of Havelock, may experience different emotions on Sunday than others after both women lost their sons.
Green’s 27-year-old autistic son Randy died unexpectedly after he had five seizures and his heart stopped on April 15 and while she said he was unable to speak throughout his life, what she will remember for Mother’s Day this year is the legacy he left behind -- and it spoke volumes.
Because of Randy’s love for music, Green started Able Buddies North Carolina (ABNC) in February 2017. ABNC began as a Valentine’s Day dance as a way for special needs kids to have a safe place to have fun with their families as well as encourage socialization.
Editor’s note: To support local journalism, please consider subscribing to The Daily News or the Sun Journal for as little as $1 per month.
ABNC officially became a nonprofit organization in July 2017 behind donations from the community via GoFundMe and Green said with her son in mind, the dream of making Able Buddies into something more has to continue.
Green said social events for intellectual and developmental disabled kids is just the tip of the iceberg, and the next step will be working towards providing employment opportunities.
This Mother’s Day, Green finds solace in the fact that Randy was an organ donor and will be able to answer the prayers of others in need.
“As far as Mother’s Day this year, I am not sure what type of plans we will have or how we will remember Randy, but my focus is just to carry on his legacy and focus on how blessed I was to be his mother,” said Green.
Peoples has already had to endure several firsts, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, without her 5-year-old son Liam, who drowned in Atlantic Beach after getting caught in a rip current in May 2019. Her boyfriend also died that day while trying to save Liam.
This will be her first Mother’s Day without him.
Peoples remembers her son as an easy-going boy with a huge smile on his face. It is the way she wants to remember him.
“His favorite person in the world was his older brother, and he wanted to be just like him and followed in his footsteps everywhere he went,” said Peoples. “He even began playing soccer just like him. He would have started first grade this fall.”
Peoples added she does not have a specific plan for celebrating Mother’s Day this year, but would like to remind other bereaved mothers they are not alone.
“There are mountains of support for anyone who feels as though they can not go another day,” explained Peoples.
Some of that support comes from other mothers who have gone through years of remembrance, and that is just what Hubert native Melissa Wyckoff and her husband, Richard are here to bring.
The Wyckoffs were expecting their first child, a boy named Bowen, on Aug. 31, 2011. Richard Wyckoff said you expect to bring home your baby when you leave the hospital.
Complications during labor led to a still born birth for Bowen and though the Wyckoffs continue to grieve to this day, they have used their experience over the last nine years to ensure their two daughters know who he was and include him in every celebration they can.
Their original Mother’s Day plans to take a cruise were canceled due to the pandemic, but the Wyckoff family always takes a ride to Bowen’s final resting place to pay him a visit. This year they will have a picnic with him.
When someone asks how many kids The Wyckoffs have, their answer is three.
“You are never going to have the answers as to why things like this happen, but we just take what experiences we have and try to help others in our lives,” said Melissa Wyckoff.
Bowen was a special part of the Wyckoff’s wedding as they set up a memorial for him, and they continue to post Facebook reminders for other mothers who may not know how to reach out for help.
Other ways the Wyckoffs continue to honor Bowen is by shopping for toys and delivering them to kids who are sick at New Hanover Medical Center in Wilmington every year on his birthday. They say the joy their daughters have for helping others reminds them he is not forgotten.
“We spend money on our two daughters and try to spoil them as much as we can because that was money that we were going to spend on Bowen anyways. We try to take as many pictures as we can because those memories can not be taken for granted,” said Melissa Wyckoff.
Both Melissa and Richard Wyckoff added it does not get any easier to cope with the loss of a child, but there are ways to cope with the loss that you find as you continue to push forward in life.
“We have to be strong for everyone because as a husband, that is the role that we are supposed to take on,” said Richard Wyckoff. “My son was the best thing that ever happened to me, followed by the worst feeling that ever happened to me.”
The Wyckoffs said the death of a child can put a lot of strain on a couple’s relationship, and the best way to help cope is to not bottle up those emotions; eventually there will be a time you take it out on your spouse, but you have to be on the same page.
Melissa Wyckoff added if there was only one thing she could say to someone with empty arms this Mother’s Day, it would be the words “You are still a mother.”
“It is the one thing we struggle with most after such as heartbreaking loss and just because our children aren’t here for us to physically take care of them, doesn’t mean we are not still mothers,” said Melissa Wyckoff.