The beautiful family portrait has gone viral for an emotional reason
If ever there was an image that perfectly captured loss, grief, and hope all in one – this would be it. Parents Gloria and Steve Kimmel of Indiana memorialized their son by getting matching angel-wing tattoos after his death a couple of years ago. This month, they celebrated the birth of their new daughter and included her late older brother in such a sweet way.
Gloria’s sister posted the photo on Twitter with the caption, “My sister & her husband got tattoos of angel wings after their son died 2 yrs ago. They had a baby girl in June. This moves me to tears.”
My sister & her husband got tattoos of angel wings after their son died 2 yrs ago. They had a baby girl in June. This moves me to tears. pic.twitter.com/2sVwxkfuBG
— Grass (@Grace_Arend_13) August 9, 2017
Their his-and-her angel wings represent their son, Isaac who died at 14 months old. The baby nestled in the middle is their newborn daughter, two-month-old Claire.
“He was half of each of us, so we each had one of his wings to hold us. He was the angel that was holding us together when we were so lost without him. The tattoos are a reminder that he is always with us in spirit,” Gloria tells Scary Mommy.
Like many families welcomming a new baby into the family, Gloria and her husband wanted to do a photoshoot with Claire. They also wanted Isaac to be in it somehow. Gloria says she started thinking up ideas before her daughter was born.
“I just thought it would be so wonderful to have our memorial for our son be part of her photo shoot welcoming her into the world, since Isaac couldn’t physically be there with us.”
It’s a bittersweet reminder of what they’ve been through. Both new life and loss. Happiness and sadness.
“Isaac was diagnosed with SMA (spinal muscular atrophy) Type 1 when he was six months old. It was right after Thanksgiving,” Gloria tells Scary Mommy.
Spinal muscular atrophy is a rare disease that effects approximately 1 in 10,000 babies, according to Cure SMA. About one in every 50 Americans is a genetic carrier. The disease takes away the person’s physical strength by affecting the motor nerve cells in the spinal cord. It slowly takes away their ability to walk, eat, or breathe.
“We were told to take him home and love him as much as we could, as the disease, at that time, was terminal,” she says.
Those six months at home were cherished, but also very difficult. Isaac required a lot of medical equipment including a suction machine because he couldn’t swallow, a machine to help him breathe at night, and a cough-assist machine because he couldn’t cough on his own.
“We certainly had to become very familiar with a lot of medical equipment very quickly! We were more than his parents, we were his medical caretakers.”
The hardest part of course, was the fact that they knew he wouldn’t recover.
“It was so hard after his diagnosis to come to grips with the word terminal. We had never even heard of SMA before they told us our son was going to lose his life because of it.”
Baby Isaac died of Type 1 spinal muscular atrophy in July 2015, according to the Facebook page Isaac’s Strength. The page was set up to document his daily strengths and courage.
Gloria and Steve were able to get their son into a clinical trial for a new SMA drug and it seemed Isaac had regained strength for a while. But sadly, he suffered from a collapsed lung and spent three weeks in the ICU before what his mom calls his final two “beautiful weeks” at home.
“We have always felt that if he had been able to start the treatment when he was younger, before the disease had progressed so much, he would have lived,” she tells Yahoo Beauty.
“The grief that comes with losing a child is unimaginable. I don’t know how we made it through the drive home from the hospital without him, but we did. I don’t know how I made it through the viewing and funeral without my broken heart ceasing to beat in my chest, but I did.”
Gloria shares that she and her husband grieve differently and she grieves differently now than before. “Even now, two years after his passing, I am still learning new ways to deal with my grief,” she says. “I kept a grief journal to write all the thoughts that were bouncing around in my head down on paper. It helped to clear my head so that I was able to sleep.”
She also shares that they have something very important around them: love.
“We have a loving support system with friends, family, and our church community.”
In sharing their son’s story with the world, Gloria says she’s amazed that her photo has reached and touched so many people. Not only is it a testament to the fact that many have experienced loss and can relate, but it’s proof that reaching out and sharing in the grief can be so healing for everyone.
“The heartfelt compassion of everyone who has heard our story, shared their own stories, offered condolences, and shared in joy of the birth of our daughter, is a beautiful reminder of how much good there is in this world.”