Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Visiting Zack's grave and the cleaning off the Elmo doll that still sits on top of the pile of dirt, is usually my daily ritual AFTER I drop the kids at school in the morning. I love this time alone with God and Zack. I can have our time to talk, cry and I can ask a lot of questions...
"Could I have done anything differently?"
"Are you okay?"
"Is God taking care of you, like I would?"
"Are you there to give me strength to help create this Dream Room in your name?"
I also ask him, each day, to show me a sign that he is with me...any way for me to know that I still have him beside me. I want to know that I can still count on his strength and inspiration to help me, his daddy and brothers each and every day. A sign of hope that heaven exists and that our son will be waiting for me when I get there.
After I asked for my sign, it was time to leave. Saying goodbye and walking back to the car is always the hardest part. Leaving our son there and taking the other two boys to dinner was painful. The tears rolled down my eyes as we left through the gates.
Would I ever see those signs?
We arrived at the restaurant and I thought before I said "table for four". An ache hit my heart as this was the first time I had had to say out loud that we were missing a member of our family.
We sat at the booth in the bar, so that Paul and Jayden could watch any sports on the t.v., then the kids started to colour the little booklet that the hostess had given them...
But she brought us 3 books.
We started to order and then I heard someone, who I couldn't see, sneeze. Zack thought sneezes were hilarious.
Finally, we were eating our dinner and drinking some wine, when a great song by Feist, that we loved from Sesame Street, was on the radio. I hadn't heard the "real" version of this song but loved it on the Elmo episode. Of course I didn't know the real words so we all sang the furry monster version instead.
Zack showed me his signs....and I felt so close to him all night.
Thank you Zackie, Mommy really needed that. xoxox
Thursday, March 24, 2011
To my Zackie....you made me the woman and mother that I am today and you will always be the best part of me.
One special day you were sent
To me on angels wings
You glided in and changed my life
And taught me many things
You taught me not to be afraid
You taught me how to love
You taught me how to understand
The gifts sent from above
You taught me to have patience
You taught me about strife
You taught me to look deeper
You taught me about life
You taught me about miracles
You taught me about pain
You taught me to appreciate
All from life there is to gain
You came to me and graced my life
I’ll never be the same
But then they took you from me
And I looked for who to blame
This hurt will never go away
No matter how I try
My heart will always ache for you
My tears I’ll always cry
I wish no one would ever
Have to feel this pain
To know they have to carry on
Through this storm, the wind, the rain.
It hurts to bad to ever be
Able to explain
And all the nasty details
To tell I will refrain.
However somehow everyday
I wake up with a smile
I see the sunshine through the rain
I’m happy for a while
I see a butterfly flap its wing
Or a heart appear before me
I feel a warmth within myself
That fills me full of glory
I wonder how that it can be
That I can hurt so bad
And somehow find a way to feel
So happy and so glad
I wonder and I ponder
I know I’m not this strong
For me to be now smiling
Just seems so very wrong
But then a thought comes to me
Those feelings that I feel
Are not because my broken heart
Is beginning now to heal
It is because a part of you
Is always within me
And you sweetheart are happy now
As you are finally free.
We live on together
Through our spirit and our love
To find you I must only look
To heaven up above.
As well as in my heart and soul
Forever you will live
I think about you always
To you my love I give
You have taught me many things
I don’t know where to start
But the best thing you have taught me
Was to look within my heart.
Because sweetheart that is where I will find you.
Anonymous (given to me by the Grandfather of Wyatt)
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Today I had a great cry remembering my amazing Zack. As much as the boys are a wonderful distraction, I still need time to let my emotions be raw and not hide them from their eyes. Today, I sat on the couch with Zack's home nurse, Sue and we told stories that made us laugh and cry about the ups and downs of the last year with our amazing Zackie.
As we packed up medical supplies to send to the kids in the African orphanage, Forever Angels, we reminisced about her time with Zack over the last year. Sue came to our house three days a week and cared for Zack as well as I did. She knew his moods, how to comfort him, his favourite foods, toys he loved and shirts that he hated to put over his head.
When we first met Sue, we knew she was an amazing nurse who would care for our precious and fragile son, but we thought she might be "serious" in her days with Zack. Boy, did our Zackie ever win her over! It didn't take long for Sue to be running to see him each morning and stay to give him one last hug each night. Zack lit up when she walked in the room, and she adored and spoiled him.
I wanted to share what she wrote, the day Zackie died. I loved how her words captured a day with our determined and loving son.
Written by Sue Duff, R.N. and a very important woman in our family:
I cannot think of just one favourite moment that I spent with Zackie. They were all precious and incredible. Everyday he fought battles, won courageous moments and stole everyones heart with his infectious smile! I guess,if I had to choose, it would be how he communicated with me. He may not of said a lot of words but his actions were quite clear. Zackie would clap his hand on my leg when he wanted to be picked up. I loved to carry him...although Mom would say, "he is a big boy, he doesn't need to be carried". I couldn't resist when he glanced up at me with that incredible walnut smile. Grab my hand, when he wanted to walk...I got a lot of exercise until he mastered the art on his own. When he was hungry he would sign and walk to the cupboard where his favourite pudding was. If you didn't respond fast enough he would get his place mat out and bring it to the table. When he didn't like your choice of food he knew how to let you know! Pointing to the cupboard until you got the right one out! Which was vanilla pudding....of course! When he was done eating he threw the dishes on the floor. Pretty explanatory if you ask me! Oh, I should mention...No BIBS! As fast as you put them on he took them off. After all...he was a big boy who could feed himself. Bath time was a favourite time for him. He loved the warm water and toys but when he was done...he pulled the plug! When he was tired he would hum the Elmo song...it was time to sit in his favourite chair and fall asleep watching Elmo. His Hero! I really can't sing...most people would leave the room to hear my voice. BUT for Zackie I mastered, "Row Row Your Boat". To sing this song was the only way he would accept the inhaler treatment(mask with aerochamber) for his asthma. Best of all was when he wanted a cuddle or a hug...he would put his loving arms around your neck and place his adoring cheek to the right and to the left...maybe there is Russian in his family history. Ba!...Ba! was his language. It meant he was having a good day!
I will miss you sooo...much! You will forever be in my thoughts and my heart! I am so blessed to have been able to share in your life.
March 10, 2011 8:56 AM
Monday, March 21, 2011
The morning of my son’s funeral I woke up and was angry. I’m sure under the circumstances, you may have started your day with feelings of grief and sadness, but I was mad. I looked up towards the heavens and asked…
“Why would You do this to me? Why would You take away the most treasured of all gifts from my arms?" Zack’s twin brother continues to ask ‘why did Zackie die?’, and as his father, I don’t have an answer that will satisfy his curiosity. Do You have any suggestions? After all, I keep hearing people with good intentions tell me… 'this is part of His plan’ or ‘Zack is in a better place’. Really? Is there a better place than at home with his protective brothers and loving parents? If this was part of Your plan, why would You have him endure so much pain and suffering during his short time on earth? With his more than 20 surgical procedures and physical complications. All the trips down to Sick Kids or York Central. The hearing loss, the G-Tube, the deletion of his 12th chromosome, the inability to speak, the congenital heart defect known as Total Anomalous Pulmonary Venous Drainage (TAPVD), the global development delay, seizures and hydrocephalus – the buildup of fluid inside Zack’s skull, leading to brain swelling. This is enough for a grown man to experience over a full lifetime, but to subject a 3 year old to this…and you want me to believe this part of Your master plan?
You know how much we adore not just our kids, but all kids! We volunteer our time helping to improve the lives of children in our neighborhood, at our church and all over the world. Heather and I were also in discussions of adopting another child into our family to fulfill a personal wish I’ve carried with me my entire life. And You shattered this dream by taking our son away? Why would You do this to us…to me?
I’m not perfect and I’ve made many terrible mistakes and decisions…but if You take all of my sins and multiply them by a million, it still wouldn’t justify You ripping our hearts out by letting our little Zackie die. Heather dedicated every minute of her life to Zack…working with Zack’s therapists, doctors, nurses, specialists, and everyone else involved in ”Zack’s Dream Team” to ensure Zack had everything he needed to help him reach his full potential. When other parents have given up on children as unique as Zack, we put everything we had into helping him be the boy he deserved to be…at times, sacrificing time away from his brothers and our family to give him what he needed. We tried so hard every day of our lives, giving up events, trips, date nights, and other normal things to help keep him safe…not because we had to, but because he meant more to us than anything else the world could offer and we believed our miracle little boy will one day do all the things the medical world told us he wouldn’t. He was our angel on earth, my special little guy. And now he’s gone. I demand an answer. I deserve one.
Your plan? It’s terrible. Not only have You taken the life of a very special child, but you have taken my heart, my soul and left me as an empty shell. I’m broken because I have lost the best thing that has ever happened to me.”
I was also angry because I couldn’t feel Zack’s presence anymore, something I felt every minute of every day for the past 3 ½ years. You see, I was there when he was born was rushed to Sick Kids from North York General. I was there when he flat lined, not once but twice on the table as the cardiologist examined his heart, 6 hours after he was born. Zack and I have always had this special bond. Since Zack’s passing, the overwhelming feeling I have now is emptiness…I’m numb. People were convinced that he made the successful passage to Heaven because they received a sign. Doors opening unexpectedly, toys turning on by themselves, or visions in their dreams. I’m his father and I have yet to receive my sign that my Zack was ok. A few years ago when I was at the lowest point in my life, Zack reached up and touched me. And in that instant of feeling his deformed fingers glide across my cheek, I knew everything was going to be all right. Now he’s gone….
As we arrived at the chapel to lay our son to rest, I was amazed at the hundreds of people who turned up. Friends, family, neighbors, co-workers and complete strangers came out to join Heather and I say good-bye to Zack. I was moved because he was just a little boy, but he had such an impact. During the ceremony, I remembered the following message sent to me by Salim Manji, a friend of a friend:
“Life is best measured by impact and not duration. In that way Zack lived a life of incredible importance. I’m sure he’s touched many, many more people than he ever could have realized. As a parent, I know that Zack’s story and memory will have a positive impact on my relationship with our children. The value of that is immeasurable.”
As the service progressed something magical happened. Answers started to come, and my feeling of anger softened. Looking around the auditorium, I realized in that moment that Zack was never meant to be just my child. He was given to Heather and I as a gift to share with others. He taught us all some valuable lessons and I would like to share some with you now:
• Zack’s Poppa mentioned in his speech that even imperfection is part of God’s perfect plan. And I believe that now. Zack had so many anomalies, but he was perfect in every sense of the word. So when you see a child with special needs, remember they are here for a purpose too and we need to work hard to understand and incorporate them into the world we all share. We need to continue to do more to help out.
• Zack couldn’t use words to communicate what he was thinking or how he felt, but like a good jazz or classical piece of music, when he laughed, it came straight from his soul and you knew exactly what he was saying or feeling. Sometimes what’s not being said or the words from our hearts are far more important than those that come out of our mouths.
• Zack didn’t have a single enemy. He allowed and accepted everyone for who they were. Sure he didn’t like the doctors who were giving him needles, but he knew that they had good intentions. He looked beyond the prick and saw another human being with their own set of issues and used that as a way to create a common bond. We often focus on our differences and what sets us apart. I believe Zack had this amazing ability to identify what we share in common and used this to build meaningful and honest connections.
• Zack never gave up and used challenges thrown at him by life as just another obstacle to overcome. The day Zack walked for the first time, his Uncle Gary and I were chatting. Gary looked over at me and asked, “Do you think he will walk and if so, when?” As the proud and optimistic father, I replied, “he will walk, but not for another 3 – 6 months”. Zack was in the room as I said this, and although he can’t “hear” , as soon as I finished speaking, Zack stood up and took two steps and feel down. He followed that up with 5 more steps and fell down. Gary looked at me and said, “I think he’ll be walking a lot sooner than that.” Zack got up and for his encore, walked to the kitchen, then back and the rest…well, he never stopped walking after that. Even the words of his biggest fan turned out to be another challenge that he decided to take on and overcome. He never gave up.
• Zack made my wish come true, but in a different way. I wasn’t fortunate enough to know or meet my real family and I vowed that I would one day adopt an abandoned child and give them a home to feel and be loved. But through the sharing of Zack’s story, I had the incredible opportunity to meet three new incredible people - my very beautiful and special nieces Makayla and Daisy and their loving mother Denise. They have become a part of my family now and we are blessed. The lesson here is sometimes the things that are important to are there, but in a different form. Be open to looking at things differently and you will see, your dreams will come true.
Last night my boys and I were watching this special tribute video we put together to remember our Zackie. I was sad and tired and put my head down on Zack’s twin brother Jayden’s legs to rest. We continued to watch and suddenly it happened. I had received my sign. I felt the soft touch of fingers skating across my face. I looked up and it was Jayden’s fingers gliding across my cheek, telling me that in this, my darkest hour, everything was going to be all right. Jayden then turned to me and said “Daddy, Zackie isn’t sick anymore. He was in a box and went to heaven. And when he got to heaven, God opened the box and gave Zackie all of his toys so he can play.” Thanks for giving my little Jayden the answer he needed to satisfy his curiosity.
I’m not angry at God anymore as I transition from painful feelings to healing and growth. I just wish He gave me the choice or asked for my input. But He knew what my answer would’ve been and decided Zack is needed for a bigger cause than mine. I believe Zack is out there helping other kids like him get through their trying days ahead. I believe Zack is an angel helping those poor victims in Japan get through the devastation of the earthquake and tsunami. I believe that Zack is using his legs, his heart and his voice to help where he can. And as Michael Marshall said, I believe Zack is in a better place, “ sitting beside the King”.
Thank-you all for your heartfelt wishes, kind words and allowing me to share with you how I feel. As Bernadette Salmon wrote to me:
Paul my sincerest condolences for the loss of Zack. Please know that you are in my prayers. The days right now are as dark as can be and if I tell you it will get better I would be lying… Please know that losing a child is perhaps the worst thing a parent can ever endure….
There Where Many Moments With Zack Just Not Enough Years
The dark days continue but please know that your support is helping Heather and I get through this, minute by minute. I have heard from other parents who have lost children, and we appreciate your words of encouragement. In conclusion, I will leave you with a couple of items:
• Click on the link to watch the special tribute video created to honour our little Zackie. A Special Tribute Video to My Son Zackie Hamilton (2007 – 2011): Live Well, Laugh Much, Love Often
• We are honoured that the doctors, nurses and administration at York Central Hospital have agreed to start a campaign to raise funds to dedicate a room in the children’s ward in Zack’s Honour- Donate to Zack's Dream Room and pass along this link!
• My sister-in-law Karen gave us this poem…
WHEN GOD CALLS LITTLE CHILDREN"
When God calls little children
to dwell with him above,
We mortals sometime question
the wisdom of his love
For no heartache compares with
the death of one small child
Who does so much to make our world,
seem wonderful and mild
Perhaps God tires of calling
the aged to his fold,
So He picks a rosebud,
before he can grow old.
God knows how much we need them,
and so he takes but a few
To make the land of Heaven
more beautiful to view.
Believing this is difficult still
somehow we must try,
The saddest word mankind knows will always be "Goodbye."
So when a little child departs
we who are left behind
Must realize God loves children,
Angels are hard to find.
Friday, March 18, 2011
When our friends and nurses; Sue, Michelle, Heidi, Imelda, Marsha and others, on the Pediatric floor at York Central Hospital contacted us to say that they had started to approach the YCH Foundation for a room honouring Zack....we were amazed, overwhelmed and in awe of the impact our son made on these special women.
In his 3 years, we had come to expect frequent winter visits to York Central for pneumonia. Zack and I had it down to a routine; packing our food, medicines, clothes and toys then driving to our special hospital. We would often get to the 5th floor and staff from the Pediatric Urgent Care Clinic, nurses and even doctors of 5E, would see us again and come to say hi to their favorite “frequent flyer”.
During our usual 3-4 day stay, the amazing women on that floor would come visit us, hear what new things Zack was doing at home and try hard to make him laugh. Our revolving door of friendly caring faces, made those visits so special to both Zack and I. We never felt alone or uncomfortable. We always felt not only cared for, but special. Zack would never make pokes, temperatures or even putting on SAT probes easy for these women, but they would come to learn that by singing his favourite songs, using as little tape as possible or even making a fake sneeze, it would make this moments better for Zack.
He would be given gifts and toys by his special friends and I’m quite sure the nurses fought over who would care for him that day or night! As Zack started to feel better, we would open the door and Zack would play his drum to the delight of the team on the floor. This meant that Zack was feeling better.
Nothing could mean more to us than to give back to the place that cared so much for Zack and myself during those stays in hospital. We would be honoured to have a plaque on an Elmo room that would allow other children to have some comfort and fun while they are away from home.
Events will be coming in the Spring and Summer to reach our $25,000 goal by the fall! We would love all forms of help; like prizes, proceeds from your own business, facilities to hold events, talent to help organize events, printing help or anything to help us reach our goal. Please comment if you are interested and we will contact you soon.
Again, we feel blessed to be able to share Zack's Dreams with others....in this way, he will always live on.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
met him; including therapists, doctors, nurses, neighbours, friends and family. He amazed everyone around him with all that he accomplished in his short life, including the doctors who were constantly in awe of his willingness to fight over
the last weeks of his life. Even in his last days, we were so proud of our son and how he continued to inspire and impress those around him.
His happiest times were watching Elmo, playing drums, jumping on his trampoline, watching sports with Daddy, riding his red car down the sidewalk, eating Froot Loops and walking around the house after his brothers. Zack loved his brothers with his whole heart. He always showed excitement when they walked in the door from school...he knew the fun was about to begin. Ty will always remember watching his favourite t.v. shows in our room when Zack would walk over and push the buttons to change the channel, laughing all the way at the mischief he was causing. Jayden was forever his interpreter, telling us when Zack wanted a snack or his “soosoo”. While Zack had no words, his love for his brothers spoke volumes in the brightness in his eyes, the way he emulated them and the way they in turn cherished him.
birth. While hospitalized for pneumonia, his last days consisted of laying in bed
with me and having me be the advocate I had always been. When breathing became too hard, he would curl into me for comfort and listen me sing a sweet song in his ear so he wasn’t scared. When it came time to say goodbye, the words flowed as we thanked our incredible son for all that he had given to us and to our family. I told him how he had made me the mother that I had become...that I still have so much work to do to help other families and that I needed his strength to continue to do this work. Holding him in our arms and snuggling for the last time, our son was safe, loved and allowed to give up the fight.
Friday, March 11, 2011
September 21, 2007 - March 10, 2011
Live Well, Laugh Much, Love Often
Early in the morning on March 10, 2011, we lost a hero and our special little guy Zackie Hamilton, who died in the arms of his mommy and daddy, Heather and Paul Hamilton at Sick Kids Hospital.
Zack was born in September 2007 with a congenital heart defect known as Total Anomalous Pulmonary Venous Drainage (TAPVD). At two and a half weeks old, Zack underwent a procedure at Sick Kids to repair his heart. Zack’s survival at that time, was the first of many miracles in his life. Zack also had several other anomalies, including hearing loss, global developmental delay, feeding issues, GTube, seizures, and fluid in the brain. Though he had no official overall diagnosis, the genetics team discovered Zack had a deletion of the 12th chromosome. This deletion is the first recorded case in the world, making Zack a very special and unique little guy.
Two weeks ago, Zack was hospitalized with pneumonia and an Influenza B virus. His lungs were so severely infected, that Zack required assistance breathing. With his Mommy never leaving his side, he fought to stay strong but eventually needed to be put on a ventilator. During the intubation process, Zack's weak heart suffered a cardiac arrest. The amazing Critical Care team at Sick Kids performed CPR on Zack for 45 minutes and miraculously kept him alive. He was immediately placed on life support and just like he did his entire life, he fought the odds against him and shocked the entire medical team by surviving days after the trauma he experienced. The impact caused by the lack of oxygen to his brain during the resuscitation process, caused severe damage including an irreversible end to all of his brain activity.
When Zack was born, his future was uncertain but that never stopped him! With the help of his parents, brothers, caring therapists, friends and family, Zack lived life to the fullest! His infectious smile will be remembered by everyone who ever met him. He amazed everyone around him with all that he accomplished in his short life, including walking this past November! He inspired those around him and continued to teach lessons of perseverance, determination and resilience. He worked hard to accomplish his heart’s desire and never gave up. His happiest times were watching Elmo, playing drums, jumping on his trampoline, eating Froot Loops and walking around the house after his brothers.
Zack is already terribly missed by his very proud mommy and daddy, adoring big brother Ty, and loving twin brother Jayden. He will forever be in the hearts of Nana and Poppa (Peter and Lynda Oliver), Auntie Erin, Uncle Gary and cousin Tristan Cerrato. Forever remembered by Uncle Lorenzo and Auntie Karen Walker, Godmother Libbie Oag and several therapists, nurses, doctors and loving friends.
At 3 years old, our Zackie has touched many more people that he ever could have realized. Life is best measured by impact and not duration. In that way, Zack lived a life of incredible importance.
Visitation is on Sunday, March 13th at 2-4pm and 6-8pm. Funeral, burial and reception will be Monday, March 14th at 11am. Both being held at Elgin Mills Cemetery, 1591 Elgin Mills Rd. East, Richmond Hill.
Children are encouraged to come to participate in all aspects of the celebration of Zack’s life and to say goodbye to their little friend. We have crafts and cards for them to write messages to Zack or to Ty and Jayden. Please bring them to the visitation and service.
Please consider a donation in Zackie's honour to SickKids. They gave us three years of pure love, joy and pride with our miracle son.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
As we go through this dark time in our lives, we are comforted by the stories of Zack's 3 and a half years in our lives.
He has not only changed our family and friends forever, he has also impacted and inspired those who have never met him.
These are our stories and thoughts as we think of them...please read to know how precious our son is and how much we want to have more time with him.
Please comment with your stories below so that we can read how much our Zack has meant to you.
We have to start with Elmo- not only every night, but when Zack is upset or scared we hum Elmo's song.
Zack loves to push the tv buttons while Ty and Jayden are watching TV in our room...once they yell "no Zackie"...he runs to his room and plays with those buttons laughing all the way down the hall.
He's a natural drummer
He loves to club the couch and look out the front window (and destroy our blinds)
His favourite foods are Froot Loops and Pudding...he especially loves to do pudding fingerpainting on our table.
He LOVES to play in the bath
He has some shirts that he will not let us put over his head without making a fuss
He loves to empty the dishwasher
Zack once threw a full bottle of red wine off our landing...what a waste!!!
Every book on my bookstand has no cover...in recent months Zack has loved to tear them off in shreds and laugh
When Zack gives you a hug...he reaches his hands up and brings you in close.
While he can only say some sounds verbally, he can hum Elmo's World theme and Jingle Bells
He loves his trampoline and his red car
He hates hats!
When he smiles, his "walnut" cheek can show us from behind that he is happy
Ty is his hero...he looks up at Ty and smiles with admiration
Jayden blames Zackie for dumping the laundry basket, breaking things and eating chocolates, when he is to blame!!