Heather sits down with Crystal, the mother of Austin. Austin’s story hits close to home, as their work with Jake’s Help From Heaven was something that deeply touched the team. Reminiscing with Crystal on their unpredictable, yet fun journey of building Austin his very own wheelchair platform swing, brought laughter, tears, and joy.

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BONUS: Charles Wait, Jr.

BONUS: Charles Wait, Jr.

Charlie Wait, Jr. was born with a rare heart condition and had emergency surgery as a baby. He is now the President of Adirondack Trust Company.

Transcript: *Disclaimer: This is an automated transcript. Please excuse spelling and grammar errors. 

Heather Straughter 0:06
Life is so different. Yeah,

Crystal 0:07
I used to at the beginning, always feel guilty anytime I would do something that would either like make me happy or bring me joy or take me out of it for a little bit, you know, because it’s like, wait, I’m not supposed to feel like, you know, so I would always have that guilt.

Heather Straughter 0:24
There are a few things in life, I think that it doesn’t matter how old you are. But when you do them, it takes you right back. One of those things for me is when you are at a playground and you find a swing set, and you kind of sit on a swing, it takes you back to being a kid and feeling that freedom and feeling the wind and all of those things. It’s just one of those moments that I don’t think it matters how old you are, but it makes you feel young again. Sometimes that is such an emotion that you can just take for granted. And in the story that I share with Krystal and Austin. It was an experience that it took a while for Austin to be able to have because he’s in a wheelchair. And most playgrounds don’t have platform wheelchair swings. And when Krystal found one, she wanted to bring that home, she wanted to have that experience for Austin as often as he could. And it was one of our most amazing yeses.

Welcome to a place of yes, a podcast about how I moved through my darkest hour. And for me, that was in channeling my grief into good. Welcome to the show. But first, it’s time for our review of the week. If you’re looking for a podcast that will invariably reduce you to tears. But leave you feeling so good about the world. This is that podcast. I can’t wait to hear the next story. And the next one after that. And the next one after that. I love that it brought people to tears, but also, more importantly focused on the joy and the happiness and all that is channeling grief for good. Hi, Crystal. Hi. I am so happy to see you. It has been how many years do you think?

Crystal 2:11
Oh my gosh, a long time. I feel like the last time I saw you.

Heather Straughter 2:16
Was it at Starbucks when we met at Starbucks was that?

Crystal 2:19
I think so. I do remember that. I don’t know what year it was. No, I

Heather Straughter 2:24
have no I mean, I don’t know if it is four years ago or 10 years ago. I really have no idea. I don’t need the passage of time. Right. Yeah, crazy. So can you tell me a little bit about you? And Austin and just your family and give me a

Crystal 2:37
little background? Yeah, of course. Gosh, I had Austin when I was 25. Back in 2004. He was just my world. You know, he was born with a lot of health issues, which led into a lot of special care. But I was ready for it. Did you know I did? Okay. Yes. I found out via amniocentesis that he had an abnormal chromosome. He had ring 18. Okay, which is very, very rare. And the doctors really didn’t know how he was going to develop. So with that we had cerebral palsy and Holyoake pros and stuffily, which is missing the forebrain vision impairments just as time went on a lot of other things develop that we found, but it

Heather Straughter 3:26
was all good. What a smiley Yeah.

Crystal 3:28
Oh my gosh, he had the best smile and the best sense of humor, you could definitely read his facial expressions.

Heather Straughter 3:34
You should always say that too. Because people would sometimes be like, Well, how do you know what Jake is thinking? I’m like, he makes it very, very clear. You know, he would have like a side eye that he could give you when he did not like when you were feeding him or if you woke him up or whatever the thing was, I mean, he could give you a look. Yeah, but that on the other side, though that look, that was the happy look. It could just melt you instantly. Oh, for sure. So let’s go back to when you first applied to Jake’s help from having Can you walk us through that? Yeah,

Crystal 4:01
I first applied I think pretty early of 2016. He went to Langan at the Center for Disability Services. And he just loved swinging. I would always get a note home every day. You know, Austin was on the playground. He really loves the swing, you know, so I ended up getting him kind of like hammock swing for inside the house. And we would put a little tumble form seat in it and he would swing you know, in the doorframe and he would just love it. And finally I was like no, he needs something for outside, you know, because there’s not a lot of things he could really do outside. Being in the wheelchair and stuff and just regular playgrounds didn’t have the equipment.

Heather Straughter 4:43
I think they’re getting better now but certainly then they didn’t they are getting better. But yeah, back

Crystal 4:47
then I really didn’t have a lot so I was just like, You know what, let’s see if we can get one why not? You know, we’re not going anywhere. This is our home. I applied and fingers crossed we heard heard from you guys. We got the letter in the mail. And it was fantastic. The

Heather Straughter 5:04
application came in and it was for a legitimate wheelchair platform sway. Yes. And I remember the board discussion around that because there was the absolute like, wholehearted Yes. That we just wanted to like, this is exactly what we want to do. We want to create joy, we want to make a difference. This is going to make Austin happy. But then there was sort of the practical side of which my husband was kind of one of them because he’s like, this is not just a swing that we can build, like we need to a like this is going to involve concrete. And this is going to involve digging, we have to do this right if we’re going to do this, and I’m like, but it’s just a yes. So the board was I don’t want to say divided because everyone wanted to do it. But it was sort of the emotional versus the practical. Yeah. And you know, we talked it through and we realized that we had a group of people, not necessarily just our board members, but friends. And we could reach out to people who would help us make this happen. I can remember some of those discussions like it was yesterday, because this was just one of those apps that just, we just knew if we could pull this off, it was going to be great. I remember reaching out to just our friends and you know, our friend Chris Bennett, who he’s a he’s an expert carpenter. But this was like going to be right up his alley. So he was who we brought. And I think we did it over Thanksgiving weekend. Yes. Yes. It was right around Thanksgiving. Rena was here with us. Yeah. And then all the kids were home. So it was like two families just came out. And I looked through those pictures. And it was it was great. Yeah, it was really though it was one of those where we had to make a real plan about it, though, because it was not just a lot of our things are easier. You know, it’s like you can buy this and or we write the check and reimburse, or it’s an instant feel good. This was sort of a Alright, how can we pull this off? Yeah, but I think that I had it sent to your house, right? And it was just arrived and these, like, it

Crystal 6:51
had to be like, boxes? Yes. Yep, I remember. I think you emailed if I remember correctly, I think you emailed me and you’re like, okay, there should be a shipment coming on this day at this time. And I was like, okay, and

Heather Straughter 7:05
I didn’t mind I was thinking it was I was just like, it’s coming in. And we’ll come in a couple days and build it

Crystal 7:10
giant boxes. I don’t remember if there was a forklift involved, but it was I was like, Oh, my goodness, what is happening? What is getting? pulled it off somehow. But I can just remember being like in the backyard and watching you guys. And it was just everybody all around. And it was just like the meeting of the minds like, Okay, this is how we have to do it. This is how we’re going to strategize. And it was fantastic. Because I wouldn’t have been able to do it. I can tell you that it

Heather Straughter 7:37
was such a great day too. Because I think Chris and Ellen’s three kids were there. And Ethan and Serena. Yeah, they remember that day. Like we still talk about that day with that like, because to them that was just this kind of Holy Cow fun adventure, right? Like it was just something different. We didn’t finish it that first day.

Crystal 7:52
No, no, no, I can’t even remember how many days it was one. And then

Heather Straughter 7:57
I started I feel like there was like famous last words of mine that I was like, okay, promise, we just have like, 45 minutes left. And Brian’s like, why would you say that? And I was like, because it’s not going to take like, I just never think things are going to take as long I just don’t I’m like I just like nothing left. And he’s like, it’s gonna take longer. I can I can remember this like it was yesterday. So I’m sure you can to Austin sitting on your back ramp, right, like, bundled up in his New York Giants jacket. Just waiting. Just waiting. Yep, yeah.

Crystal 8:22
Waiting patiently because you said it was gonna take 45 minutes. So I went inside and I got so close. I got him dressed, got his hat on. And just he’s sitting there just bundles all up waiting, waiting. And I’m like, I promised it’s gonna be done fairly soon. But he was great. Yeah, he went out there and just was, like,

Heather Straughter 8:42
I used to always say this with Jake too, right. Like, I think when you put them in front of something that is different than their norm. It’s just like any kid that it’s just It stimulates them differently. And I think he kind of was like, What the hell is yeah, you could

Crystal 8:54
just see him kind of like look in and like the eyes would roll and he would like kind of side eye over at me. And I’m like, This is gonna be your swing, you know? And I think once he got on it is when he realized like, Okay, this is what I have. This is great.

Heather Straughter 9:07
Oh, and he had such a great smile.

Crystal 9:08
I felt terrible, though. I felt so bad. I’m like, Oh my gosh, they’re working so hard. I didn’t realize it was gonna be like this, like you said, yeah. Oh, like, I didn’t realize it was gonna take so many hours. And I was just like, No, I want this. Let’s see if we can get

Heather Straughter 9:22
it. I like this story, though. Because it’s always at the heart of sort of what Jake saw from heaven does, right, Jake saw from heaven. It’s a nonprofit foundation. We are dedicated to creating opportunities for those with disabilities to thrive. And this is exactly what that platform wheelchair did. Right. It gave these chances that ordinarily would like you said would be hard to come by like he’s either in a swing like makeshift swing that you’re trying to keep him safe but at home or you’re traveling all over trying to find one. And here you know, we have this opportunity to give this gift and I say when we do these things too and because I think of it as as being Jake’s Mom, it’s not just a gift for Austin. It’s a gift for everybody in his life, right? Because like you did that for him, right? Like you gave that to him. And then you get to see joy and you get to see happiness and you get to see your kid. Be a kid. Yeah, I always wanted Jake to have those same experiences that Ethan did. It came easier for Ethan. But it didn’t mean I didn’t want Jake to be able to just be a kid, right? Oh, for

Crystal 10:22
sure. It definitely changed our lives. Because I mean, we were outside more. He was he was just happy. Anytime he was in that swing. He was just beaming and happy. And we could go out there whenever we wanted. Because it was right there in the backyard. And

Heather Straughter 10:36
if I remember correctly, you had some of the most amazing sunsets. Yeah, are still do. I guess I still am. Yeah. They were beautiful. Yeah,

Crystal 10:44
yeah, he would be out there any chance we got any chance we got? And I think the winter was kind of mild that year, too. So we’re actually out there quite a bit. Because like you said, you know, we got it. Thanksgiving weekend it was installed. So you know, we pretty much used it a lot in the wintertime. And then, you know, mostly March made a huge difference for him. And for all of us. How did you learn about Jake’s? So I actually learned about it through work. Okay, so working at the preschool. So we’ve had a few applicants

Heather Straughter 11:13
recently, you’ve had some

Crystal 11:16
on your website, and that’s awesome. That’s awesome. Yeah. So I love it. But that’s how I found out about it originally. And I was like, you know, I was like, this could be something that would benefit Austin. So I looked it up and googled it and read a little bit about it. And I was like, Yeah, let’s do this. Download the application. We’ll print it out. Yeah, at that point, we

Heather Straughter 11:42
have mail. Very fancy, you can do it right online. Look at that. I

Crystal 11:46
didn’t have that pleasure. Yet, then you just have to wait. And it’s like, Oh, I wonder if they got it? Did they? Oh, man, I don’t know. It just brought him such joy and such happiness. I mean, it just I also felt like it almost gave him like a sense of freedom, like, and just being able to experience what every other child can experience, you know, because my sister can take my nephew to the park and put them on a swing and you know, go for a couple hours or you know, you see other kids out playing and utilizing things and it just wasn’t that easy for him. So I think just having the swing there at home made it so much easier. And like it was hard to because I say back then. But, you know, you would see you know, there’s an all inclusive playground here, or you know, this place has handicap accessibility, and we load up the car and we drive and we go to these places, and he still wouldn’t be able to do it. You know, it just wouldn’t be right for him. That was

Heather Straughter 12:42
I think one of the heart most heartbreaking things that I would experience with Jake right because exactly that you’d be like, Oh, an inclusive playground opened up in Ballston spa, like, Okay, let’s go, you know, and I’d get Ethan and I get Jake and I was like, finally I can bring my boys like to the playground. I get it certainly served some special needs, but not my boys. All

Crystal 13:00
right. Exactly. Exactly. Because like you would get there. And you know, some of them I think it was even the one that they in Milton, I think yes, I Yeah, new one, but not anymore new. But that back then. And it was mostly just accessible to get on it. You know, it was like the ramps and you could go up but then like, once you got up there, there really wasn’t any Yeah, no, yeah, to do so. It was just hard in that aspect. So I think just bringing it to him kind of like a mini playground, so to speak to him was fantastic. So you kept it up for a while, didn’t you? So I kept it up for a while. I still have the frame up. And I have a regular bench swing on it that I sit on in the summer months. And we actually built a garden right there in that grassy area. So right in front of the tree. There’s just kind of like Austin’s memory garden, and the swing is part of it. I do still have the platform piece. It’s in my shed. I tried getting to donate it to places and stuff. I’m still trying I still contact people every now and then. But I love

Heather Straughter 14:05
so much. I don’t think I realized that you put like a regular swing on it. And I love that so much. That’s awesome.

Crystal 14:12
Yeah, yeah, I have just a regular swing on it. I think I got it from Wayfarer with like a little cushion. And I sit out there and I read I listen to the wind chimes and that’s awesome. It just kind of brings me peace and kind of like that. He’s there with me. You know, my sister’s kid will come over and he loves to swing so he’ll sit on it and we’ll all hang out and it’s just really nice. So

Heather Straughter 14:32
Austin, as people may have gathered from the way we’re talking about him is no longer with us. That wasn’t that long after the swing was

Crystal 14:40
it now? Unfortunately not and I felt terrible. Oh stop because of that. But yeah, so the swing was installed in November of 2016. And then Austin ended up passing away in April 2017. So he only had it for pretty much the winter months and justice like it started to get warmer than

Heather Straughter 15:00
I remember I was in New York City. Oh, I was in New York City. I don’t always remember all of this stuff. But I remember I was in New York City, and I saw something on Facebook. And I think I texted you. And I was like, holy shit. Like, I’ve said this before on the podcast, and just sort of in general, like, the work that we do a jigsaw from heaven, this the population that we work with, obviously, it’s very close to home for us. But this is this is just the population, it’s the the risk of the work we do is we come in contact with these amazing families, who unfortunately, often have the same outcome that we did. But the fact of the matter is, I love to think of that smile. And like I said, I feel like it was yesterday, like, you know, I had to ask you how long it was because I can remember that smile from him. And for you the gift you gave him for his last four months, right? Like, what a joyful a the gift you gave him every day, because you took such great care of him, and you found something that was going to make a difference for him. And yet you advocated and you got it. And we made it happen, because

Crystal 15:56
he was definitely happy. You know, right, those four months that he had it, he was so happy. And I just knew that that’s something that he would want, you know, without him even telling me he would want it just because I know the reaction of how he would be at home inside with the little swing and stuff. But no, he definitely had happiness in the end. So

Heather Straughter 16:16
So 2017, so six years and a half a little bit. Yeah. So how are you six years later? It’s a loaded question. Yeah. I never know how to answer it. So I don’t know why ask it. Depends on the moment. Yeah, exactly.

Crystal 16:32
It depends on the day, it depends on the minute sometimes it’s just I don’t know, some days, I feel like I’m doing really, really good. And then like, sometimes it’ll just hit me like, and then I’m just not know.

Heather Straughter 16:43
And sometimes, at least I’m in this phase now a little bit where it’s, you know, it’s been a long time. It’s been since 2010. So it’s been a long time. Like, he’s been gone three times, as long as he was alive. More than that, right? Because he passed away when he was four knees and gone 13 years and like something about that is just hard on my head. It’s all that yeah, like, it’s hard to wrap my head around. I don’t know what to do with it. You know, I don’t know. There’s still I don’t want to say guilt. But there’s the life has gone on, you know, life has gone on. We’ve got Jakes and it’s doing really well. And we’re working really hard. And, you know, we’re doing it all in his memory and giving me a reason to talk about him. But it’s life has just gone on, like, Ethan’s at college, he has a girlfriend, we’re traveling while he’s in we have empty nest syndrome, right? Like we’re keeping ourselves busy. It’s not supposed to be this way, you know, and I guess, I don’t want to say I feel guilty, but it makes me almost sad or in such a different way, like, but I feel like I’m sad or lately, even though it’s that much longer. And it’s a different kind of sadness, but it’s just life is so different. Yeah, you know, I

Crystal 17:44
used to in the beginning, always feel guilty anytime I would do something that wouldn’t either, like, make me happy or bring me joy, or take me out of it for a little bit, you know, because it’s like, wait, I’m not supposed to feel like, you know, so I would always have that guilt. I still do. Every now and then, you know, it’s like, I shouldn’t be going out. You know, sometimes for me, it’s just as simple as going to Starbucks and getting myself a cup of coffee. You know, like, that’s something that I’m going to do for myself. getting my nails done, you know, there’s just little simple things like that, where I’m like, it’s okay to treat myself every now and then. So like, Yes, I’m gonna do this. My newest thing that was really hard for me, is my partner and I went to Myrtle Beach in April. And it was happened to be the week of the date where Austin passed. He passed on April 11. So we did that this past year. And it was really hard for me to do that. Because I felt like, no, I need to be home. You know, I need to be home and used to be at his graveside. And like, that’s just what I do on April 11. Every year for the past however many years, we just decided to just pack up and go away and leave it. And that was a huge thing for me, because normally I just would not do that I would have guilt. So I said yes. And we did it. And you know, I just I feel like wherever I am, I carry it with me. It took me a while as I’m sitting on the beach, just listening to the waves and it’s quiet, to come to that conclusion. Like you know what, like, No, I’m not home or I’m not local, but like I needed this. And like, even though I’m not there, and I’m not doing the things that I would typically be doing year after year on that date. You know, it’s still with me, no matter where I am, you know, whether I’m in North Carolina, or back in wrestler, it’s the heartache, the grief, like it’s still with me, but that was huge. And I’m so glad I did it for myself. Like we had a great time. And it was hard to have a good time but because

Heather Straughter 19:53
it’s almost like society sort of tells you right like yeah, have a good time. But no, I think that’s it. I think that’s a great Exam. Mm hmm.

Crystal 20:01
And I think to just with like, my job, so I’m a preschool teacher I work, you know, with kids with special needs, some similar to Austin, some not. You know, but I get up every day. And I’m Yes, I’m going to do this. Because even though sometimes I’m around kids, and you know, it does make me sad, like, there’s joy in it, you know, they’re funny, I love going there. I know that I make a difference to them. And they make a difference to me, even though they may not know it. That’s what that’s my Yes.

Heather Straughter 20:33
You know, and I think I’ve said it before, right? You make the decision every day. And I had don’t have to make the decision as deliberately as I used to, but like, in those beginning days, it was like, Okay, what are you going to do for yourself? What are you going to do to find happiness? And, you know, and I was lucky in the early days, where I would have friends show up with a cup of coffee and say, we’re going for a walk, you know, get out get fresh air? And, you know, what did I say movement is medicine, right? So I started running like, I really, I was a little concerned that if I did not keep myself busy during the day, I would like, hit the booze or do something. You know what I mean? Like that, because it’s just dark, finding those ways of just like, Okay, I’m gonna go for a run. And then that’s where the whole Cardinal thing happened, because I would, I was running tons of miles. And I remember coming home from some of my runs, and I would be like, Brian, this Cardinal is like, stalking me. Like, everywhere I turn, there’s a freaking Cardinal. And then I was kind of like, Oh, it must be Jake. So then I was on this whole, like, Cardinal kick for a while. I did not know at the time that it’s a real thing. Yeah. Like, I had no idea. Then also people are like, you know, cardinals are a thing. Google it. And I Googled it. And I was like, oh, so A, it’s really Jake. Yeah. But B, I didn’t know like I don’t, it just became very like that, to me became this thing that helped, you know, to the point of finding those moments and finding them, there’s also the importance of sometimes, and they’re very few and far between now, but there are those days where it’s just sucks. And I think you just lean into it sometimes. Right? Like, sometimes it’s just about, I don’t know, laying in bed, or sometimes it’s just about crying and being sad and being moody and, and I have those moments, and I often have them around his birthday, I have them around this time of year, I have learned to just be a part of it, you know, like because it’s a full time job to stay positive and to stay happy and to make the choices and, and well, they’re less deliberate. Now they are deliberate choices, it’s a choice to not go down that dark road.

Crystal 22:33
And it’s so hard because in the beginning, when Austin did first pass, like, I just wanted to be left alone, you know, I didn’t want to see anybody I didn’t want to talk about it. And it did, it took me a while, probably at least like a couple months, if that I can probably put a timeframe on it. But it took me a while to just kind of be like, You know what, Crystal like you need to not like you need to be able to just get up and get your routine going and get out of bed and be a nice human being. Be a human again. You know, so it took me a while to get to that place. Because I’ve always been a positive person, you know, I’ve always been upbeat and happy. And it just, it knocked me down for a while after that. And it, it’s hard to stay positive. And it is it’s almost like a full time job like, right

Heather Straughter 23:18
it is it’s like you have to really lock in. Yeah. And I wonder if your situation was sort of similar to like, I would hear people would say stuff dear friends of mine would be like, like, it’s like they, they thought that I was prepared for it because he was sick or something. And I’m always like, no, like, we lived a life where we actually thought that Jake was gonna be with us for a really long time. Like, let’s say he was gonna live to be 90. But you know, we were certainly our plans in our life was to make accommodations in our house, like figure out how to get an elevator once he got too heavy to for meat or Brian to carry him, you know, get the right vehicle. Sometimes people will say like, Oh, you guys traveled too much. You live such a great life. We live a life a little better running away from our house. Like we live a little bit of that. And we live it a little bit in honor of Jake, because we didn’t do any of that when he was alive. And frankly, I wish I’d never traveled anywhere because I was home with him. You know what I mean? Like if I had to choose, I would certainly choose being home with him. Yeah, absolutely. So some of that comes because it’s I don’t know, it’s a way that we kind of choose to honor Him because like you said, you know, once you figure out that he’s with you, whether you’re sitting at his grave or you’re on vacation, it makes it a little easier. And it feels like I don’t know, sometimes I’m like, I’m showing him the world too. So it’s everything’s just more loaded when you have an experience like that, you know, it’s never sort of what it seems. I agree. I hadn’t had it in a while but I feel like and I don’t know if it’s that Ethan’s gone to college. I don’t know if that’s triggering things because I feel like when Ethan left for college, it wasn’t just this. Oh my God, my baby’s going to college. It was also wait, we were supposed to like Jake was still supposed to be home. You know what I mean? Like it just made it seem I don’t know, even emptier. It raised some things that I didn’t know we’re still there.

Crystal 24:58
Something can trigger like that I feel you know, and it’s just

Heather Straughter 25:03
then you’re there and dark, right? It goes dark. So we’re coming up. I always call these like my dark days because we’re on December 8 will be his 13th Fear still, like on those days, you know, we have our cantina day and we do things we have. We try to get out of town and we try to focus on other things. Yeah, but I just an adult it starts about now it starts on my dad’s birthday, which is Monday, where I remember that that year, like and for whatever reason, like, I know why, because on November 20, of 2008, he broke his femur. His bones were so fragile that like he just in his sleep broke his femur, I remember that vividly. And then all of it like it was my dad’s birthday. So I it just stands out. And then that Thanksgiving, and then you know, we were in Boston, and all of the things that led up to it, like, I just couldn’t remember the days, you know, and so around this time of year, I just get it’s not sadness, but I just get really locked in and kind of like bitchy.

Crystal 25:58
Yes, I also like,

Heather Straughter 26:01
yeah, you know, like, and then I get mad at myself, because I don’t want to be like that. But it’s,

Crystal 26:05
but I feel like that’s a natural way to deal with it. Like, that’s just a natural reaction and a natural feeling because I do the same thing. You know? And for me, it’s just the holidays, right? Yeah. Because Austin loved Christmas. You know, like Christmas was big for him. He loved the lights, he loved the stuff, music, just everything.

Heather Straughter 26:23
Well, it’s just such a time a year that for our kids. It’s so much stimulation, right? Like, even like your house has more stuff going on. Like everything is just kind of exactly what our kids need to you know, that’s what they

Crystal 26:35
love. And they crave. Yeah,

Heather Straughter 26:36
right. And it’s like, it’s like six weeks of just non stop. Yeah. And so

Crystal 26:41
like, for me, like, I just get so mad, like Christmas is coming. And then I get into this place. And you know, my partner is like Captain Christmas. I always like joke about it. Because I’m like, I don’t want to decorate this year. I don’t want to put up the tree or, you know, I just I just want to not do it, you know? But no, it happens. And in the end, I am happy about it. In the beginning, I put up such a fight and I can be so mean, no,

Heather Straughter 27:06
I can’t. We don’t have a lot of people that know what we feel. And then sometimes people tell you, they you know and you like I just want to like even in the beginning, it would piss me off more. But now I’m like, No, you have no idea.

Crystal 27:18
You really don’t. Yeah, I’m not even gonna try to explain to you. I’m good thanks. until you’ve actually lived it or gone through it, I don’t think there’s a way to put into words how you feel inside.

Heather Straughter 27:32
It’s funny because this is not the same at all. But I felt a little bit in the weeks after we dropped Ethan off at college. I had that like pit in my stomach, which it was not the same at all, but just that like, like hole in my heart a little bit like trying to you know, it’s, it’s not the same, but it’s as close as I’ve had to it just that light. It’s like those moments, right? Where life is different. And it’s never going to be the same. And this is obviously not the same. But I remember thinking like I haven’t felt this like almost like you’re gonna throw up. Yeah, like that’s, I mean, it’s like, I felt like rafter Jake died. I just I was on the verge of almost going to throw up for months and months. Like just and I had to just for a couple days with Ethan you know, but just that kind of right? You know that that feeling of just it’s hard to describe it just like, it’s

Crystal 28:16
almost like, oh, here we go again, like life is gonna change what you know, what’s gonna happen once you’ve

Heather Straughter 28:21
had that horrible change, right? Like the worst change? It’s just like, I don’t know, it was like, I think this is PTSD. Pretty much. Yeah, it’s a form of this, to me, I think was one of the very first applications that came in and deliveries in full cycles where I was like, This is what I’m meant to be doing. This is exactly it. Austin was similar to Jake, we have a handful of kids that we help that are like Jake, and then we have a lot that are very deserving of our help. But they’re not quite like Jake. I don’t know. There’s the feeling of like, you know, when you’re a kid is always the sickest kid in the room, even when you’re surrounded by sick kids. Yeah, there’s an isolation, I think with special needs kids. And then there’s an even more isolation when your kid is, is that kid? Yeah. For me when we were able to see this through, and I think it’s why I advocated so hard for it, even though I knew it was going to be complicated was because giving, giving Austin a moment, like you’ve kind of described but just giving him giving him as a playground, that no one else would, you know, meant something, you know, and we have a handful of kiddos that to me will just always ring a little bit more close to my heart because it’s what I would have wanted for Jake. And it’s what I would have given Jake if I could have and that doesn’t mean that some of the other kids that we’re helping aren’t also 100% Like neat, you know, I mean, like, like I love what we do for all of them, but there are there’s those ones that just really stand out and I think Austin was one of the first that to me was like, This is what I could have done for Jay So we’re doing it for Austin, putting that

Crystal 30:02
hard work into it, like, for me, I was just like, wow. Like, I knew there were good people out there. But like, This is crazy. Like, these guys are great. Like, for me, I just thought you guys were literally miracle workers, because you gave Austin’s something that, I mean, I could have given him but he was just so joyful. And just to see that smile on his face, any time he used that swing, was just the greatest gift that I could have had, and you guys put blood sweat, maybe even some tears, see

Heather Straughter 30:41
into the swear words. I heard that I was like, you probably heard those.

Crystal 30:48
Yeah, but I mean, it just, it really made me feel like, wow, like, these people are here doing this for my son, you know, they don’t know Him, they don’t need to do this. It was just, I’m just very grateful for you guys. You know, and I always talk very highly of Jake’s help from heaven in my population. And where I work, you know, I try to refer as many people as I can there, you know, just because it does mean a lot to me. You know,

Heather Straughter 31:18
when when we first were trying to figure out what Jake saw from Heaven was going to be about. And, you know, I started thinking about it in the days that Jake passed, because I really, I had to do something, you know, and I just I had given up my career, I’d given up working like I’d given up sort of everything to take care of him once he got sick. And I didn’t, I didn’t know what was gonna happen without him. You know, I knew I had to stick around and be a good mom for Ethan, but I wasn’t sure how to fill, fill that void. And it was in those days that we kind of came up with this idea. And we came up with the name and we had this sort of mission. And it wasn’t until we started approving the grants and kind of figuring out what our model was, like, when we realized that it wasn’t just about ordering something and buying something for someone. It was about the whole process. And you touched on it when you said you know, yes, I could have given them this. But imagine that right? Like if you had to a save the money, pay for it. Get the shipment find someone to build it, you know, on top of taking care I don’t think people always understand it’s 24/7 care even when your child’s at school you’re kind of on edge What if something happens even when they’re sleeping? You know, oh, they get an ear infection well, for Austin or Jake an ear infection could send you right down the road. You know, everything is so hard so part of what we wanted to do and Brian really kind of in those early days was like well I’m gonna build it because what good is it if we don’t build it for them? You know, we want to otherwise you’re giving them this gift but you’re then giving them the burden of having to build it or having to find the time to set it up.

Crystal 32:55
And you guys felt like family for the few days. I feel like we connected right away with a new best friend. Oh, this girl’s great. We’re gonna get along fantastic. We just basically moved in

Heather Straughter 33:15
we may have reached the portion where you get to ask me anything. Oh

Crystal 33:21
well, let’s start light All right, let’s do it. What is your go to? Let’s say fast food.

Heather Straughter 33:26
That’s an interest. I don’t eat a ton of fast food. That’s a very boring answer, Heather. I know totally boring.

Crystal 33:32
I kind of figured that was gonna be the answer.

Heather Straughter 33:35
Well, you know I will like I like a good like five guys burger. Or a Five Guys hot dog even I love their hot dogs are delicious on the grill with grilled jalapeno and grilled onion. See now jalapeno I can leave onions yes you know I don’t do it a lot but that’s always a good go to I’ve never had Chick fil A. I like a good greasy pizza. I like a sloppy greasy pick. They like foldable piece of pizza. Yeah, I’ll take that out again. Oh, toppings. I often will like just cheese. It feels like for a grease Yeah, like foldable cheese. Yep.

Crystal 34:09
So I do I do want to know though how far or how long after a jig pass? Did you know you wanted to do Jake’s up for heaven. So

Heather Straughter 34:20
literally days really? We I remember being in the car and just being like we have to do something we have to do something and Brian me like okay, do what and I was like we have to do like we have to help kids like Jake like and just like Demand Media and manic like Oh,

Crystal 34:33
wow. Like, like no, we

Heather Straughter 34:36
have to. So he passed December 8 We were incorporated as a 501 C three March 17. Oh my goodness. Wow. Like I found I was like I need an attorney. I found an attorney. She helped us out. She was really gifted at like that was her thing like she could do not get nonprofits certified like I had been hearing stories of nonprofits that took years to get their certification. We got it on St. Patrick’s Day, wow, I went promptly to the party glass and had a beer. So we just knew, and we reached out to, you know, an accountant and said, you know, how do we get this set up. And I remember his advice to us was, if you want to be taken seriously, and you want to do this, you cannot just invite your friends and family to be on your board, you have to be thoughtful about your board. And you have to ask people that each have a different role. And you have to sort of be able to explain that. And Brian and I took that very seriously. And we asked people who we kind of thought each filled a particular pocket, or had like a little area of expertise that they could bring to it. And we still have some of our original board members. So I’m trying to think how many as we invite people to join the board, we still do that we don’t just invite like our besties, right, or like, we invite people who are going to add something to the meetings and contribute to the decisions we knew early on. And I think we always felt kind of fortunate that when we needed to travel to Boston, we had means like, we were able to do it. And I remember just like during that 117 day hospital stay. At one point, Jake had a roommate, I remember him so vividly, because his parents who were lovely, lovely people, but they both worked. And they couldn’t get there. And this poor little boy was sometimes just, you know, days without a visitor. I was just brokenhearted for the family. Because I knew that we were going through something horrible, but we were like Brian didn’t work the entire time and still had his job when he came back. You know, we were fortunate that we could handle what was thrown to us with comfort. I wanted everyone to be able to sit with their kid if they were sick at the hospital. Yeah, I wanted to help. Thank you for coming on. Oh, God, it was so great to have you. Because I feel like we had a really nice walk down memory lane.

Crystal 36:50
Yes, I was very happy to accept your advice and coming. So thank you.

Heather Straughter 36:54
Thank you. So thank you for listening to that episode, I loved the conversation with crystal and catching up and talking about Austin. And I love when she shares how she still uses the swing in the area where it was as this moment as this place where she connects with Austin and where she reflects. And I think about how important that is for moms who’ve had this loss. Because you need a place where you can feel close, and I know I have my places. I’m just so grateful that I have this connection with her. And I’m also grateful that Jake saw from Heaven was not only able to provide something for her son, but for her to our next episode is a little bit different. We are not interviewing someone who is immediately connected to Jake are part of the Jake’s hello from Heaven family. We are interviewing Gillian Benfield, she is an author. She wrote the book The gift of the unexpected. She’s also a former newscaster and we talk a lot about the moment when your life changes the moment when you had a before and an after. And we sort of share stories about where our lives intersect and what we do with the things that cause us to change. One of the things that we connected about was advocacy and how committed we are to making change. I think you’ll really enjoy the conversation. I hope you’ll stay tuned.