Perrier’s son was diagnosed with Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome. In this episode, Heather and Perrier discuss societal struggles, balancing work and care giving, and coping with grief.

They highlight the importance of empathy, self-care, and strong support systems. Heather and Perrier also emphasize recognizing and celebrating the individuality of children with special needs.

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

Cait 0:08
Anybody that knows me, like really knows me knows about Jake and knows the impact he’s had on my life. They know that I loved him. And, you know, I still love him. And I am still full of grief about it, as I’m sure you are.

Heather Straughter 0:23
Welcome to a place of Yes. I’m your host, Heather strutture, a podcast about how I moved through my darkest hour. And all I can say is I dug deep, figured out where I was in where I wanted to be. And for me, the answer was in a place of love into the show. But first, it’s time for our review of the week. May this touch the hearts and souls of listeners, and remind us all to be grateful for our many blessings, very powerful to hear firsthand how these folks chose to make their most painful and tragic loss into serving others in need. excited to hear more, what I loved about that review is that it talks about the reminder to be grateful for our blessings. And it’s something that you would think that I do all the time, but I but I don’t. And we all have to remember whether we’ve suffered loss or not to just be grateful for what we have and the people that are in our lives, and to truly see the good and not just focus on the bad. So I love that review. Hi, I’m Heather stronger. And I am here today with Kate Carson, who is actually Kate Dingman. Now, but she will always be Kate Carson. To me. This is a really exciting conversation that I’ve been looking forward to having for quite some time. And for those of you’ve been following the show, a lot of the conversations have been with families that have been impacted by Jake sell from Heaven families I’ve known for a long time. And Kate is a little bit of a different guest. She is someone who I have known entirely through Jake, I first met her when Jake started preschool at Prospect school. And she was assigned as his one to one. I don’t know, Jake was three years old, I think. And I remember I was a bundle of nerves because Jake, up until that point got all of his therapies at home. Everything was just really safe, right? Because everyone came to the house. They were expecting me to drop him off and leave him. And they clearly didn’t know. Like the remember in the beginning. I did not I just stayed in the little room and like stalked the teachers. Well, I

Cait 2:24
didn’t know that because it was a one way mirror. So you didn’t know i No, no, I didn’t leave. I mean, I assumed you were in there. But you know. So

Heather Straughter 2:31
Jake got a one to one. And it was Kate. And instantly. And I think you know this, because we’ve talked sort of about everything. But right from that get go, I just felt better. Because I knew that you had his back and that you were going to make sure it was okay. I’ve just already did a lot of talking. But can you let the audience know a little bit? And can you remember back then to when you first met us? And you first met Jake and what that was like for you? Yeah,

Cait 2:57
I can just remember you guys coming in to the classroom. And him being in that stroller, I think it was red was a red stroller. And he had that curly hair and just that look on his face. You know, you guys were so positive, it felt like and welcoming. And I feel like almost instantly, we sort of clicked. For me it was a little nerve wracking at first with Jake, because like you said he’s not verbal or didn’t really communicate in any way. But soon, I felt very close to him, you know, and just going through the activities of the day and all of that. And

Heather Straughter 3:30
I don’t think I’m trying to remember I don’t think I even let him stay the full day. In the beginning. It was

Cait 3:35
I don’t I don’t think he ever stayed full days. It was half days. Yeah. And then I would go and give everybody else their breaks. But I loved mornings because I

Heather Straughter 3:43
would like I just was like I felt like six hours without me was like I just didn’t feel like that was something that I could do. Yeah. So and then when I did when I finally was like, okay, like it’s time to go. I would go to like Starbucks right at exit 19 I’d like get a coffee and then I would come back. Go back.

Cait 3:57
Yeah. That one way mirror was a really good, it was a really great thing.

Heather Straughter 4:01
So you worked at Prospect. Can you talk a little bit about yourself, tell us how you ended up at Prospect and what you liked about that job. I started

Cait 4:08
working at Prospect my my stepmom actually worked in the office. And I was just recently out of high school. I wasn’t really sure I wanted to go to college or anything like that. But I knew I loved children. So she helped get me in there. And I think I worked there for like a week or two before they put me with Jake. And I can just remember the day. I’m like wheeling and and just being excited to have one child that I was like going to bond with and go throughout the day with circle time playing all that stuff. And it’s just really great. You know, at first it was hard. There were a lot of behavioral issues in our classroom too. So it wasn’t just special needs but once I got to be with Jake it it changed the dynamic of the classroom for me for sure.

Heather Straughter 4:58
You know Jake has always He’s been are always was the always like the sickest in the room. Right, like always the most severe, you know, so he would go to school was it Monday through Friday? I believe it was theory. He was supposed to be there Monday through Friday, but they didn’t have great seating for him right like so even though it was a special needs preschool program. He just required more than the rest of the kids. Yeah. And it was, it was always our battle. And it’s still became my, you know, it continues to be my battle as I advocate for obviously not Jake, but other kids. Yeah, cuz it’s kind of, right. Like, if you’re supposed to be sending your kid to school, then the schools should be able to handle what you’re sending, but they couldn’t. So I remember on Mondays, I would arrive in my Volvo. And I would take out his chair member and I text you and I’d be like, I’m here. Yeah. So because the chair that we had was hugely heavy and very big and very bulky. But we were both lifted. Yeah, we both had to like lifted and like put them in there. And we’ll and then we would bring it home on Friday. So we had it for the weekends. But he was always like the I don’t know how to describe it. But I mean, just always significantly sicker than everyone

Cait 6:03
else. Yes, yes, I think I think you hit it on the head when you were like he was the most severe because it is true. There wasn’t a lot of feedback, you know, where other kids there was. And there were tons of kids in class that would love to come and sit on my lap with him in his chair in his tray. And we will play with Play Doh, and we would blow bubbles. There was a specific little boy, and I can’t remember his name. But he loved Jake and he would come sit on my lap and we would play play doh. And we would take Jake’s hands and you know manipulate it. And that’s so

Heather Straughter 6:35
funny, because I think you just took me back there. And I got like, I just kind of had a moment, but I think he would, what would he call him? It wasn’t shaky, we would come in and he’d be like, he would be so poor. He’d like freak out. And I remember like Brian and I would have this moment like it was so it was fun. It was like Jake’s best friend. And I was like he’s got a friend. I think his name was Logan. It could have been oh my god, that was great. Pretty sure it was. And then he also that year got invited to a birthday party. I you know, there were so many parts of that schooling program that were so amazing to me as Jake’s mom, because it was this this moment where even though I didn’t always leave, and even though I was in that like spy room and all of those things, it was like this opportunity to be a mom like a normal mom, like you know, and even though he was continued to be the sickest kid in the room. It was like this thing.

Cait 7:23
I think there’s something to be said about even though it was the sickest kid in preschool, none of those kids knew that they didn’t care. Logan didn’t care if Jake could talk to him laugh with him. He didn’t care about any of that. He just loved Jake’s presence and Jake being there near him. So

Heather Straughter 7:39
let’s go so we we got to know you. And somehow I remember Brian and I were just like, we really liked this girl. Like, I think that she can help us out. So then I remember I was kind of like, Hey, do you ever want to like babysit or like honors helper? Yes.

Cait 7:51
And I was going to stop working at prospects. I was going back to college, I decided that I wanted to go to college and work with special needs children. That’s right. It doesn’t always work out. But that and that was in that moment. That was my plan.

Heather Straughter 8:03
Fast forward a little bit. You weren’t a prospect. He the next year, he had a different one to one. But you came over and I want to say most afternoons. Yeah. Because the big thing for me and I’ve talked about this on the podcast, and you sort of had a firsthand view in this it felt crazy, right? Because it felt like I’m Jake’s mom and I’m Ethan’s mom. And it was very, like, instead of just being a mom, it was like different. And I was always very cognizant of how can I not like how can I be good at both and sometimes it just wasn’t natural. So you came over at like three o’clock on most days so that I could go like pick up Ethan at school and let him like stay after school and do plan inside of those friends and like he didn’t have to like rush home because I also didn’t want him to like, resent Jake right? Yeah, so you would come and you’d stay like till five or 430 or whatever and like kind of help you know just stay with Jake Yeah, so can you talk a little bit about that because I feel like you and Jake like bonded during that time. Like I feel like you guys were like

Cait 9:04
my little dude. Yeah, I love him. We would read a lot you know, Plato. Now just like talk to him. He knew my deepest darkest secrets I think and nobody else did. So as the best you could tell him anything. He was not telling us all scrunched nose and that curly hair like to this day I cannot smell coconut oil and not think

Heather Straughter 9:26
I love this conversation so much because there are so many people and even people super close to me like family members and like some of my best best friends but they they couldn’t see that part of Jake right like and I think that that’s the piece that is missing in so many I don’t know like even in social media like I follow these other families and I think this is the struggle right? Like when you have a severely disabled or special needs or ill or you know, kind of whatever words we’re using to describe kids like Jake, people don’t necessarily see that piece like see that there are these like unique, like personality parts that they’re real people and they have real feelings and like, I just don’t think a lot of people saw that in Jake No. And it used to piss me off so much, right? So I was like, That’s my boy like,

Cait 10:13
I do have to say like, in the beginning first meeting, Jake, it is very intimidating because he didn’t laugh or cry or talk or like, you know, looking in his eyes, once you knew him, you knew if he liked it or done it, but for the most part you didn’t. And I just remember going home that first day and talking to my mom and being like, you know, I’m this kid, Jake’s one to one, eight. And I’m just nervous. Like, I don’t really know how to handle it. You know, I was still super young. And she was just like, play with them, play with them like you would any other kid talk to him just like that. And like, that was the best advice she ever could have given me

Heather Straughter 10:48
for it was perfect advice. Because, you know, like, You never let us know that you were worried or nervous, or will think any of those things, you know, and to me like, that was such a gift. Because everything like sometimes even family members were like they were scared of Jake right? Because it was scary. And you didn’t want anything to happen on on your watch. Right? Like, you know, and it was scary. But you never made us feel like you were scared of him. And I feel like that was always such a gift. Because I felt like you know, he just played with them. Yeah,

Cait 11:17
I truly did feel like he played back with me sometimes. You know, he was just Jake. I don’t really know how to explain that now. But something about him was just like so wholesome. and amazing. So now,

Heather Straughter 11:29
all of this, I guess is leading up to that that day, right? Like so. It was December, you were at the house. It was just a regular. Regular day is the regular day I

Cait 11:39
remember you had let me borrow a book. And I had been like reading little bits of it here and there. I don’t know. It was about some guy. And like his struggles. I honestly can’t remember because everything else just like it’s blurred. Yeah, spiral. But I just remember reading this book.

Heather Straughter 11:54
So I came home with Ethan Jake was in the Spica cast because he had he had been

Cait 11:59
really tired that day. Yeah, him and really tired. And I remember you being like, oh, let’s try to keep them awake, because I’m gonna feed him when I get home. I was like, All right. So we’ve just been like hanging out in him.

Heather Straughter 12:11
So So you left like, you know, because I would always kind of come home with Ethan and like, kind of get settled. And you would take off whenever Yeah, and I don’t I’m sure I’m getting the timing of this sort of screwed up because the whole thing kind of came on done pretty quickly. And I think he would left like an hour before anything had happened. But I remember sort of thinking like, Can I run out the door and find you like, I remember like sort of thinking like it was just here. But so Brian was working wasn’t home like I had made some dinner or something for Ethan we’re like sitting down and the shit hit the fan like yeah, it just it was without going into the details. I knew instinctively like I knew that this was not good. Right? Like, like, I remember when I talked to Brian, I’m like, Brian, something’s wrong. And then I was like, You talk to him before you realize something, but like I told Ethan to call 911 and then I called like, it was so crazy. Like, it just all happens. Like so I’m like, Ethan five year old Ethan calls 911 Everyone comes in the door. Like, you know, I mean, I guess it’s a good part of where we live. The fire was right there. Police Department right there. They come in, and then they’re trying to like cut off the Spica cast. And I’m kind of like, is that what we’re focusing on right now? But obviously, what do i does i was and then I call Brian because I’m like, you know, and I remember like stepping out and just sort of being like, I think he died. And he was like, stop it. Stop it. You know, it was like he’s like, don’t say that. You know? And I don’t know, I don’t know if it was awful, right? When did we call you like, did I call you that night? Like I feel like I was so twisted that I don’t? I don’t know. But I think you were one of the first calls we made.

Cait 13:40
You called me the next morning. I just remember waking up and you were calling me and I was like, oh, maybe they have plans later. And I don’t have to work today, you know, like, totally on assuming and I was alone in my apartment and you called me and you were just like Jake passed away last night. And I was like, What are you talking about? I was just there yesterday. What do you mean, you know, and you’re like, Are you alone? And I was like, Yeah, you’re like, call your mom. Like it’s gonna be okay. I’ll be in touch with you. Like we’ll figure it out. And I was like, all right.

Unknown Speaker 14:13
I had another mom.

Cait 14:14
I should call my mom. Yeah, I did. And Tessa like 75 times. Oh, my mom came right over and I had never experienced death in my everyday life. My grandparents that had passed away were before I was born. My grandpa passed when I was in third grade. Like, you know, none of that is affected my everyday life and to not even expect it. I don’t have to tell you. It was rough. It was rough. It definitely didn’t go to school that

Heather Straughter 14:44
No, I you know, those days afterwards like I just remember making those calls right? I can’t even imagine. I always thought of you so much because I just felt like you were such a part of like our family and our like normal right like Normal wasn’t, still isn’t, but it wasn’t. I don’t know what does normal mean like, stupid word anyways, but like our day to day was so different than most of the people that like Ethan went to school with and like the other moms I knew, like our day to day was just so different. And there was a part of me that I don’t know, like, and I still do it right, like I keep it separate, because it’s just too it’s too heavy. It’s too dark. You have to like, right in the eye. You have to compartmentalize because otherwise, like, then people don’t want to be around that kind of energy, right? Like they don’t if they knew how dark I was, I’d have like no friends, but I’m not like that’s not all of me right now. All of me is like, I’m like dark. But then I’m also like, super goofy and super light

Cait 15:38
in the room as well. That’s taking a look. No, not. It’s true.

Heather Straughter 15:44
Thank you. You’re welcome. This is kind of coming off maybe a little corny. But I was listening to the estimate episode. Hillary as Mays mom said something to the effect of She Loves the way I make Jake present in every room. So when you say like, I’m the light in the room, I don’t necessarily think that I’m the light in the room. I think that, like I think the Jake’s the light in the room, then that allows me to be like a functioning human again. I mean,

Cait 16:07
like, you have to find your light and the way to get through it. Yeah, you

Heather Straughter 16:11
know what I mean? Like so when she said that, and it’s funny, like in the recording of that I didn’t take much of it. But I was really listening to it today, as I was like walking on my walking pad. And when she said that, it just it breaks. It made my heart feel so good, right? Like it just like made me feel so good. And so you saying that? I feel like those two things are connected. They are trying to do like you

Cait 16:28
and Jake are connected. You were you are one he’s

Heather Straughter 16:32
still sometimes like comes to me in like sleep. Sometimes not as much as he used to anyway. Yeah,

Cait 16:38
I’ve always wanted him to come. Tricky. Yes. Not most thinker. Most. You just haven’t needed it. Yeah. Although I think I might have.

Heather Straughter 16:50
So Jake passed away and talk about the impact on your life as like sort of big sister like mother character in your life. Like, I feel like I from the outside. I feel like it hit you hard, and it hit you hard over time. And I feel like really did you struggled for a while.

Cait 17:06
Without getting too deep? Like anybody that knows me, like really knows me knows about Jake and knows the impact he’s had on my life. They know that I loved him. And you know, I still love him. And it was super hard. And I I am still full of grief about it, as I’m sure you are. And it was just something that hits you and you don’t see it come in. I thought I was on a path. But then I wasn’t on the path. And it’s like, what do you do with this? I love Jake, but I’m not like his family or like his mom or his dad or his brother. And like, for me being young like that. It was like what level of grief is like appropriate? Do you know? Yeah, it was a confusing and hard time. So

Heather Straughter 17:47
what was the timeline of it? Because mine, it kind of blurs for me but like you move to California,

Cait 17:52
I moved to California. So Jake passed away. I worked a couple of odd end jobs. After that for a few years, I would say maybe like five or six. And then my sister lived in California. That’s right. So I was like, Oh, I’m gonna take this trip across the country. And there was like a little daycare in her town, which I went to work at. And I lived there for about two years or so. And then I wanted to come home. I missed my friends and all that stuff. California was like the change that I needed, I think to like, get a grip that like see where I’m going see what the plan is, you know, and I moved home and I started grooming with my best friend. She went to grooming school taught me everything she knows. And now I’m a groomer and a mother and I love it all will go to

Heather Straughter 18:39
when you met Bill. Yes. And I remember your wedding. And I remember it was such a beautiful wedding. And I’m we I was sad. We had to leave early but it was also homecoming. Yes, Ethan was a freshman. And I was very nervous about

Cait 18:54
not being around for them. I was so thankful that you made it to the ceremony and I could at least hug you like Jake was there with me that day? Well, that’s what I was gonna

Heather Straughter 19:03
say you had at the in that one room. It was so beautiful. I thought and it was so nice. It was like this little table with people who you felt like should have been at the wedding but couldn’t be at the wedding. And there was like Jake front and center picture of him. And I just like Brian and I were like, oh my god,

Cait 19:18
I hoped you didn’t think No, I

Heather Straughter 19:19
don’t know. I thought it was beautiful. We thought it was so beautiful. Very important part of who I am like as Jake’s parents like it just you know, I mean, the fact that like he’s obviously a huge important part of who we are. But the fact that it just speaks volumes that he was as amazing as we thought he was because he had impact on people that he didn’t have to have impact on and I don’t know we love being at your wedding a and then we love to think like that was just such a great little surprise.

Cait 19:44
I think Jake changed me for the better. You know, I’m a more compassionate understanding person. I feel like I do hold on to the moments more, especially with my own children. You know, it’s 3am and I’m rocking my baby and I’m like, Oh, I’m so tired, but it’s also like, you know It’s not going to be like this forever. So let’s, let’s

Heather Straughter 20:02
go there. Let’s talk about and we talked about this a little bit earlier. But you know, so your mom now like getting in Theo is four, he’s three and a half, three and a half, three and a half. And his middle name is J is Theodore Jake. And I remember when you like, called me, and was like, Is this okay? And I think I probably started crying or if I didn’t start crying i i did shortly after, because what a testament and what, uh,

Cait 20:27
I hope again, that wasn’t weird. No, we love it. I mean, it’s just so like, Jake really is a super important part of like, who I am as a person. And I just wanted to pay tribute to that. I remember having conversations with you about like, how you chose Jake’s name and why it was Jake Alexander. And you’re like, you know, we just wanted a really strong solid first name and like, not Jake, Jake, he wasn’t Jacob straight, just Jake. And that’s always stuck with me. And like, I want my son to feel empowered, and strong and brave and all these things that I think Jake was, and so he knows who Jake is. And we talked about it. He’s got a picture of Jake in his room. It was his birthday crown. You know, we

Heather Straughter 21:10
didn’t even talk about that. Okay, so I’m gonna pivot very quickly, because that I can’t believe I didn’t address this Jake is has passed in the beginning, I twice a day was at the at the gravesite, you know, every morning, every night, every morning, every night like, and if I didn’t, it was like mental like I couldn’t I couldn’t get out of it. Over the last 13 years that has like, evolved. And I have gotten it. You know, sometimes I’m there all the time. Sometimes I’m not. We planted like trees, like I mean, we were like, we got our essence. Tree. Yeah, cuz and then they were like, you can’t just plant trees in a cemetery actually do like, well, I’m going to, like, what

Cait 21:45
are you gonna dig and dig it up

Heather Straughter 21:47
and try me. And then the tree got bigger. And then we realized that we were I myself,

Cait 21:51
they’re not cutting it down.

Heather Straughter 21:53
We were back into, but then, you know, it was, you know, we’re very themed me. And like, there was always all the stuff. And every time we traveled, we had to bring him something

Cait 22:02
gotta get through it.

Heather Straughter 22:03
We definitely have simmered down a little bit with that, like, not always, like we still like, you know, I tried to keep it looking good. But I’m not as like, it looks crazy. But thank you. But every year on his birthday without fail a year has not been missed. And because you did this when he was alive. So on his birthday, Kate would always make him a birthday crown. And she would make this beautiful crown and she would have a theme and it would have the number whatever he was like, I mean, in bright colors and pet like literally a theme every single time. And I

Cait 22:35
try to go with what’s happening in Ethan’s life. That’s usually like and if there’s nothing I can really put my finger on. I’m like, Oh, just color it crazy.

Heather Straughter 22:41
It’s It’s so awesome. And so not a year has passed. Like he’s not not ever had a birthday. Yeah,

Cait 22:48
I feel like it’s therapeutic for me. And now having feel old love and he loves arts and crafts. So now he’s gonna help me decorate every year. You know, we talk about jig, we sing him happy birthday, we bring him the birthday crown. You know, all that. And

Heather Straughter 23:03
I will say like, as Jake’s mom, there had been a couple people along the way, who used to say things. And this is where I think it’s always dangerous when you say things, and I’m certainly capable of it. But like people will be like, I’m gonna bring flowers to Jake every month for the rest of my life. And then they don’t write like can’t commit to that. And they shouldn’t have committed to it because I remember because I’m also you know, a little crazy. So I remember those people who said they were going to do that and they don’t. And I don’t like it like I don’t you know like it doesn’t mean I’m not nice to you doesn’t mean I’m not your friend. Right? But it does mean in the back of my mind that you know that something and it was me like it’s not about me. It’s about my boy. Yeah, you know, pisses me off? Yeah, but you just do it. And I just love that so much. You put it in the plastic bag in case it

Cait 23:48
rains because it’s almost always right, because it’s almost always rain, but I’ll tell you what, it will be raining and I will go there and the wind will be weapon and I’ll get over there and I’ll be like okay, Jake, can you just stop the wind so I can take this picture of you with your birthday grace. And it happens it happens that keeps me connected. And I will tell you something that you probably don’t know but when I would babysit for Heath and Jeff every time I was done I would go to the cemetery and I would read Jacobs story. Oh and the whole time while I was nannying for them I would always do that I was like I can’t go to Saratoga and not not see Jake and after a while it kind of got a little weird because like you know, people would come up and like put flowers on other other headstones and I’m like reading the story laying here crying reading the story you know so but I love that right like I just feel it made me feel closer to Noah and I love that like and you never said I’m gonna do this every year for the rest of his life but

Heather Straughter 24:44
you just do it and I just that means I don’t know it just means so much to me right like because it’s just I’m glad and we have like so you know you put them in the plastic bags and then I always have that J cake there.

Cait 24:53
Yeah is the best thing ever. Yeah, and some balloons and always balloons and

Heather Straughter 24:57
there’s always you know, whatever I decide to break And and we keep it for like a week or so like usually till like Mother’s Day or usually after Mother’s Day because we won’t even talk about Mother’s Day but I hate Mother’s Day. Yeah, but it is not my favorite day but but we kind of keep it there through that and and then we bring it in. I have every single one of those crowns. I was one I of course I do every single one of them. We keep them up on the third floor and that like like I have all the

Cait 25:19
third floor Ethan and I used to have so much fun on there. For so yeah, yeah. loves this third floor.

Heather Straughter 25:25
I think probably still.

Cait 25:27
I think one time you tried to get me to live there.

Heather Straughter 25:29
I think I was like, You shouldn’t want to just move up there.

Cait 25:33
There’s a back door.

Heather Straughter 25:34
I was like, I won’t bother you. Just live there. So we went off on a tangent. I’m so glad you brought up the crowns, though. Because that is such a Yeah, I mean, I feel like the crowns are huge. So let’s go back to parenting. Your boys? Yes. And how would you think good and bad? Because I’m sure there’s sort of some negatives about like what you experienced with Jake and knowing that he passed and knowing his story, like how does that impact you as a mom, do you think? And then, like good ways and bad ways? Because I’m sure there’s both right. And I don’t know, I

Cait 26:04
think I think in a good way. It’s again, I think I talked about this before, it’s just like, I feel like I can sit in the moment more, you know, where like, it’s easy to be upset that you know, your baby’s crying and he won’t sleep and he doesn’t like this food or you know what I mean? But it just being in the moment and like holding him and just remembering that it’s not going to be that way forever. And, and things do change when you don’t think they’re going to you know, it’s really made me appreciate what is in the moment. You know, it also has the downside like you said, I have severe anxiety, your baby makes a weird sound or like those newborn baby sounds you when you’re a first time mom, you don’t like you know, but you don’t know. And then your baby’s sleeping next to you. And I feel like I didn’t sleep for a very long time because it’s just like, Are you choking? Are you breathing? Are you alive? Are you okay? If I feed you this food now that we’re eating? Are you going to choke? Are you going to be you know, these things were like, I think it’s just thinking of the most detrimental thing that could happen because it has happened to somebody in my life. And it’s the realization that it’s real.

Heather Straughter 27:10
No, no, I think that I think so many times you’re protected as a parent, right? Because you, you know, bad things can happen, but you don’t know they can happen. Right? And I think I’ve talked about this before, but I remember when when Jake had his seizures, right and got sick. I thought that was my bad thing. Ya know, like, I was like, Okay, I’m safe now. Yeah, too bad things aren’t gonna happen. And then he died. Right, like, and I mean, it definitely, in fact, impacted my parenting of Ethan for a while, I think. And I’m sure Ethan would probably have a lot to say about it at a different point. And I think now I’m a little, I would say healthier, but like a little bit like, you know, tight, like, I’m a little better at it. But, you know, when he was a teenager in those teenage years, and when they’re doing stuff and you’re worried and a car driving a car or going down or like drinking or doing any of those things, and Brian would kind of be like, You need to get a grip because like, you can’t keep him in a box. But I just was like, raw because I was like, I’m not protected. You know, like, like, and then you’re vulnerable, vulnerable, because I can tell you that I came through losing Jake and I feel I’ve said it too many people I’ve said on this podcast, like I’m a better version of myself like I am, you know, I’ve taken a lot from him. And I like who I am now. And I I have managed to live as like Ethan’s mom and Jake’s mom and live with it. But I there’s zero chance of being able to do that again. You know, I don’t even know how you made it now, like, you know what I mean? Like, I feel like now I’ve just created more anxiety for you. So

Cait 28:37
there’s a little gift for you. There’s nothing that you can say that I haven’t already spiraled into a hole about I can tell you that no, but it’s just

Heather Straughter 28:43
so like, right like, you just feel like you’re you should be protected more in this life. Yeah, not so

Cait 28:49
far at least have a notification that like, this thing’s gonna go so awry in your life and change it in so many ways that you don’t even see coming but it’s just that’s death, right? Like, it is surprising in the most ruthless ways.

Heather Straughter 29:05
I mean, I hate getting like when I say things that are sort of like very cliche and stupid but I do sometimes think like you deal with it and what else you’re going to do right like you have to deal with it. You have to take it you know and you put one foot in front the other and you figure it out and you know and and sometimes it’s really ugly like sometimes it’s hideous. I’m going to bring it back to what you were saying because it this is dark but but out of the darkness does come to light right like out of that comes like appreciate the moments take the trip like up do the thing and I think I don’t always do a great job of like, compartmentalizing or boundaries or like whatever like because I can get wrapped up and be like oh my god, I have this busy week I have to do all the things and I’m late and I want everything done right now and in some of that is like self preservation because when I’m busy I’m not dark. Right right. And I’m busy. I’m like, on my A game. I do think that there is that like, breathe and take a pause and take The time in, which is

Cait 30:00
so hard sometimes it’s so hard sometimes to just get down and do it.

Heather Straughter 30:05
Because frankly, like if I said, I’m gonna do something, and I don’t do it until tomorrow is the world’s gonna end. No, that’s not Heather, nothing you’re doing is that important? It’s like, it’s very important in my head for sure. You know what, like, just hang out with your kid and take the thing and have fun. And even

Cait 30:23
though he’s throwing this crazy temper tantrum, because he’s three years old, and he wants to eat this candy, that you’re not gonna let him eat like, you just got to let it go. Yeah, take it for what it is.

Heather Straughter 30:34
How is your relationship with like, Bill? Because Bill didn’t know Jake. But he knows us.

Cait 30:39
Yes. Bill’s very supportive. I think that, you know, he would have obviously absolutely loved Jake. He keeps me tied together. I think I he came into my life when I was, I needed him and I didn’t know it. You know, he definitely brings a sense of like solitude and wholeness to my life, if that makes sense. I spent a long time being lost and confused and kind of mad at the world. What is life because something so terrible can happen. But then seeing honestly, I know we’re talking about Bill, but seeing you in that moment, those moments of me feeling so terrible, and like, I know how terrible you obviously were feeling but to see you like pull together and make something so great. of something that was so awful. You personally helped me get through that. I felt like even from afar, I

Heather Straughter 31:27
just love having you in my lifestyle because because there’s not a lot of people in my life that he knew Jake and B knew him like you did, right? Yeah, like, you know, there’s just you know, like, Steve, that’s why we love Steve so much, right? Like, he’s Brian’s best friend from kindergarten, Ethan’s Godfather Jake’s Godfather, but like those friends of ours that we like travel with and do all the like crazy fun things with like, they knew Jake, you know, and there’s just a lot of people in my life now that didn’t. Yeah, I don’t know. There’s part of me like, it hurts my heart. Right, right.

Cait 31:54
And then you can explain him till you’re blue in the face. But unless you knew him and felt him as he puked on you, yeah, yeah. Yeah, that little snarl. And those scrunch people

Heather Straughter 32:06
would be like, Oh, how do you know what he wants? And I’m like, you would know. Right? So let’s talk. Let’s go back to when you were talking about the time after Jake died and sort of your grief process. And you said something to the effect of like, you didn’t know if you were even like grieving appropriately or something. I can say that, from our perspective, you were one of those people that well, you weren’t family, you were family, because there were very few people that I trusted with Jake. And certainly that I trusted with Jake with me, not home. So to me, I knew and you were young. So I just always, like I felt so protective of you. Like I remember when I didn’t know how to especially 21 You were a baby. I didn’t know how to make like, part of me just wanted to make that okay for you. So there was you know, so it’s, it’s, it’s interesting to hear the other side, because I was like, I didn’t even know if I was appropriate. So, so talk about that, like,

Cait 33:00
so I think for me, too, is like the appropriateness you know, I remember texting Brian early on and being like, I want to be there for Heather, but I don’t know how, like, I don’t know, I don’t know. And I myself was just like, a crying mess. You know, how do you handle a grief like that when you’ve never dealt with that. And I’m sure I didn’t handle it the most graceful way. But I feel like grief, like I think you’ve said before is like it doesn’t really go away, you just learn how to deal with it a little better. And like, almost incorporate it into your life in a way without trying to be super dark. You know, I feel like you carried it with you for a really long time. I still carry it with me, I still carry me. It’s just recently within the last like five years or so that I can actually talk about Jake without crying. Not even out of like devastation, but just like the love that I have for him and the way that I ended and just like all that I can remember like being thankful like you said like, you came home and I left and I remember I almost left but I came back and I gave him the kiss on the forehead. Like you did come back that day. I did. I was about to walk out the door and I was like Oh, I forgot to kiss Jake goodbye. And you were already feeding him on the couch. The

Heather Straughter 34:14
timing of that keeps like messing with me because that must be what I’m thinking of. Yeah.

Cait 34:18
And those reason, like the beginning days grief is all encompassing and it’s like, where am I what am I doing? Like, am I being annoying? Should I be texting you? Should I you know, what can I do? Like, do you blame me because I had been with him all day and I didn’t notice anything was wrong with him

Heather Straughter 34:38
that never entered my mind and to be honest, I hate that it happened on my watch. But I am grateful that it happened on my watch because I would never have been able to forgive or move on had it not happened on my watch right like because the only person I hated and fought with and despised in those days was myself and I am glad that I did not have to put that burden on anyone else, you know, people are always like, how did you and Brian survive Brian and I survived because it wasn’t on his watch. Because I lie. If it was on his watch, we would have survived.

Cait 35:08
Because I’m like, if I was there, I could have done it. I could have fixed it.

Heather Straughter 35:12
I know it now. And I knew it, then I was the number one person who could take care of that kid, I knew him. You know, I mean, so, you know, I don’t love that it was on my watch. But it’s the only way that I like I just have to deal with my own inner demons over that. Like, I don’t have to share that with anyone else. So it never entered my mind at all to have any things just any holding. No, I wish you asked me earlier. I mean, zero blame. In fact, there’s ways that I was grateful that he was with you, because I knew that, you know, kind of like what I was saying earlier, there were other people, I wouldn’t let feed him I wouldn’t let and I was just there you were. And you were, you know, I mean, you were giving him his bottle and stuff. I trusted you. And I knew, you know, some ways because there’s other people in lives that right, like they think they can do it better. Or they you know, they a wife had a baby before, you know, and but he wasn’t typical. He wasn’t typical. And yet, I remember being so nervous, and you were like what you listen to so well. And you paid attention to this, that I said, and in this situation like yes, when it’s when it’s Ethan and you want to feed them a little differently. It’s fine, right? But with Jake, it wasn’t fine. You know, one way it’s one way and you do it that way. And I knew that you did that there was never ever a second of blame or thought or any of that. And in fact, I love that in his last day he was with you like in fact that gave me comfort and joy more than it gave me like there was never a thought. She asked me that sooner. Oh

Cait 36:37
my god. That was a long way. So let me just walk right up here. Do you hate me? Do you hate me? No,

Heather Straughter 36:43
never. You’re stuck with me.

Cait 36:45
Thank goodness. I would just have to stalk you from afar i have my ask Heather anything questions? You actually have one? I have to you have to where’s your favorite place to vacation? Because those strutters know how to vacation.

Heather Straughter 37:02
We do vacation pretty well. That’s a very hard one because that depends on like my mindset right? Yeah. My go to answer I think for many years, although it is not anymore would be like the rock house. been going to the rock house for 20 years. In Negril Jamaica. Yes. It’s just chill. It’s not like one of those all inclusive resorts because I’m like not that’s not my vibe. It’s just super low key like you just you know, there’s a spa and there’s great food and you jump off the cliffs and you drink Rum Punch and you know, various things all day.

Cait 37:34
And do you feel close to Jake there?

Heather Straughter 37:36
I do feel close to Jake there. The majority of people are people like, like Brian and I who’ve been going for 2025 years. And it was like our vibe when we were young. Yeah, it’s like still. So it’s got this. It’s really just a bunch of like people who like the low key thing.

Cait 37:51
How did you explain death to Ethan in a way that he could understand it? Since he was so young?

Heather Straughter 38:00
I wish that I had a good answer for that. Like, I don’t know that we did that. Well. And it’s a little bit the way that we parent and the way that we’ve always parented since Jake got sick is just very authentically, like I live my life and I am who I am. And I’ve always been that in front of my kids, right? Like, I’ve never been the like, you know, I have to act this way in front of making, right. And I think that in those moments, you know, I mean, I’ve talked about it on this podcast before like that. And I think you know, this, like Jake died on a Wednesday and Thursday, we brought Ethan to school, it was the best decision we could make at that time. Right? We you know, the one thing I do think that we did do right is we just made Jake present, right? Like we you know, cheers to Jake. Like, that’s a thing like we did at the launch party. We we used to have the party like the chairs to J cocktail parties. It was a way that we kind of kept him present kept him around the dinner table, you know, and whether we were choosing with water or with wine or it didn’t matter, like cheers was a cheers to Jake. We’ve always kept Jake at a seat at the table. Yeah, and I think for Ethan that has

Cait 38:56
important helped a little Yeah. So Kate,

Heather Straughter 39:04
I love you so much as I think you know, and having this conversation with you has really meant a lot to me. So I’m so glad that you came in. I’m glad that you are a part of a place of Yes. And I’m just so glad that you’re still a part of my life.

Cait 39:15
Thank you for having me and you will never get rid of me meant. happy about that. Thank you so much. Thank you for letting me be a part of Jake’s life because it truly has affected me and amazing, positive ways.

Heather Straughter 39:29
Now you are you’re a big part of happy memories for us. And thank you for that. Thank you for listening to a place of yes, please follow us wherever you listen to your podcasts, please subscribe to our YouTube channel. Leave us a thumbs up or leave us a comment. We would appreciate all that you can do. If you really liked this episode, please share it with a friend or two. For more information and to leave us any feedback. Please reach out to us at