I've been thinking a lot lately about my friends Bill and Cheryl Darnell. Jason and I went to college with them, Cheryl and I were roommates, we were in each other's weddings. We go way back and have lots of silly stories. The kind you acquire in your university days. Like the time Cheryl, me, and our other roomies systematically stole a complete set of silverware from the campus cafeteria. As you do. There was a good reason for that at the time, I'm sure! Or how we tried to begin a new jogging regimen but would collapse in exhaustion after a few blocks and decide to go get Slurpees instead. Those were good days.
After Jase and I moved to Sydney, Cheryl and I still kept in touch sporadically, and I kept up via email as she and Bill moved to Colorado and had two beautiful children. They were living where they'd always wanted to live and doing great. Then, in March 2008 I got a voicemail that Cheryl and Bill's 5 month old son, Billy Jr., had gone to sleep one night and not awakened in the morning. Of course, it came as a terrible, terrible shock to them and was classified as a SIDS death. Any parent thinks of this as a remote possibility, but now my close friends were actually living through it. I ached for them.
Over the past year and a half, Cheryl and I have talked on the phone quite a bit. She has shared with such transparency how tough it's been at times. I have listened as she has shared their journey through that initial, crushing grief and I've been amazed to see the resolve, strength, and grace with which they've lived. And I, along with all their friends and family, was overjoyed to hear when they unexpectedly got pregnant again last year. Their son, Nathan Ryan was born within days of the first anniversary of little Billy's death.
As amazing as their story is, why am I telling you about it? Through their own experience with SIDS and the emotional, financial and relational fallout it brings, they have started a new foundation: SIDS America. The mission is actually to provide financial and emotional assistance to families who have lost children to SIDS.
Here's Cheryl, Bill and Avery with Billy Jr.
Before talking with Bill and Cheryl, I'd never thought about the fact that these parents often are still paying for the birth of their child when they tragically have to also be paying funeral expenses. For many families, the financial burden is crushing, and can be a great strain in what is already an incredibly trying time. In less than a year, after starting with almost nothing at all, they have been able to financially assist 15 families and have launched a fundraising initiative to do much more.
I'm telling you, I just admire and love these guys so much. At a time when no one would think less of them for turning inward and just taking care of themselves, they are reaching out to help others. I am trying to make others aware of their efforts because they are currently trying to get 500 online donations during the month of November. If they can do this, some donors have pledged to give $2500 toward their cause. Even a donation of $1 counts.
SIDS is a hard thing to talk about. It may not be something you wanted to read about today. As a mother of a five month old baby, you better believe there are things I'd rather be thinking about! In reality though, I have been so enriched to hear the hope and strength that exudes from my friends, and how it is now spilling over into the lives of others. And I really believe in honoring those who take what is in their hand and use it to bless people.
I know this is a busy, busy time but if you have a chance before the end of November, please check out the SIDS America site, and read more about what Bill and Cheryl are about. You can also read a story about them from the Dallas NBC affiliate here. Bill and Cheryl, y'all are my heroes!
Thanks for reading this! Now, come back tomorrow and I'll tell you about a ginormous iceberg and a tiny, freaky-looking spider.