Jasper was born at 4:35 in the morning and like most parents know, our lives changed forever in that moment. It was the happiest day of our life, to meet Jasper and hold him for the first time. He was an incredible child who brought so much joy to this world. His skin was the softest we had ever laid hands on, his hair so silky and blond. He loved letters more than almost anything and took great pride in identifying his ABC’s on license plates, park signs and anywhere else words would appear. He was so patient when he was focused. He would sit and build with Legos and was so thoughtful about putting everything in its perfect place. The one thing Jasper loved more than letters, was food. He gobbled everything down, beets, broccoli, avocado, salsa, chimmichurri sauce- if you cooked it, he loved it! He taught us about the beauty of the moon as a night would never go by where he would not look for it in the sky and point to it with his middle finger; moo! He was endlessly brave and constantly exploring his world. Jasper filled our lives with so much love and joy we felt as though we were about to burst.
Jasper did not reach his second birthday because of a 100 percent preventable tragedy. I received a phone call no mother should ever have to take and I was informed that Jasper had been taken to CHOC Hospital in an Ambulance. Our babysitter, who was with Jasper one day a week, took him from his safe home to her home where there was an ungated pool. She left him alone for only minutes and later found him face down in that pool. He spent a nearly a week in the hospital fighting for his life, but lost that battle. Severe brain damage happens in minutes when children are deprived of oxygen. We cannot describe the anguish of spending that week in the hospital waiting to see if that once brilliant mind had enough cells left to tell his body to breathe or his heart to beat. Jasper was in our arms when he left this world around 4:30 in the morning as we felt his incredible spirit and light go dark. This was the saddest moment, to say goodbye to the shared love of our life far far too early. We are indescribably devastated, our hearts shattered, our world left in pieces. He was our best friend and the love of our lives.
We are sharing Jasper’s story in the hope that you will take any necessary steps to prevent a drowning in your life. THERE ARE NO SAFE POOLS, but all bodies of water should be properly gated. Never, for a moment leave children unattended, even those who swim. Please also remind the caregivers in your life of the responsibility they have when they care for your children. That the decisions they make with your child are life and death. Most importantly, do not think this could not happen to you. We do not have a pool, and our babysitter had been told never to take Jasper to her house because of this very danger. Now we have to live the rest of our lives without his laugh, and his love. I will never again hold Jasper in my arms and sing him a lullaby, or stroke his soft blond hair. We miss him every single moment.
Those of us who knew him best would describe him as awesome. He was the toughest little dude, scraping knees, stubbing toes, banging into things, usually without tears. He loved to “drive” and would follow anyone out of our house for an opportunity to climb into their front seat and furiously shimmy the wheel and push all the buttons in his sight. Jasper endlessly loved being chased, he would slam the door shut, run around the hallway and wait for someone to come find him. Anticipation made him crazy with laughter. Speaking of laughter, he had the best laugh in the world and used it often. He loved to be tickled and never grew tired of “boo”.
Our time together consisted of playing outdoors as much as possible. We took bike rides all over Orange together, Jasper on the front of mom’s bike chewing on his helmet strap, swinging his legs and talking away. He was just learning to really love the feeling of running, and you could always tell when he was up to something mischievous because he would raise his shoulders up high as he ran and give a little yelp of joy. At the park (after reading the signs) he would jam to the top of the slide and wait, anticipation building… then come flying down. He wanted no help from mom and dad on most things, and would say “hand” as he pushed ours away. I got this. He was fiercely independent and endlessly brave.
He began pointing with two fingers, but eventually dropped down to his middle finger only. Giving the middle finger and exclaiming “ICE” which was his first term for anything really. The first phase mom heard him say clearly was “your… turn” while we were blowing bubbles in the backyard. But within a week he had mastered “stay…. here” (for the timeout corner), “sit…. down” and “be …careful”. Each phrase was said with perfect clarity and a long pause in the middle.
We read together often, he had so many favorite books. However, we soon discovered his love of letters; books with letters, songs with letters, signs with letters even license plates would delight him. ABC books were among his favorite. He knew how to make all the sounds in the alphabet by age 16 months, maybe even earlier. He always reminded us of the beauty of the moon. “Moo” he would say softly with a two finger (or later a middle finger) point, and he was learning how to identify whether the moon was full, half, gibbous or new.
Our bedtime ritual every night was a joy. Either mom or dad would give him a bath, brush his teeth (“tap tap” on the sink) with daddy and get his jams on. He was usually pretty squirmy with this so it was a time for song and tickling. He had mastered “hush little baby” and would sing the last word in every stanza, with a big smile, so proud. He would then always watch a little Baby Einstein snuggled up with daddy on the couch with a sippy cup of water. Then a hug and kiss for daddy and mom would put him to bed with a “tuck tuck” instruction from Jasper as he flipped to his tummy and shook his little tushy. Usually on the way to the bedroom he would ask for “cop corn” a holdover from the one night we shared some popcorn with him before bed. The kid did not forget anything, at least not when it came to good eats.
Jasper had the absolute best appetite in the universe. Not just for a child, for anyone. He loved almost anything we made for him, some of his favorites were: avocado, bananas, beans, peas, salsa, and we had just discovered chimmichuri sauce. We are pretty sure he just loved anything with raw garlic. He usually would utilize both hands to shovel food, he would fill his hand with food then put his entire fist in his mouth to maximize the amount he could take in at once. He was adept at using silverware, but it was not always fast enough for him, so his little chubby hands were his best tool.
Jasper had many favorite places and any new experience would light up his spirit as he intensely sought to discover, taste, touch, and smell everything in his path. He knew the names of all the herbs in the backyard and loved to bend down and breathe them in…basil, mint, thyme and sage. He recognized beauty from a very young age exclaiming “oooo” when he would spot a beautiful rose or colorful bird. He seemed wise beyond his years, his eyes held an understanding of life and love unlike any other child we have known. His ability to concentrate on a task was astounding, stacking cans, building with legos, or “reading” books in the car. From the time he could first sit up, he would turn over every toy upside down to inspect what was underneath.
He was an early riser, waking up around 5:30-6 am to chit chat with the sea animals on the wall or to practice counting or sounding out the alphabet. Eventually he would call for mama or dada and would ask for whomever did not come in…we think he would prefer that both of us would come to greet him in the mornings, and often we did. Everyday we were excited to see his beautiful smile and to just hold him and kiss him all over. We missed him even as we slept.
Our lives have been forever altered by Jasper, his laugh was the greatest sound to our ears, his kisses and hugs like heaven on earth. We did not know the bounds of love until he came into our lives and we will miss every single day on this earth without him.